As more cases of the Coronavirus have been confirmed throughout the state, I have been approached by pastors inquiring if they should cancel their church services. While this is obviously a serious situation that demands attention, my response is this:
You have been called to ministry, and that mission still exists. There are children to bless, meals to serve, and homeless people to house. People still need Jesus. None of that has changed because of this virus. I plan to keep working and serving and preaching and encouraging and communing until the CDC instructs me not to—because God calls us to not live in fear.
That said, I encourage all churches to take steps toward preventing the spread of this virus, such as:
- Maintain social distancing.
- Refrain from handshakes and hugs.
- Have hand sanitizer available.
- Sanitize, sanitize, sanitize!
I have heard from INUMC congregations who learned to “bump elbows” during the “Passing of the Peace.” Others are opting for individual communion cups over intinction. Some churches have made hand sanitizer readily available as people enter and exit the sanctuary.
Prayerfully consider if canceling a service would be wise for your congregation. Take into consideration outbreaks in your local community. Or if you primarily serve a high-risk population, like the elderly, then perhaps it would be best to not commune together for a while. When possible, transfer as much of your church services as you can online—from preaching on Facebook Live to taking an offering through your website, if possible.
In the meantime, we will continue to resource you in the ways we can and we will join you in prayer for wisdom and healing as we navigate this uncharted territory together. May we all seek the Great Physician and Healer as we continue to pray for a cure.
Julius C. Trimble
You can find the bishop’s previous message about how to care for your community amid the COVID-19 outbreak here: http://bit.ly/2TVBr9j