March 09, 2020

Dear Members of our Church and Learning Center Families,

I’ve adapted this e-mail from one sent by one of our sister churches in New York City, Fifth Avenue Presbyterian.  It has helpful information on which we all need to be aware of. 

Yesterday, federal health officials advised hospitals, schools, churches and other public facilities to begin making preparations for the anticipated spread of the coronavirus in the United States. As part of our preparation, I wanted to know a bit about the steps we will be contemplating in the coming days. As we do so, I want to encourage you to approach this public health concern by educating yourself, keeping up with the latest developments, and being extra careful about hygiene and cleanliness. 

Education & Prevention

As with any developing story, there is a lot of misinformation floating around. This new virus is not merely “the common cold.” But it’s not the plague, either. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has an extensive site, Coronavirus Disease 2019, that explains what this virus is, how it spreads and how you can protect yourself. It also provides the latest updates and offers expert advice for travelers, public facilities and healthcare professionals.

This article, You’re Likely to Get the Coronavirus, published recently by The Atlantic, is both informative and reassuring. It makes clear why this virus is so difficult to contain, but also emphasizes that most cases are not life-threatening. An article in the New York Times is another good repository of current reporting and practical advice on what parents need to know. The precautions to take are, in effect, the same precautions the CDC recommends every year during flu season:

  • Wash your hands. Frequently.
  • Keep your hands off your face, particularly your mouth, nose, and eyes.
  • Get a flu shot.
  • Disinfect the surfaces in your home and office.
  • Don’t go to work (or school, or church) if you are feeling sick.

What the Church Is Doing

Like the flu, the coronavirus is thought to spread mainly from close, person-to-person contact, and perhaps from contact with infected surfaces or objects. We are right now beginning to take stock of all the ways these interactions happen in our ministries, assessing our vulnerabilities, giving particular consideration to our most vulnerable people and implementing measures that we hope will keep us all safe.

This is what I can report so far:

For Worship and Church Events

  • In worship, we will likely be adjusting the way that we serve communion and possibly move to using individual cups and dropping the bread into people’s palms. 
  • During the Passing of the Peace, we support any of you who prefer to keep a safe distance. Pressing your palms together, holding your hand over your heart, even giving a friendly nod as you greet one another are all perfectly acceptable. We hope you will take no offense if folks welcome you in this way as well.
  • We already have hand sanitizer available throughout the Sanctuary and will look to add more such stations. Feel free to use it or slip into the restroom to wash your hands as often as you like.
  • At fellowship events, we will also be looking at the safest ways for us to share food, including possibly having a server being the one to serve you. This will protect us all from too many hands on the cookies!

In Our Learning Center

  • We will work with Ms. Fermina to ensure that all aspects of food preparation and distribution are handled in the safest possible manner.
  • We will be extra focused on our cleaning protocols. As it stands now, every night our classrooms are cleaned and sanitized.
  • We will communicate with our entire staff about the how and why of being vigilant about cleanliness and hygiene at this time.

Closing Thoughts

Please be assured that we are monitoring this public health emergency very closely. We are in consultation with sister congregations and our regional office about the most effective steps we should be taking as a church. If the situation worsens, public health officials may recommend that we take even stricter measures. We are not there yet. But should that day arrive, we will be prepared. Meanwhile, we will continue to invite, welcome and love in as safe and careful way as we can.

And please do all you can to maintain your health and that of your family, friends, colleagues and fellow members of this faith community. And know that, with God’s abiding grace, all will be well.

Grace and peace to you during this Lenten season

Kennedy McGowan


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