But if someone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but refuses to help—how can the love of God dwell in a person like that? Little children, let’s not love with words or speech but with action and truth.
(1 John 3:17-18)
Beloved people of Grace,
As the news keeps coming and updating us with the spread of COVID-19 around the United States, we know there are a range of reactions within the congregation, ranging from fear to frustration and everything in between. While we are not yet being asked to close churches in Arizona, we want to be well-prepared.
As always, as a community of faith, our concern is the protection of the most vulnerable. When Jesus came into this world, he first showed us how to be reconciled to our God and to each other – which involves thinking of others before thinking of ourselves. Putting the needs of other people in front of our own impulses and desires (Phil. 2:3).
So here’s what we know: people who are immuno-compromised and people with chronic illnesses are more likely to be infected with COVID-19, and the elders among us are more likely for the illness to become serious if infected.
We have an opportunity, in the midst of this epidemic, to live into that vision of a beloved community that cares for the most vulnerable among us. Those of us fortunate enough to have our health are responsible for protecting those in our congregation who are more vulnerable. When we take precautions as a community, the overall burden of illness diminishes significantly!
Therefore, even if you are generally healthy and resilient, it is very important to stay home if you are not feeling entirely well. Even if you have just a tickle in your throat and an occasional cough; even if you’re pretty sure you didn’t have coronavirus anyway, or you know you’re on the mend from “just a little virus” – please stay home, rest, drink fluids and don’t come to church unless and until you feel 100% well. There is some selfish grief in this for me, because these are my last two Sundays. But please know, you all have supported and loved me well for 5 years and that’s the memory I carry with me. I want everyone to stay safe and healthy.
Here at church, we’ve made accommodations in worship to care for our whole community. We are going to ask the door greeters to offer a friendly smile instead of a handshake, discontinue the time of greeting during the service, and instead of passing the offering plates, you may drop your offering in the designated plates on your way in or out of service. We have been having conversations about the best way to practice communion on March 8 so that it is safe for you all.
I want us to start thinking creatively about how we help support those who rely on school lunches if schools are shut down, on how we support those who need childcare, who lose wages, and for who the economic impact will be long lasting. We have always been able to respond with love to our community and I know we will continue to do so.
What else can you do, as people of faith? You can pray.
Pray for the healing of the nations and a resolution to this virus.
Pray for the communities already impacted by this virus around the world.
Pray for the students for whom school closing means not getting a reliable meal that day.
Pray for the healthcare workers, including UMCOR partners, who are working overtime and putting themselves at risk to care for the rest of us.
Pray for the artists and businesses for whom cancelled events this season are making a devastating financial impact.
Pray for the United Methodist Church as we move to cancel General Conference and all the questions that leaves unanswered.
Grace UMC Leadership and Staff are paying attention to the CDC recommendations and the wisdom from the United Methodist Church. We plan to be as flexible as possible, and if anything changes in our weekly practices, we’ll provide alternate ways to gather in worship and fellowship.
May our prayers and our witness be a testament to the God who loves us and has reconciled us to one another.