The Michigan Conference joins in response to the coronavirus. Bishop Bard supports these personal and local church measures to support health and healing.
Dear Friends in Christ,
From the earliest days of the Church, healing and caring for the sick and suffering have been an important dimension of the Christian way. “They cast out many demons and anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them” (Mark 6:13). “Are any among you suffering? They should pray…. Are any among you sick? They should call for the elders of the church and have them pray over them, anointing them with oil in the name of the Lord” (James 5:13-14). The Christian Church often established institutions of health and healing as it also shared the good news of God’s love in Jesus Christ.
We are now face-to-face with the health threat of the coronavirus and the associated disease COVID-19. Michigan is now beginning to identify cases of the coronavirus within the state. As Michigan United Methodist we want to respond in ways that care for the hurting and provide healing. We want to respond in ways that raise awareness without unnecessarily raising anxiety. I continue to encourage us to pay attention without panicking, to pray, and to follow the advice of health care workers and public health officials. The government has set up a very helpful web site: www.coronavirus.gov.
The State of Michigan has advised that gatherings of more than 100 people be suspended. We believe your church leadership can best decide what to do, but continue to monitor the recommendations closely.
In the meantime, local churches can put into action and share these common-sense measures to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 and other infectious diseases:
- Pray for all those affected by COVID-19, including the health professionals working to contain the virus and treat to those impacted.
- If you or a family member is sick, may have been directly exposed to the virus or have traveled to a high-alert area (currently South Korea, Iran, Italy, Japan), please follow the CDC guidelines and refrain from attending church services during the 14-day incubation period and instead worship with us online.
- Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. The soap breaks down the virus.
- Use a tissue or your sleeve to cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze.
- Avoid touching your mouth, nose or eyes with unwashed hands.
- If you have COVID-19 symptoms, such as fever, cough, or difficulty breathing, contact your health care provider in advance to tell them about your symptoms before arriving at a doctor’s office or hospital.
- Organize a local church response team to monitor, plan, communicate, manage finances, and increase church hygiene.
- In addition to regular cleaning by a professional cleaning service, also sanitize highly touched surfaces (banners, door handles, light switches, etc.) before and after worship and programs.
- Discuss how you can minister to and safely check on the well-being of impacted members. Use a telephone or other electronic means. Discuss how you might safely support those needing to shelter in place with food and other necessities.
- Offer hand sanitizer stations that contain at least 60% alcohol and encourage regular use.
- Encourage social distancing. If you have a larger sanctuary, encourage members to spread out, providing as much space as possible between individuals.
- Consider temporarily suspending the serving of communion during worship.
- Consider not passing attendance notebooks or offering plates.
- When greeting one another, encourage smiling, waving or bump elbows.
- Evaluate the safety of serving food and beverages at church, passing offering plates, or other common exposure situations.
Michigan Conference Communications will be providing guidance on how to stream church services through Facebook or online, and Conference Treasury can assist local churches with knowledge on how to set up online giving. Please watch for frequent updates on the Michigan Conference website and via email.
May God bless you and your congregations as we navigate this challenging time together.
Grace and Peace,
David Alan Bard
Michigan Area Bishop