Hello Cross of Glory Family and Friends,
Like you, I am not quite sure what to think. Updated reports of the Coronavirus spread are becoming very concerning. We are learning of cancellations right and left and the encouragement of all to responsibly deal with TODAY in the hope that tomorrow is better.
No doubt you are hearing of various sanitation suggestions. Perhaps you have been to the store and know that cleaning supplies are going fast. People are stocking up on food and water, paper products and antibacterial helps. You are wondering about interactions with others. Do we go to this or that function? If so, what sensible precautions should we be about if we choose to leave our homes?
Understandably, anxieties are high. Television, radio and social media aid us in learning the newest of information pieces, yet 24-hour reporting of Coronavirus news (and this not always consistently) fuels our fears.
As of yesterday, about 4% of those diagnosed have died. Statisticians are piecing together the demographics of those who died with still many unanswered questions. Were those who died in ill-health already? Were they predisposed to reacting miserably anyway to the virus? It is not surprising that initial reports indicate that the disease is especially hard on older adults and those with heart problems. Is there evidence that those younger and/or in better health are fairing better? Understanding that experts believe an antidote will not be available at the earliest for possibly another year, are there some treatments being administered NOW that seemingly appear to be helping? How long does it take before a person, infected, experiences the possible Coronavirus symptoms such as a runny nose, sore throat, cough, fever and in more severe cases, difficulty in breathing? How long will it take an infected person to truly BE better? How long is an infected person contagious? Will the virus “calm down’ with warmer temperatures forthcoming?
So many unanswered questions… so many things to think about.
We know the Scripture passages. We believe that God is a mighty fortress. Past generations have worried, and even suffered greatly, the travails of their day and age. They too sought God and additional faith in troublesome circumstances.
We strive to do the same.
As difficult as it is for us to remain calm, to keep focused, to be of good mind and heart, NOW IS ESPECIALLY THAT TIME.
God is with us always and will give us what we need to face this challenge. We should always count on His grace and Psalm 121 (those of you in worship last Sunday will understand) help. At the same time however, God has given us brains as well as hearts. As information is shared with us about possible precautions, about possible future helps in combating this disease, we should act accordingly. We should not just sit back, resigned, as though God will do all the work for us.
I see that less than an hour ago, Bishop Jim Gonia sent me an email that he hopes I pass on to you:
A Pastoral Message from Bishop Gonia
Dear colleagues in Christ,
When we entered this year under the theme Church Becoming, little did we know that our we would be stretched so quickly to think about how to reframe our understanding of church in light of a global pandemic. Yet here we are, the people of God, navigating these uncharted waters together, seeking to be faithful to our calling as the Body of Christ as we are guided by the power and wisdom of the Holy Spirit.
Let me begin with a word of gratitude for the ways you have already been tending to the well-being of your communities of faith and ministries. Our primary concern at this time is to consider how we care for the most vulnerable among us. I know many congregations have already adopted recommended practices for safeguarding those who come to worship. We are now faced with the likelihood that we will be asked to refrain from gathering for worship at all for the next few weeks. The governor of New Mexico has already made such a request. I will be on a phone conference call tomorrow afternoon with the governor’s office in Colorado and anticipate a similar request. We are monitoring the situations in Utah, Wyoming, and El Paso as well. In anticipation of such a reality, I invite us all to receive this as an invitation to creative innovation. Now, more than ever, our people and our communities need us, our faith leaders to be engaged and attentive to the fears and concerns that prevail.
Given that we are still on our Lenten journey, I invite you to consider how to create meaningful community and worship experiences that reflect this time of prayer, fasting and self-reflection. How might we frame a Holy Week experience that people can participate in from home? What would an Easter celebration include if we are not able to gather together?
Some have asked how Holy Communion might be shared if we are not physically together. I would ask that we look instead at how to creatively offer virtual worship experiences, re-engaging various forms of service of the Word for this season, saving the joy of the meal for when we can gather in community again.
We have established a page on our RMS website where we will continue to publish ideas for you to consider if and when public worship is not an option. Our Churchwide colleagues have also published a resource page. Your own ideas are welcome; please add your ideas to this shared Google Doc. A link to this document will be on our website. We will also be holding a webinar on Wednesday, March 18 at 3:30pm to offer an update and engage questions that may arise. The link is posted below.
We are aware that this situation is likely to create financial vulnerability for many congregations and ministries, as well as for our life as a synod and wider church. It will be important for all of us to be proactive in encouraging generosity and investment in our life as Christ’s Church during this period, even as we are sensitive to the financial impact this situation is having on those we serve. It is extremely important that we keep our focus turned to those in our community who will be most impacted by the dangers this situation presents.
In terms of our life together as a synod, the Office of the Bishop staff and Synod Council will be conducting all business via ZOOM from now until the Synod Assembly. This includes meetings such as Candidacy Committee as well as individual appointments. There will be staff people in the office each day, but many of us will be working from home. Congregational visits will likely be suspended for this period of time. We will be assessing the situation and will make a decision about our Synod Assembly by April 1.
Thank you again for your leadership and your commitment to life as Christ’s Church, ever-becoming. We are in this together and I trust that as we pray, share and accompany one another into new ways of being, the Spirit will faithfully guide us into God’s promised future.
