The three made the recommendation during a live video broadcast via Zoom and Facebook, which was watched by more than 200 people. Watch the recording at right.
"Part of the reason for that is, as many of you have seen, the way in which the virus escalates," said Bridge Conference Minister The Rev. Kent Siladi. Public health officials have said that slowing the spread of the virus is necessary to avoid overwhelming hospitals.
Siladi said many churches had already made the decision not to hold worship, and that the Conference Ministers fully support those decisions. He encouraged congregations to be in touch with the local health officials, and make the best decisions for their own local communities.
The Conference has been pulling together resources related to responding to the Covid-19 coronavirus, and to holding worship and other church activities virtually. Those resources are being collected here - www.sneucc.org/coronavirus - and more are being added on an almost hourly basis. A team of worship leaders from around the Conference is convening online on Friday, March 13, to explore ways the Conference can provide more resources around worship.
"This is a challenging time for our churches and our community. And preparation, information and mutual support are our greatest tools in these times," said Bridge Conference Minister Don Remick.
The Conference Ministers and Ringen will hold another online session at the same time next week: Thursday, March 19, at 1:30 PM. A Zoom registration link will be posted, or the video can be watched on Facebook. Questions that people would like to have addressed at that session can be sent to Kent Siladi.
Several people asked about meal programs, preschools, AA meetings and the other support groups that meet in their buildings. The Conference Ministers suggested that - particularly in cases where meals are being served - that churches be in contact with local health departments for guidance.
The Conference Ministers, with Deborah Ringen, Transitional Minister of Health and Wellness for the Southern New England Conference, UCC, also suggested that congregations put together plans for caring for those who are most vulnerable, including those in hospitals and nursing homes, where visitation has been restricted. They suggested developing plans for staying connected online, and with those who are not online by telephone. They also advised making plans for coverage should the pastor become sick.
The following prayer was offered during the video, and is reprinted here with permission:
Oh God, I’m Spinning Out: A Prayer
Rev. Dr. Hannah Adams Ingram
Chaplain, Franklin College, Franklin Indiana
March 10, 2020
There is so much I do not know
There is so much I cannot see
There is so much I cannot control
In the moments I feel powerless, I will take a deep breath
trusting that I am tasked only with doing my part, not the whole
In the moments I feel unsure, I will take a deep breath
trusting that I am not alone and that together, our wisdom will be richer
In the moments I feel anxious, I will take a deep breath
trusting that there is no depth I can fall out of reach of the Spirit that holds me close
What I do know is that my life and love and worth extend far beyond my work
What I can see is that spring follows every winter and new life pokes out from cold ground
What I can control is my breath and the love I inject into a world so clearly lacking it
“And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.”
Tiffany Vail is the Associate Conference Minister for Communications for the Southern New England Conference of the United Church of Christ.