March 11, 2020
Al Fletcher, executive minister of the American Baptist Churches of Maine, shared with churches in Maine:
As the Coronavirus Disease spreads across the country, many of our churches are anxiously watching and making preparation. Every church should be taking this world event seriously. Preparation is the best offense.
I wanted to share with you two items. The first is a newsletter from Penney Memorial United Baptist Church. It is a letter that addresses the steps their congregation is taking in preparation. It is a model that can and should be adapted to your congregation’s need.
The second is a Coronavirus Fact Sheet handout that comes from James Weathersby, Chaplain at the Riverview Psychiatric Hospital, that also provides helpful information concerning the Coronavirus Disease.
On an aside, I know that “Happy Birthday” is the suggested tune for handwashing. I think it appropriate for congregations to suggest hymns, spiritual songs, and praise choruses to fill the bill. It is a good practice to wash hands while also doing a little inward cleaning as well. For example, “Shine Jesus Shine” or “How Great Thou Art”. Until this crisis is past, you may want to choose a congregational hand-washing tune for the week.
Dear Penney family,
As we prepare for Sunday worship this week, it seems likely we will do so with news of the coronavirus continuing to dominate national headlines. I am grateful that as I write this, we have yet to have a reported case of COVID-19 in the state of Maine. But I am also aware that this may soon change – if not by the time you read this, then by the time we gather for worship on Sunday morning.
As Christians, we are called to face each day and every trial and crisis with faith, hope and love. Whatever is coming, we must continue to encourage one another to do just that. At the same time, we must also be wise. Love for one another requires we seek to do whatever we can to help calm anxiety and help prevent the spread of disease.
So I want to let you know that the leaders of the church have consulted with medical professionals in the congregation about what steps to take. We want to let you know the steps we are taking and the recommendations we are making, as we look toward our Sunday gathering:
We Are Sanitizing the Church Building: Tom, Penney member and our church custodian, regularly sanitizes door knobs and hand-rails, and he is doing so more often during this season.
We Are Suspending Handshaking: For a little while we won’t be having a community greeting time at the start of the service, and though I (Pastor Justin) will be at the back of the church as usual to greet and talk with anyone who would like, I won’t be shaking hands either. Instead, I’ll greet you with a nod and a smile. And of course, as the experts recommend, we’d encourage you to wash your hands regularly and avoid touching your face. If you have a personal hand-sanitizer, you are welcome to bring it with you to services as well.
If You Are Feeling Sick, Please Stay Home: The Lord won’t love you less, if you take a Sunday off to rest and heal – and neither will we! And in fact, in talking to doctors, this stands out as an important step for you to take if you are feeling sick for the sake of others.
The CDC has information about what to do if you are feeling sick, and have reason to believe you have been exposed to COVID-19: CDC – STEPS TO TAKE WHEN SICK
If You Are At Risk and/or Are Concerned About Gathering for Worship: According to the Centers for Disease Control, older adults and those with serious chronic medical conditions like heart disease, diabetes, and lung disease, are at higher risk for exposure to COVID-19 (CDC – SPECIFIC GROUPS AT HIGH RISK).
If you are in one of these risk categories and a COVID-19 outbreak occurs in Maine, we understand why you would want to avoid a large gathering like Sunday worship. However, we want to continue to care for one another, so if you decide to stay home or if you become sick, please consider contacting the church office and letting us know, so that we can be praying for you and checking in.
I would also recommend anyone with further questions consult the excellent page on the CDC website dedicated to the Coronavirus (CDC – CORONAVIRUS INFORMATION)
One Last Encouragement: let’s continue to look out for one another within the body of Christ, and for our neighbors, co-workers and friends. Even if you aren’t concerned, there are likely others around you who are.
And let’s keep praying for the world. Even if the worst projections never materialize here in Maine, many around the world are already being affected. This is an opportunity for the Church around the globe to show the love of God, as we love our neighbors as ourselves.
Grace and peace in Christ,
“Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”
I Peter 5:7
Coronavirus Disease Fact Sheet Covid-19 – James Weathersby