Rev. Margaret Minnicks is an ordained Bible teacher. She writes many articles that are Bible lessons.
More cases have been confirmed in the United States for the coronavirus, also known as COVID-19. Therefore some churches have become creative to still have worship services while using cautionary measures against the risk of the disease. Church leaders are rethinking some of their usual customs. Infectious disease experts are delighted that churches are making changes to lower the risk.
If you think about it there are a lot of things that can be changed within the church that will offer more protection. Now is a good time for religious leaders to identify the parts of the service that can be eliminated when people have to be in close contact with others.
While people know that the elderly and immunocompromised congregants are more susceptible to the disease, no one is exempt.
What Churches Are Doing for Protection
The very first thing on the list in most churches is to eliminate the greeting period when people go around the church hugging, kissing and shaking hands to greet people. The safest thing to do is to bow, wave, and smile without touching which is highly discouraged. No one should be offended if people don't shake their hands. In fact, they shouldn't shake hands either.
The coronavirus can be spread when an infected person coughs, sneezes or talks. Those droplets can land on people nearby or on a surface that people touch that might infect them. Everybody they shake hands with will become contaminated. So, can't you see that it is better not to shake hands?
Pastors who have a habit of telling people to hold the hand of the person next to them or to touch your neighbor and repeat something now have a good reason to eliminate that from their worship services.
Serving Holy Communion
Churches might need to change the way they serve holy communion. Churches should refrain from allowing congregants to break a piece of bread from a common loaf. Leaders should avoid picking up a piece of bread and placing it in a person's mouth.
The Episcopal Dioceses of Los Angeles told its churches to stop offering communion wine from a common cup. They are serving only bread and not serving wine for the time being. Even though communion wine does contain alcohol, it is not enough to kill the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, according to Caitlin Rivers, an infectious disease specialist with the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security. The grape juice served instead of wine in some churches has no alcohol at all.
Keep Your Distance
Experts advise people to stay three to six feet away from an infected person to avoid catching the coronavirus. Trish Perl, chief of the infectious diseases division at UT Southwestern Medical Center says people attending religious services and other events with crowds are often spaced much closer than three to six feet away.
Stay Home If You Are Sick
People are advised to stay home if they are sick whether the sickness is from the coronavirus or from something else. If people still want to see a worship service, there are plenty of them online and on television.
How Coronavirus Spread in One Church
In recent weeks, a religious group in South Korea had an outbreak of the coronavirus because they did not protect themselves. Critics say they are accustomed to using particular practices that may have caused the disease to spread quickly and more people have become infected,
Shincheonji followers hold services while they sit on the floor very close to one another. They are packed together shoulder to shoulder. Critics also say a bigger problem is that people shout out "Amen" as loud as they can after every sentence the pastor says. That practice causes respiratory droplets to fly everywhere often landing on the people sitting close together.
What A Local Church Is Doing
The St. Paul's Church in Richmond, Virginia led by Dr. Lance D. Watson, Senior Pastor and Chief Dreamer shared some guidelines with his congregation on Sunday, March 8, 2020, about how to be safe while worshiping with others.
The pastor reminded his congregation that this virus is primarily spread through close contact and respiratory droplets. Before he outlined the cautionary measures to follow, he encouraged people not to fear and be anxious based on the scripture that says God has not given us a spirit of fear, but He has given us a spirit of love, power, and a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7).
Dr. Watson let the congregation know that the church staff is monitoring updates and responding according to the CDC's recommendations.
Stay At Home If You Are Sick
If you find yourself feeling sick, please stay home and join listen to the service digitally on www.myspbc.org at 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. on Sundays. The service is also streamed live at the same time on “The Saint Paul’s Baptist Church” Facebook and YouTube pages.
Communion trays will no longer be passed. The Diaconate will distribute communion as people enter to worship. There will be trash dispensers where empty cups. As usual, the church will continue to provide pre-packaged, individually wrapped communion elements.
Baptismal pools are disinfected regularly. However, no one will be baptized who has a fever or anyone who has been caring for someone who has a fever.
Tithes and Offering
Members are encouraged to pay their tithes and give their offerings online. Simply text 77977 to SPBCCRE or SPBCBELT OR SPBCELM and follow the prompts. Offering baskets will not be pass during the services until further notice. Instead, the church will conduct “walk around” offerings at the end of services as people leave the sanctuary. Also, there are “drop off” locations at each campus.
No one will need to touch door handles because volunteer greeters will hold exterior doors open to greet you. All interior doors will remain open during the worship services.
St. Paul is a warm and loving congregation. However, until this crisis ends, the church will replace hugs and handshakes with smiles and waves.
Volunteers wipe down check-in surfaces between all services with disinfectant wipes. Hand sanitizer is readily available throughout the buildings.
The pastor of St. Paul encouraged everyone to use the basic measures listed on the CDC website:
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick, and stay home if you are sick.
- Do not touch your eyes, nose, and mouth.
- Cover your mouth with a tissue when you cough and sneeze. Then throw the tissue away. Do the same when you blow your nose.
- Use a regular household cleaning spray or wipe to clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces in your home or workplace.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds before eating, after coughing and sneezing, after blowing your nose, and after going to the bathroom.
- If you are not where you can use soap and water, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol.
Please Share Comments
Feel free to share your comments below about what your church is doing to be safe.
OLUSEGUN from NIGERIA on March 08, 2020:
I think prayer of the righteous ones will heal the sick folks as James 5 says, thence as they stayed at home, I believe they can still be prayed for and with through the online streaming and other social media and miracle will happen, I believe in Miracles, because that is Jesus specialty.
For now, we have not witnessed such in Nigeria.
manatita44 from london on March 08, 2020:
A very comprehensive and sensible look at the problem. Thank you so much!!
Cheryl E Preston from Roanoke on March 08, 2020:
Very informative and this virus is changing things. At my son’s church today the did elbow bumps instead of hugging.