As you may know, earlier today the World Health Organization officially declared that the coronavirus outbreak is a global pandemic.
Governor Roy Cooper has also declared a state of emergency here in North Carolina, which is focused on reducing and slowing the rapid spread of COVID-19.
Demographically, a large percentage of our membership falls within the most at-risk sector of the population.
So we are focused on doing what we can, and doing what we must, to achieve the following two goals:
1. Protect the health and safety of our members.
2. Help keep the growth curve of this outbreak as flat as possible.
Below is a summary of the steps we have taken, or are planning to take, to achieve those ends.
We have developed this list from recommendations made by the Center for Disease Control and by the PCUSA. We have also surveyed other area churches as to their best practices and the precautions they are taking, or planning to take, and have adapted those to our specific context.
BUILDINGS AND GROUNDS
- Our Administration Ministry Team has authorized us to hire a professional cleaning service to clean the Chapel (sanctuary, restrooms, narthex, parlor, kitchen) on Saturday nights, prior to Sunday morning worship. If our budget allows, we will also engage them to clean and sanitize the fellowship hall building (kitchen, restrooms and classrooms).
- We have placed hand sanitizer in the women’s and men’s restrooms in the Chapel and fellowship hall, and also in the narthex, and in the fellowship hall kitchen and the education classrooms.
- We will be shutting off the water to the water fountains in both buildings and providing bottled water as an alternative. (We encourage you and your family to bring your own water bottles from home — and to clean them thoroughly when you return home.)
The Worship Planning Team met yesterday and agreed to the following recommendations and precautions:
- If you are feeling sick (regardless of your symptoms) we encourage you to stay home.
- We will remove the ribbons from the pews and we ask that during worship you sit in alternating pews to insure the recommended 3′ of “social distancing”.
- Due to the complexity of insuring safe preparation (and the lack of guarantees that those efforts will be 100% effective), the Worship Team is recommending that we suspend the practice of Communion in April, and that we review this decision every month until it is deemed safe to resume the practice.
- We will develop liturgical and devotional resources that will enable you to practice Communion around your own tables at home.
- We are exploring technological options for delivering a worship experience to those of you who choose to (or need to) stay home on Sunday mornings, and have access to the internet.
- We will continue practicing a “touchless” Passing of the Peace; simply bow to one another was we say the words.
FOOD AND FELLOWSHIP
- We are recommending that we suspend coffee hour in the parlor.
- To facilitate fellowship after worship (and weather permitting), we will provide pre-poured cups of juice on the picnic table in front of the Chapel.
- We will not be providing food or snacks during coffee hour.
- Other fellowship events outside of Sunday mornings are currently under review and decisions about those will be made shortly.
- If you feel like you are experiencing symptoms of the coronavirus please consult with your doctor immediately.
- If possible, we also ask that you alert the pastoral staff of your condition.
- The pastoral staff will practice “touchless” pastoral care during all home or hospital visits.
- Pastors will also carry and use hand sanitizer before and after each home or hospital visit.
- Pastoral staff will maintain contact with local retirement communities and hospitals to stay apprised of outbreaks, updates and advisories.
In countries like China and South Korea, we have already seen that taking sensible and immediate preventative and protective measures greatly slows the spread of this virus.
We believe that these measures will do that here, and will help protect the health and safety of everyone who participates in Sunday morning education classes or worship services.
That said, if you have any fears about your own health and safety we obviously respect that decision and we encourage you to stay home. And please do let us know if you need any help or support with getting food, getting to the doctor, or with meeting your spiritual needs.
We are here for you.
Grace and peace,
P.S. This is obviously a rapidly evolving situation. We may need to update these precautions to reflect new information or recommendations from the CDC, the PCUSA, or other health agencies. If so, we will of course make those known to you as quickly as we can.