Talk of the coronavirus COVID-19 is all around us as cases mount worldwide and new cases are diagnosed in the United States. While we have not had a case officially diagnosed here in South Carolina, we know that schools, businesses and health care organizations are preparing for the virus to appear in our state. I want to let you know that we, too, are taking the health, well-being and safety of everyone in our church very seriously. We are not anxious about the weeks to come, but we are putting plans in place to safeguard those most vulnerable in our midst.
As a community, we are always focused on those who live at the margins—in this time, we are especially attentive to those who could experience hardship or insecurity if there is a loss of work or a decrease in paychecks. This weekend, I’m meeting with representatives of our solidarity partner, Fresh Future Farm, to talk about ways we can partner and be ready to meet the needs of community members who may experience food insecurity in the coming weeks or months if an outbreak occurs.
We also care for those who have illnesses that leave them vulnerable to germs and infection. Beginning this Sunday, March 8, until further notice, we will expand our efforts to create a safe and comfortable environment on Sunday mornings:
- We will expand our cleaning of the physical space. All chairs, tables and hard surfaces will be disinfected with Lysol cleaning products.
- Our children’s spiritual formation rooms upstairs will be freshly mopped, all hard surfaces cleaned with Lysol products, and all children’s items will be sanitized.
- Our coffee will be offered to you full service—a volunteer with cleaned and gloved hands will pour your coffee, prepare it to your liking and hand it directly to you. We will not be serving food products at our refreshment station..
- We will not pass an offering basket, but instead will have it available near the communion station for you to place your offering in. If you have been thinking about making the switch to online giving, this is the perfect time—click here to start that process.
- We will still offer communion with some changes. In addition to using alcohol-based hand sanitizer before handling communion elements, our servers will wear protective gloves. Rather than tearing pieces of bread off of a loaf, the servers will hand each person an allergen-free cracker and an individual cup of grape juice. When you finish drinking from the cup, you can deposit it in the available trash can. Communion is never mandatory, and you are welcome to opt out of this experience if you wish. God’s grace is available to us in many different ways.
- We will not pass the peace during worship, but we encourage you to greet others in a way that is comfortable for you: waving, bowing, placing your hands over your heart, bumping elbows. Physical contact is not a requirement to worship at Two Rivers—now or any time!
Of course, we encourage you to worship in ways that are safe and comfortable for you and those in your home. Every Sunday we stream our worship service live on Facebook 10 a.m.; it stays on the page and you can access it anytime. For those who prefer or need to worship from home, we will expand our live stream worship to make it more interactive. Katie McCracken will be our online host, welcoming those worshipping online and interacting throughout the service. If you worship with us online, drop a note in the comments section and feel free to react throughout the service! Our community extands throughout our region, our state and even this hemisphere.
In the meantime, our life together continues! We will still have our popup worship at the Children’s Museum of the Lowcountry on Sunday at 6 p.m. Bring a friend and join us for some child-led worship and then free play in the museum (the museum uses hospital grade cleaning supplies). Our small groups continue to gather for study, dinner and community (you can find a group that fits your interest and schedule here), and I’m still free to meet you for coffee or lunch.
Feeling isolated or lonely in this time? Need someone to pray with you or for you? Want a human connection? You can email me anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll connect you with a member of our care team. Our community is here in all seasons, for all reasons.
In the weeks ahead, we will continue to keep the health and well-being of both our congregation and the community we are a part of in mind as we make decisions. I promise that we will keep you updated.
Don’t be anxious about anything; rather, bring up all of your requests to God in your prayers and petitions, along with giving thanks. Then the peace of God that exceeds all understanding will keep your hearts and minds safe in Christ Jesus. From now on, brothers and sisters, if anything is excellent and if anything is admirable, focus your thoughts on these things: all that is true, all that is holy, all that is just, all that is pure, all that is lovely, and all that is worthy of praise.—Philippians 4:6-8
I love the words from the book of Philippians above, especially in times of stress and anxiety. “if anything is excellent and if anything is admirable, focus your thoughts on these things.” We cannot control the spread of coronavirus COVID-19—but we can focus our thoughts, our prayer, and our actions on those who are vulnerable, on keeping our community safe, and on the presence of God who is with us at this very moment and will be with us in all the days to come. We are connected to Christ and to each other—thanks be to God!