Churches in the light of Covid, Seasonal Flu and the Common Cold

The Christian Community

God of heaven and earth,
in these times of isolation, apart from loved ones
distant from friends, away from neighbours
we thank you that there is nothing in all of creation,
that is able to separate us from your love.
And may that love which never fails continue to be shared
through the kindness of strangers looking out for each other,
for neighbours near and far all recognising our shared vulnerability, grateful for every breath, and desiring a full and healthy life for all.
Enfold all your children in your loving embrace.
We ask this through Jesus Christ your Son, our Lord. Amen.

A Christian Community gathering for worship, prayer and fellowship is as old as Christianity itself and something we all cherish and value. The Corona Virus pandemic has had many effects on our lives and the way we interact with each other. We’ve yet to see the full implications of the direct effects in relation to health and the indirect effects in relation to different groups in our society. One thing is certain, that how we meet and how we use our Church buildings and other places of worship needs to be carefully reviewed in order to ensure that we don’t put one another at risk.

Our Liturgies quote Matthew’s Gospel (22:37-40) in saying

Our Lord Jesus Christ said: The first commandment is this: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is the only Lord. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all Your strength.’ The second is this: “Love your neighbour as yourself.

An oft quoted Covid prayer draws on this when it says: “We are not people who protect our own safety: we are people who protect our neighbours’ safety.” However, as our Governments have made clear, an important part of how we protect our neighbour, is through our own behaviour. As our Bishops also pointed out in relation to closing our churches, “we do this not out of fear but out of love”.

Many of the precautions that we need to take as a result of the Covid-19 Pandemic, are ones that we should have been taking in the past to protect each other from Seasonal Flu, the Common Cold and the other respiratory infections that can have such a devastating effect on the elderly, the vulnerable and those in poor health.

What we need to keep uppermost in our minds, is that all that we do must be grounded in prayer and guided by the desire to provide spaces and communities where people can be present to God and God to them, where people feel able to pray and where we can all learn to pray that little bit better.

Our Individual Duty to our Neighbour

As part of our love of neighbour and love of God, each one of us has a duty to:

  • Stay at home if we, or any member of our household, has any symptoms of a respiratory infection – a persistent cough, an elevated temperature (and in the case of Covid-19 and a number of other viruses – a loss of sense of taste or smell). Many of us (clergy and worship leaders especially) have not been very good at doing this, persevering with “duty” when we might pose a risk to others in doing so.
  • Maintain an appropriate Physical Distance from others. Without prompting we need to be respectful of each other’s space with sensitivity and be happy to maintain a suitable distance, taking account of individuals’ needs as well as any health guidance that we’re given.
  • Follow good hygiene practices to help prevent spread of disease:
    • Wash our hands frequently and carefully with soap and water for 20 seconds. At the very least this should be done before leaving for Church (or other social gathering) and immediately on returning home and especially by those handling the Eucharistic Elements.
    • Whilst out, carry and use a hand gel with at least a 70% alcohol content for at least for 30 seconds, if we have no access to soap and water.
    • Be careful to avoid touching our eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
    • Wherever possible stay a safe distance from people who appear to have symptoms of a respiratory illness.
    • Cover our nose and mouth with a disposable tissue when sneezing, coughing, wiping or blowing our noses. Dispose of used tissues promptly. If a tissue isn’t available, cough and sneeze into the crook of our elbow (not ideal but better than hands which immediately touch other things). Wash with soap and water or use alcohol hand gel to clean our hands at the first opportunity.
  • At times when there is significant risk of infection such as the Covid-19 Pandemic or a Seasonal Flu outbreak, where we might be unwittingly carrying infection, we should also wear a face-mask in public spaces and know how to put it on and take it off safely for maximum protection of both our neighbour and ourselves.

God give me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change,
the courage to change the things I can
and the wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time, enjoying one moment at a time,
Taking, as Jesus did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it be,
Trusting that You will make all things right. Amen.

Our Duty as a Church Community

Awe came upon everyone, because many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles. All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.” (Acts 2:45-47)

As Christian Churches Clergy, Vestries and people we have a responsibility to people who meet in our buildings and join us in the other places where we meet. That responsibility is a core part of our Mission and Ministry and times of crisis provide opportunities for a reconnection with our wider communities.

In our Churches we have a duty to make it as easy as possible for individuals (Church members or not) to exercise their duty to protect one another, we should:

  • Organise our activities to ensure a resilience which doesn’t place pressure on Clergy, Worship Leaders or others facilitating activities to turn up when they have symptoms of respiratory illness. How this is done will depend on Church circumstances and the activity, but the procedures should be documented, agreed and well understood.
  • Re-think and agree all aspects of maintaining distance in Church Worship and in Fellowship (especially how the Peace is shared), so that those taking part feel close to each other but also safe and comfortable.
  • Apply appropriate hygiene practices in the Eucharist and in the making and sharing of refreshments as part of our welcoming Fellowship.
  • Review the need to touch or handle objects or surfaces that have been touched or handled by others in the recent past, so as to reduce the risk of passing infection from one person to another.
  • Review how our Church premises are cleaned and kept tidy, so that all those entering and using them may do so with confidence that they can focus on Worshipping and Praying to God in the Community of Faith

Keep us, good Lord, under the shadow of your mercy
in times of uncertainty and distress.
Sustain and support the anxious and fearful,
and lift up all who are brought low;
that we may rejoice in your comfort
knowing that nothing can separate us
from your love in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

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