From The Pastors

Corona Virus

From
March 13, 2020

Hello, friends,

 
This is a long letter. Please bear with me, as there is a lot to communicate.

 
As you know, the new cornavirus (SARS-CoV-2) has come to our county, bringing with it coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). Yesterday, the governor of our state signed an executive order prohibiting public gatherings of over 250 people, among other emergency policies, including the ordering the closing of all schools for the next two weeks. You may be wondering what this means for the Washington New Church.
 
After consulting with the Board of Trustees, School Board, Pastor’s Council, and church staff, as well as with fellow pastors in the Council of the Clergy, I have decided that we will not be holding worship gatherings at the church this Sunday (3/15) or next (3/22), even though our size is below the 250 person threshold in the current executive order.
 

Over the past month, there has been a variety of voices in public and private conversation regarding COVID-19. Some were saying “It’s just a flu,” albeit one with 1% mortality rather than 0.1%. Others were talking about it in part in terms of the potential economic suffering we are all going to have to deal with. Still others became very concerned about the fact that, even among those who don’t die from COVID-19, a significant percentage (much higher than 1%) will likely still need hospitalization while they fight this disease.

I worry that each of those messages falls short of something else that people need to focus on. So I am asking you to consider the following perspective:

The real threat of this disease is to the weakest among our loved ones and neighbors. Older people, people undergoing cancer treatments, people already fighting other illnesses, people with ongoing conditions like diabetes, etc, are the ones at risk of greatest suffering. If people make choices based on their perceived threat to THEMSELVES, they (WE) are thinking about this all wrong. What we need to understand is that of the 325+ million Americans living today, there are some simple yet inconvenient things that 300 million of us can do in service to the perhaps 25 million who are in the more at-risk categories. By all pitching in to help flatten the epidemic curve of the disease (effectively slowing the rate of infection) so that our hospitals are not overwhelmed all at once, we can ensure that the vulnerable among us will not have to face this using a medical care system that would otherwise be breaking down under intense pressure.

So we as a church will take appropriate actions–not out of fear but out of love for others.

Here is what we will do:

1) Follow all FederalState, and County recommendations as they happen.

2) Close the school for the next two weeks (including the one week already scheduled as our spring break). After that, beyond following government directives, we will mirror any additional school closure actions taken by our area public schools.

3) Practice the cautions recommended by the CDC with regard to travel, hand-washing, and attending large gatherings. See  https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-nCoV/ for a well-organized collection of useful information on this topic. At the church, we already went through one round of deep cleaning last weekend, and will continue to practice safe habits. In your own homes and workplaces, I encourage you to limit physical contact with others, wash hands as recommended, and carefully reconsider the necessity of long distance travel plans. I also encourage those of you who are at risk (over the age of 60, compromised immune systems, other health issues), those in regular contact with those at risk, and also anyone exhibiting signs of fever, coughing or shortness of breath, to use careful judgment when deciding where to go and who to have contact with.

4) Monitor the situation week-to-week with regard to worship gatherings. We do not yet have live streaming set up, but are working on it. I did figure out a way to do a sort of hacked-together approach to streaming yesterday, but realized that with no organist and no congregation, and just a preacher in an empty room, the result of this solution might not be suitable for people’s worship needs. It’s something Brian Smith and I will continue to look at. In the meantime, I still encourage you to observe the Sabbath this Sunday, and I offer several suggestions for how to do that at the end of this letter.5) Identify the needs of people in our community who may now or soon decide to avoid public contact–and especially those living alone– so that as a church we can provide them with what they need. Consider the people you know, and ask yourself what you can do to serve them. And if you are over 60 or are at risk due to other underlying health conditions and could use some extra help getting through this, please contact Bonnie Cowley or myself.

6) Ask that various church groups and community gatherings meeting at the church and also in private homes take a break during this crisis. Many of our small groups have high participation from those over the age of 60.
So here is a list of ways you can observe the Sabbath while we are not meeting at the church:
 * Hold your own worship. Set aside time to read something from the Word, pray to the Lord, and meditate on how His teachings may be applied to your life. If you are doing it with family or other room mates, include discussion and sharing as part of your worship experience.
 * Listen, on your own or gathered with your household, to a recorded sermon. There are many you can choose from from around the New Church at www.NewChurchAudio.org. In addition, you can now get every sermon and special service recording from Washington New Church delivered to you online via the new Washington New Church Sermon Podcast at https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/washington-new-church-sermoncast/id1500434843
 * Watch a live stream or a recording of one from one of our sister societies. New Church congregations that offer video stream worship services include:
New Church Live (http://newchurchlive.tv/)
New Church at Boynton Beach (https://boyntonbeachnewchurch.org/watch/)
 * Watch or listen to other New Church content (including a project I have been working on recently as part of our larger church strategy), and then discuss it within your household or online:
Spirit and Life Bible Study (https://www.spiritandlifebiblestudy.com/)
The Big Idea, with Mac Frazier – a new project I have been working on and was going to formally invite everyone to check out next month; go and subscribe to it and click the bell icon and you will get notifications whenever something new posts there… (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC1Y2jtxYxevvWRQojzdIphw)
The Mac Frazier Podcast – audio from The Big Idea (https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/the-mac-frazier-podcast/id1500453473)
Let’s all pull together and help each other get through this. We are a strong and loving community, and when this is all done, let us be able to look back on our actions, content that we followed the Lord’s command to love our neighbors and to trust in Him.
“And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’”
Rev. Glenn “Mac” Frazier
Pastor, Washington New Church
512-694-9474
Mac.Frazier@gmail.com
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