Bishop Harvey Responds to COVID 19: "Worship together, sensibly, and with good courage"

Bishop Cynthia Fierro Harvey
March 10, 2020
Coronavirus, the stock market, the election season - any one of these would cause worry and concern. However, when we face all three at one time, the world appears to be spinning out of control. Some cities are canceling major events in response to COVID-19. Churches in the Pacific Northwest, an area of the country harder hit than most, have been urged to cancel regular worship services.

Now more than ever, it is vital to gather together to praise a God who heals and sustains, and to hear about areas of need, both within our church family and in our communities. I am reminded that God is still in control, yet we must use our common sense in all that we do.

If you are sick, please stay home from church, work and all public spaces. This is helpful for a variety of reasons. First, it gives you the necessary time to rest and recover. Second, it helps protect those who might be vulnerable. In fact, I am reviewing my own travel plans for the next month and am going to limit my travel as much as possible.

Please follow the recommendations of the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) as well as any precautions that are communicated in your local community.
 
Information is critical to both caring for individuals and for your own self-care.
 We have built a web page that contains a great deal of information on Coronavirus. 
  • You will find a series of videos from the CDC's YouTube channel, videos that explain the virus, your risk, and how to protect yourself. We encourage you to watch and share these videos. 
  • There is also a link to a seven-page document from the Louisiana Department of Health. In it, you will find guidance to assist faith-based organizations as they prepare for any potential outbreak. 
  • We've also included a long list of printed resources, everything from tips regarding handwashing to what to do if you are sick. 
 
Again, we are called to gather as a church family, and right now, there is no official word from any government agency in Louisiana that says we shouldn't do so. However, we should also be smart and proactive in those moments when we do gather.

For instance, we instinctively want to hug one another or share a handshake when we see each other. To both promote the practice of everyday preventive actions and to calm any potential fears, I would recommend a simple bow as an acknowledgment of love and peace for those around you.

One of the most frequently asked questions for those in leadership at the local church involves the celebration of the sacrament of Holy Communion. Avoid a common cup at communion and instead dig out the communion trays that are in storage and order small plastic disposable cups.

Here in south Louisiana, we are familiar with responding in times of natural disasters. We intuitively know how to check on our vulnerable neighbors, the elderly as well as those "at-risk." We should all take the same precautions with any potential outbreak of the Coronavirus or COVID-19. I encourage all of our pastors to pay particular attention to the caregivers and to support their efforts as much as possible.

In the meantime, I encourage all of us to be the Body of Christ to the world. Worship together, sensibly, and with good courage. Above all, lead with love. Testing is important. Quarantines might be necessary. Washing our hands is essential. But love — LOVE is mandatory.

My prayer is for God's love to pour into all of us, and, in turn, the Holy Spirit will compel us to share and respond with the same love.

Grace and Peace, 
Bishop Cynthia Fierro Harvey