The elders at my church published the following statement on our church’s COVID-19 (coronavirus) response and precautions. Please ask your church leaders to consider a similar response, appropriate to your community context.
As you are aware, the spread of COVID-19 is increasing throughout the United States. The United States is at the early stages of the virus spreading, and it is likely to get worse before it gets better. Consider the spread of the virus as a bell curve—the US is on the left side of the bell curve, and cases of influenza will likely grow exponentially before the spread begins to decline.
Our goal is always to glorify God through faith in Jesus Christ. This faith should work itself out in love for our neighbor. Such love demands that we take precautions to protect our neighbors, particularly the most vulnerable.
According to the CDC, those most vulnerable to COVID-19 include older adults and those with chronic medical conditions like heart disease, diabetes, and lung disease. There is an increased danger to the immunocompromised. Even if we are not in these categories, love for our neighbor demands that we take steps to protect them as we would ourselves.
What steps will GABC take?
In some states, the government has requested that churches not meet on Sundays. As of now, no such request has been made in Iowa. If they recommend we not gather for worship or other meetings, we will consider their recommendation and communicate our plan of action. If they forbid meeting in groups over a specific size, we intend to comply.
We have decided on the following steps for our congregation, effective now through March 31. We will reassess on or around April 1. For now, we believe these steps to be consistent with recommended practices.
1) Stay home if you are sick (or exposed to sickness).
If you are sick (fever, cough, colored nasal discharge), please stay at home until you have gone 48 hours symptom-free (without using drugs to control them). No one will judge you for staying home. Guarding the health of your neighbor is a way of loving God.
2) No Foundations classes, grow252, Youth Group, or childcare/nursery (including during corporate worship).
Children’s ministry areas can be some of the most challenging areas to control a virus. As we understand it, children are considered super-conductors for the spread of a virus for apparent reasons. The emerging picture is that the contagion period is much more extended than earlier thought and extends to asymptomatic periods before and after symptoms.
There will be no Wednesday night children or youth activities.
Small Groups and Men’s/Women’s Bible Studies will continue at the discretion of the facilitators. We urge participants to practice good hygiene and to refrain from attending if sick or exposed to sickness. Please contact your Small Group or Bible Study leader with questions.
The only regular on-campus meeting that we will offer is our Sunday 10:30 am corporate worship service. (With the closing of Iowa State University’s campus, we anticipate our attendance will be under 100. At this time, this seems to be a safe size for an assembly, provided we follow appropriate precautions.)
For now, we plan to continue with special events (such as the Talent Show and Good Friday Service) but will not provide childcare. We will regularly reassess as we learn more.
3) Alternate offering collection.
We are suspending our standard procedure of passing the bags around for offering during the worship service. We ask you to either drop your offering in the boxes by rear doors of the sanctuary or give online (instructions here).
4) Alternate Lord’s Supper distribution.
Healthy members will safely prepare the Lord’s Supper. We will serve communion in such a way that only the partaker touches the elements. Please dispose of your cup. Do not encourage children to gather used communion cups.
5) Touchless greetings.
Instead of shaking hands, please greet each other verbally.
6) Sanitized hands.
We have hand sanitizers in various locations for your use. We encourage parents to make sure our children wash and sanitize their hands when they come into a group setting.
7) Minimize restroom and drinking fountain use at GABC.
Public bathrooms are next on the list of places where viruses thrive and spread. Experts warn against using public restrooms unless necessary and to be extra cautious about washing your hands after using a public restroom. We realize it may be impossible for some families to avoid using the public restroom. If you do use the restrooms, please ensure thorough handwashing (30+ seconds with soap) and use of hand sanitizer.
The drinking fountain will not be available. Cups and water will be available at the coffee bar.
8) Listen to sound advice and use your best judgment.
We understand and respect that opinions vary about COVID-19 responses. If you feel that meeting at all is unwise or unsafe for you or your family, please remain home. Our entire church service is available on our blog (look for the Service Preview), allowing you to participate in the readings and songs at home. We do our best to post the sermon on Monday.
9) Talk to your children about COVID-19 and the Gospel.
This time can be scary for children as they hear things at school, from peers, and on the news. An informed parent or grandparent who welcomes questions and conversation will be a source of great comfort. There are useful articles to help you online (a simple search will yield many options).
This moment is an excellent opportunity to remind our children (and ourselves) that God demonstrates his love for us in the Gospel. Because of that, we have nothing to fear.
Tell your children why we are taking these precautions, why such precautions are an act of faith (not fear), and how they demonstrate Gospel-like love for our neighbors. Instead of instilling fear, invite them to join you in cultivating a wise, loving, and vigilant culture.
10) Extend Christian patience and understanding.
Again, opinions vary widely. Now is not the time for mocking others’ fears, political posturing, or harsh indifference to the concerns of our neighbors.
There is much we do not know. But we do know that the fruit of the Spirit is “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23). Such is the proper response to our neighbor in the church and the world. It is a time for love—which, just like our Savior, is willing to lay aside its rights and preferences for the good of others.
Our care to prevent the spread of a coronavirus is an act of compassion through which we can share the Gospel.
Thank you for your cooperation and your love for Christ and one another.
Yours in Christ,