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Updated Instructions for Coronavirus Preparation

As the concern about the COVID-19 outbreak spreads, and as we begin to suspect that there are many more cases in our communities than are yet known, I would like our churches to update their preparations for this disease. Although, for most people, the illness poses a low risk, for the elderly, vulnerable, and immunocompromised it can be deadly. We owe it to our congregations to take precautions to protect the vulnerable among us.
This week, I had the opportunity to talk with other bishops and with a group of clergy from our diocese to gather recommendations for how to respond to the disease. I have also talked with a distinguished epidemiologist at UCSD who has given me some important suggestions. I understand that there is no longer a strong hope of preventing the spread of the disease. Instead, we can work to slow it down, to mitigate its effects so that our health system is not overwhelmed.
In the church, there has been much press about communion and other worship practices, but I think it is just as important to consider how we are dealing with other environmental factors, such as coffee hour. I note that UCSD and other universities have decided that classes of more than 100 people should not gather, and that non-class gatherings of more than 15 people should be canceled or postponed.
For us, gathering for worship and prayer is at the heart of our mission as Christians, and unless strong recommendations are made by health authorities, I believe we should still gather. However, we should take some important actions to mitigate the spread of the disease. Here is a list of preparations I can offer at this time, with the note that this is a very fast-moving crisis, and later this week, the recommendations may change as we learn more.
To begin with, I would like to ask each congregation to take the following steps:
In addition, I ask you to do the following things:
Worship Practices
Choose one of the following two options for Sunday worship:
  1. Offer Morning Prayer for the remaining three Sundays in Lent, rather than Eucharist, to avoid some of the high-touch practices of the Eucharist.
  2.  If you offer Eucharist, follow the practices below:
In addition, please observe these other precautions during worship:
Food Service
Cleaning of Surfaces
Travel
Pastoral Visits
Staff and Lay Ministers
Feeding Programs
As Christians, it is natural for us to feel fear, but remember that throughout the Bible, ordinary people were told, “Be not afraid.” In times of fear, Christians like Constance, Nun, and her companions, whom we remember in our Episcopal calendar on Sept. 9, have courageously cared for others. In the Diocese of San Diego, let us act with courageous love to care for our congregations, families, and communities.
Above all, pray for our country and our world during this difficult time. Pray for those who are ill, those who cannot work, those who are alone in quarantine, and all who are suffering from the current economic disruptions. Prayer is effective, and it is a ministry Christians can engage in on behalf of our neighbors and ourselves. And please know that I am praying for you, your clergy, and your leaders as we all do what we can to respond to this crisis with courageous love.
In Christ,
The Rt. Rev. Susan Brown Snook

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Category: #Advocacy, #Communications, #Evangelism, #Outreach, #Stewardship, #Sundays, #Worship & Formation, #Youth, Children, & Families

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