Palermo Christian Church,
Last night the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) issued a recommendation that gatherings of 50 or more people should not take place in the U.S. for the next 8 weeks. In the midst of national and local efforts to prevent the spread of the Coronavirus, our church must respond. One difficulty we face is the fact that we are supposed to gather regularly:
Hebrews 10:23-25 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
So fellowship must be maintained throughout Coronavirus protocols. Your contact with the people of God is essential to your spiritual and emotional well-being whereas amusements like sports are not.
How do we do this when we are advised to cancel our public meetings? How do we do this when gathering with others might put ourselves or those we love at risk? How do we do this when our employer is placing restrictions upon us so that we don’t bring the Coronavirus into our workplace?
First, we are working to set up online access to the worship service for this Sunday. Sunday morning gatherings will be temporarily suspended for now. In their place we will have a video recording of the sermon given over the internet (http://www.palermochristianchurch.org). Stay tuned for details concerning when videos will be put on the website. Likely the message and worship music (if possible) will be pre-recorded and put on the website for Sunday morning. I am working with Sandy and the worship team to make broadcasting worship music over the webpage legal as well. This means that use of the facilities for the public are temporarily suspended. This includes basketball, Tuesday walking, Boy Scouts, etc. Youth Group is temporarily suspended.
Gathering for worship through video is a temporary compromise because of necessity laid upon us, not an ongoing convenience we should desire. Convenience and ease should never replace the live gathering of God’s people (see https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/church-online-coronavirus-age).
Second, I have reached out to small group leaders and Sunday school teachers to continue to keep in contact with their group members and students. Hopefully we will continue to “gather” with one another through mediums like Skype, Google Hangouts, or Facetime.
Third, the only meeting we will continue is the Sunday evening service. For those regretting that prayer meeting is cancelled, Sunday evening functions much like a prayer meeting. Be advised that we are taking precautions for these meetings. The front door will be the only access. Door handles, doorknobs, hand rails, etc. will be sanitized. People coming out will be forced to use hand sanitizer upon entry. People will be required to sit a safe distance from one another. Here are some guidelines for those of you wishing to come out for Sunday night:
Do not come out if you are an at risk individual, those with existing health conditions and 60 years or older. The California governor has advised all those 65 and older to stay home.
Do not come out if you are sick.
Do not come out if you have been exposed to someone with the Coronavirus.
Do not come out of guilt or fear you are disobeying God. Be responsible and wise.
In Philippians 1:21-24, Paul said this:
Philippians 1:21-24 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. 22 If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. 23 I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. 24 But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account.
If you are at risk, please don’t reason that it is better for you to come out because death is beneficial for you. Instead, think about others. Think about how your departure will affect others. Who will be grieved if I perish because of carelessness? Who will I no longer be able to serve if I perish because of carelessness?
So for now we will continue Sunday night service, this is a fluid situation and we don’t know what restrictions will be added by Sunday, but we will do so with responsible precautions and strong suggestions for many of you not to attend. For your good and the good of others.
Fourth, I can be reached at my email (email@example.com) or phone (207-480-9021). If you need pastoral assistance contact me. If you know of people who need pastoral assistance, contact me. I cannot abandon my post nor can I be reckless. Myself and Sandy will maintain office hours. Pastoral visits are available to those confined to their home. I will take the necessary safety precautions to ensure your safety as best possible.
Fifth, personally stay in touch with others in the body. Continue to encourage one another, to rejoice with those who rejoice, to weep with those who weep, to counsel one another, and to pray for one another. Use the means available at your disposal: phone calls, texting, Facebook, internet meetings. The body remains the body even as we practice social distancing. Let's keep in contact with one another, edify one another, and do what we can given the present circumstances.
I am about to recommend that most of you don't show up tomorrow for our 9am worship service. After careful research I want to advocate caution and wisdom for your protection. Don't worry if you are scheduled to teach Sunday school or perform worship or watch the nursery or serve for the fellowship time or whatever. The state guideline is no gatherings over 250. And sane church leaders have recommended no services over 100. But many of you fall under the at-risk category and I would hate to have you perish prematurely because you were not well-advised. Please serve the body by not coming if you are sick. And please serve the body by not coming if you are at risk. If that leaves 10 of us that is okay. Your well-being is what matters. Please, for your own well-being, read the following data and make an informed decision.
1) Nearly 5,000 dead
2) Over 130,000 confirmed cases
3) 3.4% mortality rate (common flu mortality rate is 0.1%)
4) 15% mortality rate for those 60 years or older (take existing health conditions into account here)
5) 22% mortality rate for those 80 years or older
6) 85-89% have minor conditions often unnoticed
7) High risk: those 60 and older or those suffering from chronic diseases
8) Virus enters through your mouth, nasal route, or eyes from droplets caused by coughs or sneezing
9) Six feet is safe distance
10) Incubation period is 2 to 14 days
11) Symptoms are same as the common flu for 85-89%
12) Severe and critical symptoms such as respiratory distress and pneumonia for 11-15%
13) Vaccine may take 12-18 months to develop
1) Frequent hand washing with soap and water for 20 seconds
2) Don't touch your face
3) Minimize physical contact: shaking hands, hugging, kissing, etc.
4) Keep your distance from sneezing and coughing people
5) Stay home when you're sick for the safety of others
6) Don't travel where the virus is known to be
7) If you are elderly or chronically ill avoid crowds and close contact
Sources (both articles written by Christian medical doctors with sound theological convictions)
What are the motives behind preventing large crowds from gathering?
1) Protecting at risk people
2) Stopping the spread of the Coronavirus
3) Preventing our hospitals and health care system from being overwhelmed and unable to care for the sick
4) For the church our motive is love for the vulnerable, not fear or panic or self-protection