Brothers and sisters:
I am writing to you concerning the Coronavirus, known ad COVID-19. As you are most likely already aware, there is a great deal of information circulating about this virus, as well as a many unanswered questions at this time. The purpose of this message is to address some immediate concerns and advise you of how we will be approaching the challenges this possible pandemic brings.
First of all, we have our parish nurse, Maureen Flak, on the case. She is connected with many resources as a Congregational Nurse and has been in touch with those contacts, including folks at the CDC and state agencies. She will continue to monitor the situation and provide reliable advice and counsel to us.
Here are some facts to be aware of: the virus spreads quickly and easily through coughs, sneezes, kisses, hugs, and handshakes. The symptoms are similar to the seasonal flu, and should be treated, in the first stages, with over-the-counter drugs, fluids and light meals. Of course, the other first step is to consult your doctor for instructions specific to your situation.
Right now, the prevailing advice is to be vigilant in washing our hands, with soap and running (warm or hot) water, avoid touching our faces and mouths, and using tissues once and disposing of them in appropriate containers. There is a recommendation to be sure that prescription medications are filled.
This is a time to really practice that important value we have of loving one another. If you feel sick, have a cough or are sneezing, stay home! Watch the Sunday service on YouTube and let us know how we can assist you. Look around and notice if someone who is usually in church is missing - especially those who live alone, or who are caring for a family member that might be ill or experiencing chronic health or emotional challenges. Check on them by phone - let us know if there are ways the parish clergy, staff and lay ministers can help. The virus is especially hard on the old (elderly), asthmatic patients, people who are receiving post- surgical care or cancer treatment, diabetics and those with chronic lung issues like COPD. The mortality rate is relatively low for this type of virus, but can be very serious for those who are already physically vulnerable.
We will need to take some precautions when we are together in church. At the exchange of peace, we request that we forego for a while, our usual shaking of hands and embraces - and instead get creative about how to offer a sign of love or peace. Consider a fist bump or a bow, a big smile and a peace sign; rub elbows and do your best in symbolic ways to show how we Christians love one another. Your clergy will be washing their hands with soap before preparing the Eucharist. In terms of taking the cup, it may not be advisable to drink or intinct during this time - lips and hands are very good transmitters of the virus. So be assured that taking the bread alone is completely acceptable and fully the Eucharist. It occurs to me, that during this time, as we may need to be without the wine, that the preciousness of the sacrament may become more apparent - as loved ones are more appreciated when time and distance separate us from them.
As more information becomes available concerning the spread of the virus in the United States, we may be making decisions to cancel events and programs. We will work with the Day School to determine if and when to close or implement specific measures to control the spread of the virus. Likewise, we will be working with our pastoral care ministers - including the folks who do Prayers in the Park, to begin to utilize masks and gloves as necessary. Stay tuned to our website and to parish-wide emails to keep informed about specific activities.
Finally, stay informed. We have included some websites with this letter that are reliable sources of information, should you wish to read more about it yourselves. Most of all, we might commit to remind ourselves to pray and to rest in the sure and certain hope that God is with us in all things. This is not the first time that God’s creation has been challenged in this way and will not be the last. May we use this time and these experiences to learn more about ourselves and the ways that God is already acting, providing, directing and sustaining us in every moment of our lives.