Yours in Faith, Bishop Jim
Yes, indeed Cross of Glory, particularly given how many of our worshippers are elderly, I am encouraging that we refrain from gathering together these next weeks on Sunday mornings and Wednesday Lenten evenings. I was on the phone with so many of you yesterday as we talked about attending Wednesday Lenten worship. Many of you suggested that we continue to meet, being careful not to shake hands with each other and strive to ‘be as clean’ as possible in the handling of building and worship things at church. I SO APPRECIATE YOUR WILLING AND WANTING TO PHYSICALLY BE PRESENT AT CHURCH EVEN GIVEN THE CONCERNS OF THIS TIME. Of course this would be your stance. But remember… the church is YOU! Cross of Glory is not our building nor our gathering together on Sunday mornings. Cross of Glory is SO much more: YOU ARE THE CHURCH…AND I BELIEVE THAT WE CAN BE CHURCH TOGETHER THESE NEXT WEEKS IN SLIGHTLY DIFFERENT WAYS!
I too would rather meet in our building these upcoming weeks but present circumstances dictate that we “think out of the box” and DO church a little differently these next weeks (or until such a time we all would feel better about coming together as a group to our building). John Test, your Cross of Glory president agrees as in my conversation with him yesterday he conceded that we needed to act prudently, cautiously and lovingly, making this hard call while knowing all of us would want church, and so many other things these days, to remain the same.
NONE OF US PREFER THIS SCENARIO BUT ALL OF US REALIZE THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING A RESPONSIBLE GLOBAL CITIZEN AS WE PRAY THIS THREAT IS SOON BEHIND US!
I invite your good ideas these next days on how we can do worship and grow spiritually while remaining in our homes more and more this upcoming month. Please look carefully at the email addresses included in this correspondence. Share with me needed corrections or additions. I will need some help contacting members and friends of our congregation who do not have email of this news. We certainly want to INCLUDE EVERYONE in our parish of this decision and of our strong, forever resolve to continue to BE Christ’s Church, Cross of Glory, not only when faith is easier.
I conclude this email by sharing with you an excellent article submitted to me recently on sound advice given the Coronavirus:
Here’s a note from the U.S. epicenter of the coronavirus.
What I am doing to minimize Corona Virus infection from James Robb M.D.
Dear Colleagues, as some of you may recall, when I was a professor of pathology at the University of California San Diego, I was one of the first molecular virologists in the world to work on coronaviruses (the 1970s). I was the first to demonstrate the number of genes the virus contained. Since then, I have kept up with the coronavirus field and its multiple clinical transfers into the human population (e.g., SARS, MERS), from different animal sources.
The current projections for its expansion in the US are only probable, due to continued insufficient worldwide data, but it is most likely to be widespread in the US by mid to late March and April.
Here is what I have done and the precautions that I take and will take. These are the same precautions I currently use during our influenza seasons, except for the mask and gloves.:
1) NO HANDSHAKING! Use a fist bump, slight bow, elbow bump, etc.
2) Use ONLY your knuckle to touch light switches. elevator buttons, etc.. Lift the gasoline dispenser with a paper towel or use a disposable glove.
3) Open doors with your closed fist or hip – do not grasp the handle with your hand, unless there is no other way to open the door. Especially important on bathroom and post office/commercial doors.
4) Use disinfectant wipes at the stores when they are available, including wiping the handle and child seat in grocery carts.
5) Wash your hands with soap for 10-20 seconds and/or use a greater than 60% alcohol-based hand sanitizer whenever you return home from ANY activity that involves locations where other people have been.
6) Keep a bottle of sanitizer available at each of your home’s entrances. AND in your car for use after getting gas or touching other contaminated objects when you can’t immediately wash your hands.
7) If possible, cough or sneeze into a disposable tissue and discard. Use your elbow only if you have to. The clothing on your elbow will contain infectious virus that can be passed on for up to a week or more!
What I have stocked in preparation for the pandemic spread to the US:
1) Latex or nitrile latex disposable gloves for use when going shopping, using the gasoline pump, and all other outside activity when you come in contact with contaminated areas.
Note: This virus is spread in large droplets by coughing and sneezing. This means that the air will not infect you! BUT all the surfaces where these droplets land are infectious for about a week on average – everything that is associated with infected people will be contaminated and potentially infectious. The virus is on surfaces and you will not be infected unless your unprotected face is directly coughed or sneezed upon. This virus only has cell receptors for lung cells (it only infects your lungs) The only way for the virus to infect you is through your nose or mouth via your hands or an infected cough or sneeze onto or into your nose or mouth.
2) Stock up now with disposable surgical masks and use them to prevent you from touching your nose and/or mouth (We touch our nose/mouth 90X/day without knowing it!). This is the only way this virus can infect you – it is lung-specific. The mask will not prevent the virus in a direct sneeze from getting into your nose or mouth – it is only to keep you from touching your nose or mouth.
3) Stock up now with hand sanitizers and latex/nitrile gloves (get the appropriate sizes for your family). The hand sanitizers must be alcohol-based and greater than 60% alcohol to be effective.
4) Stock up now with zinc lozenges. These lozenges have been proven to be effective in blocking coronavirus (and most other viruses) from multiplying in your throat and nasopharynx. Use as directed several times each day when you begin to feel ANY “cold-like” symptoms beginning. It is best to lie down and let the lozenge dissolve in the back of your throat and nasopharynx. Cold-Eeze lozenges is one brand available, but there are other brands available.
I, as many others do, hope that this pandemic will be reasonably contained, BUT I personally do not think it will be. Humans have never seen this snake-associated virus before and have no internal defense against it. Tremendous worldwide efforts are being made to understand the molecular and clinical virology of this virus. Unbelievable molecular knowledge about the genomics, structure, and virulence of this virus has already been achieved. BUT, there will be NO drugs or vaccines available this year to protect us or limit the infection within us. Only symptomatic support is available.
I hope these personal thoughts will be helpful during this potentially catastrophic pandemic. You are welcome to share this email. Good luck to all of us! Jim
James Robb, MD FCAP
God’s Peace and Joy Cross of Glory! Remember, He who promised is forever faithful!
Pastor Mike Lemke