Dear Clergy Colleagues:
I have compiled and listed below recommendations for congregations to follow as we live through the challenges that we face given the outbreak of coronavirus.
The PBA Ministers Council gathered this week and discussed the challenges and shared helpful recommendations for congregations as we face in this public health emergency. Please click on the link to review their recommendations and share your thoughts by filling out the survey https://form.jotform.com/200715356940150
Further, the Ministers Council plans to develop webinars and an online community that helps us to coordinate our efforts in serving and protecting church members.
I have gathered and compiled some of the recommendations from Regions across ABCUA. The PBA does recommend our churches consider the suggestions below:
Churches face decisions now and in the future about cancelling worship services. We have been advised to avoid gatherings over 250 people; our larger churches will have a more difficult decision. In your sanctuary, spread out! Create some distance between persons
If possible foregoing print bulletins, and replacing them with electronic or projected versions, is advisable. If this is not feasible, make sure greeters are wearing gloves as they pass out bulletins, and have worshippers sanitize their hands as they enter the sanctuary.
Consider live streaming or podcasting your services for those who elect not to attend, and to prepare for the possible cancellation of live worship in the future.
It is not known at present how long COVID-19 is able to remain viable on surfaces. Projecting lyrics is a good way to prevent the spread of the virus. Remember to disinfect the keyboards, remotes/mouse and desks. If this is not feasible a printed song sheet may be a better option, and if this will not work then encouraging hand washing and sanitizing after worship is recommended (which should be a standard practice).
Plates or baskets should be placed in a location where the people may leave their offering. Plates should be handled by gloved ushers and not passed by the congregation. While there are costs, encouraging online giving would also help protect those who handle the offering after it is taken.
If your church passes a microphone around at prayer time, have the person holding the microphone in the front listen to each request and then repeat it for the congregation.
Following CDC guidelines, handshaking should be avoided. As we greet one another or Pass the Peace, we should do so without physical touch of any kind. A gentle bow or a nod can be substituted.
People could be taught to sign “I love you” or place their right hand over their heart and then turn it outward to their neighbors—the latter is considered by many to be a sign of peace. A friendly nod and smile is also a good alternative.
Passing plates and cups is inadvisable at this time, as too many hands end up touching the elements and the potential for spreading the virus is increased. Churches may want to consider inviting congregants up front for communion, keeping a least three feet between members, and have gloved servers hand worshipers the elements. You may also consider using pre-filled communion sets.
Who should forego worship gatherings: Persons who feel, or within the past two weeks, have felt unwell or run a fever should be discouraged from attending church services or events, both for their own protection and the protection of others. If anyone in a household is unwell, everyone in the household should remain at home.
In particular, the following persons who are at particular risk from COVID -19 should take extra precautions: persons age 60 or over, anyone with a respiratory condition such as asthma or emphysema, anyone with an autoimmune disorder, anyone who is undergoing or has recently received chemotherapy, and smokers.
Cleaning: Make sure to wipe every surface that is often touched with disinfectant: doorknobs, handrails, the tops of pews.
Food service: Food served at coffee hour, feeding programs or other gatherings should be in individual servings. If food is not in individual servings, a person wearing a new pair of food service gloves should be assigned to pre-plate and serve the food. Serving utensils should be handled only by the person preparing and serving the food.
Virtual meetings are encouraged where possible. Church or program staff may be encouraged to work from home, provided their physical presence is not required. Some free or low-cost online meeting platforms include: Skype, Zoom, Google Hangouts, GoToMeeting, Cisco Webex Meetings, and Microsoft Teams.
Pastoral Care: Please be aware that pastors may need to reduce or eliminate their physical presence in hospitals and nursing homes. Many facilities are already limiting such visits. We have had our first case of a US pastor contracting this illness. Pastors do not want to become unintentional carriers by entering high-risk areas; in addition, many pastors have family members in high-risk groups, or are themselves at high risk. Prayer by phone or video can indeed be Spirit-filled.
The Rev. Dr. James E. McJunkin
Regional Executive Pastor
March 16, 2020