Coronavirus (COVID-19) has been dominating the news and spreading globally and locally. Just yesterday (March 11th), the WHO declared it a pandemic. We’re sure that before long, the virus will affect people in CBAC churches and neighbourhoods.
To downplay the concern would be irresponsible; and yet, we shouldn’t spread paranoia and fear. Instead, let us act wisely and pray. Followers of Jesus are called to show His love, not fear. And in times of crisis, we are called to act responsibly and lovingly. We are to be His hands and feet. How can you join God in your neighbourhood in a time like this?
We have precautionary recommendations for thoughtfully and prudently limiting the spread of this virus:
- Practice personal hygiene. Take all of the common precautions in disinfecting surfaces, keeping clean, and protecting the vulnerable. Wash your hands frequently with soap and water. Use alcohol-based hand sanitizer when hands are not visibly soiled. Cough or sneeze into your elbow or a tissue and then wash your hands again.
- If possible, stay home when ill with cold or flu-like symptoms. If this is not possible, limit close contact with others. Avoid placing your hands on high-touch surfaces such as handrails, counters, and doorknobs.
- Consider removing the greeting time from your services. Avoid shaking hands when you’re at church.
- Instead of passing an offering plate, consider placing a basket at the back of your room for church attendees. Consider online giving.
- Instead of passing a communion plate, consider another way for your church to observe the Lord’s supper. You could have gloved servers placing bread in each person’s hands, or place individual communion elements in the seats ahead of time.
- Take extra care not to spread the coronavirus to people who are more at risk, such as those who are older or who have pre-existing health challenges—and avoid visiting hospitals or nursing homes.
- Set up a contact system to regularly check on the elderly, and shut-in people in your congregation. What if you could do this for people in your wider neighbourhood as well?
- The time may come when your church needs to consider cancelling gatherings to limit the spread of the coronavirus and protect the most vulnerable in your community.
- Stay informed about advisories or warnings from your municipal and provincial authorities. Reliable information is also important in these times. Below this message, you’ll find links to information for each of the four Atlantic Provinces, as well as our Federal Government and the World Health Organization.
A note for churches with an after school program or early childhood education centre: Please take steps to ensure that the coronavirus does not threaten your children. This may call for even more precautionary steps.
The New Brunswick Department of Education has ordered students to stay home from school for 14 days if students have traveled outside of Canada and returned after March 8th (with the exception of the state of Maine). If you’re another province, stay informed about similar information from your local authorities.
A Prayer for These Times
I have been encouraged and challenged by a beautiful prayer written by Sam Chaise, our friend and former Executive Director of Canadian Baptist Ministries:
“We know of Your promise, and Your call, which says, “Do not fear”, and have to say that at times, that seems a little bit crazy, or at least unrealistic. And we wonder what You mean by that, because for sure we know You don’t mean that everything’s fine or that everything will necessarily be okay. Perhaps it is a call to remind ourselves that our fear can be enfolded by something larger, something that is not global in scope but larger than the universe. Something that is love.”
And later in the prayer we read these powerful words with a compassionate and hopeful tone:
“And we pray for one another. We pray that our fear will not cause us to turn on one another, keep resources from one another, or withdraw from one another. We think of Your people, who lived centuries ago, who were known for the fact that as others were fleeing plague-ridden cities, Christians were marching in, in order to care for the sick, knowing that if they died, they would come alive again in the resurrection. And that because of that, as others marvelled at the courage and sacrifice of Your people, they wanted to know about the God who inspired those people. And we wish we could be like them. We want to be like them.”
I love the honesty in those concluding words, when he asks for the power of the Holy Spirit to live and act courageously. Let’s uphold one another and our world in prayer during these trying days.
Dr. Peter Reid
Executive Minister, CBAC