Dear Friends in the Episcopal Diocese of Washington,
Your diocesan leadership is closely monitoring developments involving the coronavirus Covid-19 and the latest guidance from health experts on how to prevent the spread of this virus.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention expects Covid-19 to spread through communities in the US. While they indicate that the risk is still moderate, it is important for all of us to take precautionary measures and to prepare for the possibility of a large-scale outbreak in our communities.
Episcopal Relief and Development reminds us that during any medical emergency our role as churches, dioceses and compassionate Christians is to:
- Combat fear with knowledge in order to encourage preparedness and decrease stigma
- Maintain operational continuity and continue worship life in the case of potential quarantine and disruption
- Show God’s compassion and care to those in our communities who are affected
Health experts agree that common sense preventative practices are the most effective disease control. These include:
- Frequent, effective hand-washing
- Staying home when sick
- Covering your mouth when sneezing or coughing (using a tissue or elbow instead of hands)
As we are in close contact during our worship and in community, it is especially important that we practice and promote personal hygiene.
We also recommend the following congregational practices:
- Clergy and lay leaders stay home when ill
- Attendees who are coughing or sneezing receive communion in one kind only and refrain from shaking hands or bodily contact during worship
- Eucharistic ministers use an alcohol-based rub before the distribution of the sacrament, whether in the context of the liturgy or in visiting someone at home or in the hospital
- Sanitizing packets are distributed and/or dispensers are readily available upon entry to the church, and parishioners are encouraged parishioners to use these to cleanse their hands before and during the service
- Parishes involved in ministries serving food give particular attention to best practices regarding food safety
- Environmental cleaning occurs routinely in the sanctuary, kitchen hall and other spaces where people gather
- Special attention is paid to the care of vulnerable populations, the elderly, children, the infirm and others at special risks
Note that intinction is not a recommended communion practice, given the risk of spreading the virus from the hands. Receiving only the Bread is an acceptable communion practice.
While we do not want to create any undue alarm, these protective steps limit the risks of contagion through our services should any of our parishioners have been exposed to the virus. Caring for each other and our communities requires that we exercise more than ordinary caution.
In the event of a local outbreak of the virus, now is a good time to prepare for home-based worship resources, including live-stream services, telephone ministry, and pastoral care to the wider community. If you’d like technological assistance in the preparation process, please contact Peter Turner.
Now is also a good time to reach out to ministry partners in your community so that, if needed, your congregation can assist in pastoring those in need.
Thank you for your on-going prayers for all those around the globe who are ill or have died from this disease, and for those whose lives have been severely disrupted.
Episcopal Relief and Development offer this prayer for our collective use:
Prayer for People Who are Critically Ill or Facing Great Uncertainty:
God of the present moment,
God who in Jesus stills the storm
and soothes the frantic heart;
bring hope and courage to all
who wait or work in uncertainty.
Bring hope that you will make them the equal
of whatever lies ahead.
Bring them courage to endure what cannot be avoided,
for your will is health and wholeness;
you are God, and we need you.
-Adapted from New Zealand Prayer Book, p. 765
Finally, here are program inserts and information sheets to post on on bulletin boards:
- COVID-19/Coronavirus: Awareness and Response
- What you need to know about coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19)
- Lo que necesita saber sobre la enfermedad del coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19)
- Stop the spread of germs
- Detenga la propagacion de los microbios
If the situation worsens in our regions, we’ll communicate further. Please do not hesitate to reach out with any questions or concerns.
May we be instruments of healing and grace.