March 12, 2020
Dear family in Christ,
As you might imagine, we have been vigilantly monitoring the situation as the COVID-19 outbreak has developed. With news that there are now 12 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Michigan, and since the university has canceled all in-person classes, we knew we would be moving swiftly to enact measures to preserve the health and well-being of our community.
Our goal is to help ‘flatten the curve’ of the spread of this novel coronavirus, to do our part to help keep our medical system from becoming overwhelmed. The Department of Public Health recommends that any gathering involving low-risk groups be no larger than 50, and that any gathering involving vulnerable people (people with underlying health concerns and anyone over 60 years of age) be no larger than 10.
Because a lack of rigorous and widespread testing existed in the early days of this epidemic, we are seeing disastrous consequences in Italy and very difficult circumstances in Washington and New York. We would like to help stem the tide of infection. We have the opportunity both to set an example, and follow the lead of other faith communities that have taken decisive action.
This coming week, we will not have our normal Sunday service; but I will post a devotional reflection on the sermon text as well as guiding questions for meditation or small group discussion. You are encouraged to meet with roommates or friends, or as a household, and engage in this spiritual practice together.
We have set up a Zoom account, with which any of our community members can access discussions. We could have a community Bible study and discussion of the sermon text online during our normal worship time. Depending on how the situation develops, we may move to having a small service next week that is live-streamed online, and ask that only people who are not at high risk attend. Further measures are listed below for when we do start to meet normally again.
We need to remember that this kind of crisis only comes about once every century; the last pandemic was in 1918. This too shall pass. We will come together again, and we are still a community in Christ. Now is an opportunity to develop different ways to be together even when we can’t be physically present with one another.
Response to this crisis is a community effort; we will take precautionary measures, and we ask that you do the same.
We have committed and will commit to the following:
1. Social distancing practices in worship and at our gatherings (no hand contact or hugging, remaining 3 ft apart).
2. When we begin to worship together again, we will offer bread only during Holy Communion until the most severe crisis has abated, and then move to a pouring chalice and individual communion cups, recognizing that we may need to remain cautious for up to 18 months. We recognize the teaching that Christ is fully present in both the wine and the bread.
3. We are wiping surfaces at church with disinfectant wipes a few times a day (door knobs, handles, tables, etc). We have put out many more bottles of hand sanitizer around the building.
4. We will continue to implement other worship strategies like not passing an offering plate (leaving it in the back), leaving our doors open around worship times so people don’t need to touch handles, and any other ideas shared that make good sense.
5. We will take attendance at every gathering so that, in the event that someone tests positive, we have a list of who was in the building at the same time.
6. If someone who is active at Lord of Light/LCM tests positive for COVID-19, we will close our doors for 2 weeks, staff will self-quarantine for 14 days, and we will ask anyone who had contact with that person to also self-quarantine for 14 days.
7. We will continue to follow all CDC, University, and County guidance regarding COVID-19.
*This list is subject to change and we will update as necessary.
We ask you to commit to:
1. All the above measures that involve individual action.
2. STAYING HOME at the first sign of flu-like symptoms (cough, fever of 100.4 or higher, chills, runny nose, sneezing, etc). People in low risk groups (university students in good health are low risk) who contract COVID 19 or who just catch a cold should stay home to keep area hospitals free for COVID 19 patients who need a hospital stay in order to survive. If you can be sick and recover at home, this is the recommendation.
3. Regular hand-washing for 20 seconds.
4. Avoid touching your face.
5. If you are 60 years of age or older, please stay home from worship and other gatherings for your own health and safety, until the threat is lifted. This is very difficult to write, but you are the most vulnerable group, and you are too valuable to this community for us not to lift up special concern on your behalf.
If you are an outside group that uses our building:
1. ONLY gatherings of 50 or fewer are allowed.
2. We ask that you take attendance at every gathering and keep record of it.
3. We ask that you create a Cleaning Team to wipe surfaces after you gather here (door knobs, handles,
tables, etc). Please provide your own supplies if you’re able. If you’re not, let me know.
4. If anyone in your community tests positive or develops flu-like symptoms, we ask that you let us know and self-quarantine immediately.
The vulnerable will face hardship as we go forward. Students with strained or no relationship with family may not be able to go home. International students are likely to be stranded on campus. Some may not have access to food. We want you to know that you are in our prayers, and I stand at the ready to be a support, especially to the vulnerable. If you find yourself suffering due to this illness, you need not suffer alone. I will be available to talk by phone, Zoom, Google Duo, and if circumstances are safe, meet in person. We can develop online social support systems.
I am praying for all affected, all suffering, all health care workers, doctors and nurses, and government officials. I am praying for our Lord of Light/LCM community, especially our beloved older members and those at higher risk, and for collective courage and calm as we go forward. Please don’t hesitate to contact me with questions or concerns.
The Peace of Christ be with you all.