March 14, 2020
Dear brothers and sisters:
With Coronavirus (COVID-19) unsettling the global human family, I would like us to remember to put our confidence in the living God who says, “Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you” (Isaiah 41:10). The current situation is unfamiliar to us, and prone to encouraging anxiety and fear. In no way should we disregard or dismiss the seriousness of the situation. Fortunately in Canada we are still in low numbers of infected people, given our population, and we have an excellent healthcare system that is valiantly informing, educating and providing resources.
At this time the board is not recommending the cancellation of this Sunday’s service. A number of Mennonite congregations have cancelled their services, but they are taking a directive from the province for gatherings that are more than 250 people. We will continue to monitor the situation, of course, and will go week by week. Please take care of yourselves and make sure that you are being safe in your decision of whether to attend the service or not. We have had some offers to experiment with recording the service or even streaming the service should there be members who want to stay home out of caution. The situation is changing daily but remember at some point we will be past the crisis and we will once again be able to gather without fear.
In addition to the obvious precautions such as staying home if you have any respiratory symptoms, washing your hands, avoiding sneezing and coughing close to other people or on hard surfaces that are frequently touched, there are common sense directives we can follow, including:
- Discourage panic and fear.
- Don’t spread false information.
- Bring or have hand sanitizer at the entrance if possible
- collecting the offering in a bowl at the back that people can drop into instead of passing the bags around
- communion using individual cups instead of intinction (Palm Sunday communion, April 5, would be the first one affected)
- Coffee and tea only after church (no food), and even this can be re-evaluated
- encouraging people to stay home and listen to the sermon online if they are experiencing any of the symptoms
- putting the entire recorded service online (just leaving it up for a week to save space) if people do start opting for that
- reaching out with phone calls, texts and emails to any in our congregation who must or choose to self-isolate
- Wipe down hard surfaces touched by churchgoers, such as door handles, keyboards, etc, with cleaning products.
- Avoid hugs and handshakes
- seek information only from reliable sources such as the CDC and World Health Organization.
Naturally we will be monitoring the situation, and of course we will follow any updated health directives communicated by government authorities and publicize changes as quickly as possible.
Let us pray for those affected and their love ones. Let us pray for those who are in decision making positions and may God grant them calm wisdom to act according to the best measures available.
Peace and grace,