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Bishop urges calm and preparation for coronavirus

Coronavirus precautions urged

Bishop David Bard calls Michigan United Methodists to pray for those affected by the coronavirus outbreak. He urges churches to be aware of precautions to take if the outbreak spreads.

February 26, 2020 | LANSING, Michigan — Bishop David Bard has asked United Methodist churches in Michigan to begin preparing for a possible wide-spread outbreak of the coronavirus disease (also known as “COVID-19”).

The Federal Center for Disease Control (CDC) is responding to an outbreak of the respiratory disease first detected in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China, where it has spread to 37 nations, including the United States. The CDC reports there are over 80,980 confirmed cases worldwide, and nearly 3,000 have died.

Bishop Bard will ask the Conference Disaster Response Coordinators and the Conference Committee on Finance and Administration to explore how Michigan congregations can best prepare, but has urged calm and not to panic. “There is no need for immediate action,” said the bishop. “But now is a good time to calmly assess the possible impact on our local churches if an outbreak occurs in Michigan.”

A wide-spread outbreak could have a significant impact on faith communities due to a number of factors, including the age and wellness of United Methodists. The virus could spread easily during worship services and other faith gatherings where people are sitting in close proximity. Local churches are encouraged to complete the CDC Faith-based & Community Organizations Pandemic Influenza Preparedness Checklist. While this check-list was developed in 2016 to combat the spread of influenza, it will function well to plan for COVID-19.  

Church leadership will want to discuss what actions might need to be taken if worship services were suddenly interrupted. Consideration needs to be taken for the emotional and spiritual care of the sick, sanitation of facilities, communication with staff and membership, communion and food safety, stewardship concerns, and other possible impacts resulting from a wide-spread pandemic. Leaders will also need to educate members on how to reduce risk while at church, including frequent hand washing, asking sick individuals to stay at home, and reducing physical contact.

At Holland First United Methodist Church, pastor Brad Bartelmay, who also chairs the Conference Committee on Finance and Administration, says his church is already planning for the possibility of an outbreak. “We are calmly preparing for any possibility,” said Bartelmay. “We are strategizing on how to ‘do church’ in a world where worship attendance is depressed, and where small groups and Sunday School may be discontinued. We will be exploring more pastoral caregiving and wellness tracking of vulnerable populations.”       

“I encourage us to hold in prayer those around the world who are suffering from this terrible virus,” said Bishop Bard. “We can remain calm while also preparing to be in ministry during a time when people will feel an increased need for God’s comfort and presence in their lives.”   

Find daily virus situation updates and preparedness information on coronavirus on the CDC website (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html).

The Michigan Conference