Hello Church Family,
As you’ve no doubt probably heard by now, we are facing a global pandemic due to the rapid spread of SARS-CoV-2 and it’s corresponding disease COVID-19. The implications of the spread of this virus are changing on a day-by-day basis. Even though there are no confirmed cases here in Abilene, there are some things we need to consider as a congregation.
UNDERSTANDING THE VIRUS
The complete clinical picture with regard to COVID-19 is not fully known. Reported illnesses have ranged from very mild to severe, including illness resulting in death. While information so far suggests that most COVID-19 illness is mild, a report out of China suggests serious illness occurs in 16% of cases.
Older people and people of all ages with severe underlying health conditions — like heart disease, lung disease and diabetes, for example — seem to be at higher risk of developing serious COVID-19 illness. Check the CDC website for how to best protect yourself if you’re part of this more vulnerable demographic.
The virus mainly spreads person to person when they are in close proximity to each other (within about 6 feet.) When an infected person sneezes or coughs the droplets produced can fall on the mouths or noses of those nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs.
While there have been reports of the virus spreading through people who aren’t showing symptoms, people are thought to be most contagious when they are most symptomatic. There has also been some evidence that the virus can spread through touching hard surfaces that have the virus on it and then touching ones mouth, nose (or even rubbing the eyes). Again, this is not the primary way the virus spreads.
RESPONSE TO THE VIRUS
As you might have seen by now, the State of Texas has declared a “State of Emergency” for all Texas Counties. President Trump has also issued a “National Emergency.” Our local leaders held a press conference this afternoon (Friday) to discuss actions in the City of Abilene related to schools and public services (libraries, etc).
Even though Abilene is right now considered a “low-risk” community, we can expect to eventually see cases of COVID-19 in our city. Even though this is inevitable, the important thing is to create as much time between each case that we can so that our hospitals and medical care facilities are not overwhelmed by an exponential increase in cases. See this article or the below bell curve as an example.
HOW SHOULD WE RESPOND?
Some of our city schools have postponed classes out of an abundance of caution. We still plan to have services this coming Sunday but I want to offer the following suggestions as a disclaimer.
First, please familiarize yourself with the best practices for preventing the spread of the virus. If you are sick in any way whatsoever then please DO NOT COME TO CHURCH. Even if you just think it’s a common cold, better safe than sorry. Please don’t put others at risk if you’re not feeling 100% healthy.
Also, if you do come to church on Sunday, try and spread out throughout the sanctuary to create some degree of distance between yourself and others. Wash your hands before and after entering crowded spaces (hand sanitizer is available in the GP)
We are going to disinfect all of the high traffic hard surfaces before and after services this weekend. We will also seek to go above and beyond the call of duty in making sure you don’t have to interact with things that other people have touched. (offering plates, Lord’s Supper plates, etc) To the best of our ability, we want to help you avoid potential exposure to this virus.
Secondly, avoid handshakes and hugs and other close contact with others. The primary way this virus spreads is through human to human contact. The more distance we practice in our gatherings the more likely we will prohibit the potential spread of this virus.
If you serve on the hospitality team then set the example by offering a friendly wave or fist bump instead of a handshake. Keep hugs and other close contact to a minimum if at all. This will become more important as the virus hits Abilene directly but it wouldn’t hurt to start the practice of social distancing now.
Third, if you are over the age of 65 and/or have any sort of health complications, consider staying home. You are at a higher risk of experiencing serious complications from the disease. Even though we are right now “low risk” as a community, I would recommend that you consider staying home out of an abundance of caution. Obviously, you can do whatever you want, but that would be my recommendation.
One of the reasons we don’t yet have any documented cases in Abilene may be a result of the lack of widespread availability in testing. Testing availability will be increased over the next several weeks and, as a result, I believe we will eventually see more and more cases in the Big Country. In light of that strong possibility, you have nothing to lose from staying home out of an abundance of caution.
Even though I don’t believe we need to cancel services entirely for this Sunday given our current state of affairs, I do believe high risk demographics need to exercise an abundance of caution. You can watch the sermon on our website later on Sunday afternoon. You can also give online and experience community through our Facebook group or via phone contact with your small groups.
My fourth recommendation is to “be the church” during this season. Even if we have to eventually cancel our Sunday morning church gatherings, we don’t have to cancel the Great Commission or stop practicing the “one anothers” of the New Testament.
Given the many senior adults we have in our congregation, why not consider ways you can serve them during this outbreak? For example, picking up supplies, medications, food, or other items could be a tremendous blessing for people who are anxious about getting out in public.
You should have a church photo directory and in the back there should be contact info for folks in the church. You can also call the church office if you need help finding some contact information. Reach out and see how you can be of assistance. If things get worse in the city of Abilene this is one of the primary ways we can shine as the church of Jesus Christ.
By the way, this isn’t just something you should consider for our older members. Consider how you can help vulnerable populations throughout the city of Abilene. Many stores are selling out of things like toilet paper and cleaning supplies. Offer to share with those who have legitimate needs and be the hands and feet of Jesus during this difficult season.
Do Not Be Afraid
My last word of counsel would be one originally given by our Lord as he addressed the anxious hearts of his own disciples in the Sermon on the Mount.
“So don’t worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you. Therefore don’t worry about tomorrow, because tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” – Matthew 6:31-34
Or consider these words by the Apostle Paul,
“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your graciousness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Finally brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable—if there is any moral excellence and if there is anything praiseworthy—dwell on these things.” – Philippians 4:4–8
In short, we have a tremendous opportunity in these days to show the world how an abiding faith in Jesus makes everything different. His grace is sufficient. He is on the throne and we can trust him in these trying times. Not only that, we’ve been commissioned by our Lord to persuade others to exercise that same kind of faith.
Our reaction to this global pandemic is an opportunity to become the salt and light that Jesus called his disciples to be. It’s no secret that the early church exploded in its influence throughout the Roman Empire because of their original response to pandemics in their day. Instead of retreating in fear they were mobilized for redemptive action through sacrificial love.
As each pandemic ran its course, the people of Rome remembered how the church responded differently than everyone else. Now is our time to display a similar kind of confidence in the Lord and love for other people.
Please pray for our city, state and national leaders. Pray also for your Christian brothers and sisters at Broadview as we navigate these uncertain days together with confident faith in a faithful God.
Before signing off I want to give you a heads up that there very well may be future cancelations and to stay tuned to our church social media, emails or other forms of communication. As of now, Blest Beginnings is going to remain open throughout the week for childcare needs.
Our March MANness event will be postponed to a date later in the spring. This is partly due to the likely spread of COVID-19 but it’s also due to the forecast of rain over the next six days. The location for the gathering will likely be flooded and not conducive to the activities we have planned.
Stay turned for updates on the Women’s Gathering and other smaller gatherings throughout the week. Thank you so much for helping us get the word out about these things. If there’s anyway I can pray for you please let me know!