COVID-19 and St. Stephen: Precautions, Plans, and How You Can Help
By Rev. Dr. Fritz Ritsch
Dear Friends in Christ:
The increased risk of COVID-19, the novel coronavirus which has afflicted much of the world and is now present in some places in the US, calls us to change our routines as individuals, as a community, and as a church. Changing our routines, though, doesn’t change our mission. We are named for the first deacon and martyr of the Christian church, St. Stephen. His calling was to serve the needs of the poor and the infirm in his Jerusalem congregation and to witness to the world the love, compassion and mercy of Jesus Christ. Those callings are especially incumbent on us in this time of crisis.
First and foremost is our expression of Christ’s love to our own congregation and visitors. Below are some of decisions that have been made to protect and support our congregation and community. All scheduling and other changes will be posted immediately on the webpage, www.ststephenpresbyterian.com, and on the St. Stephen Facebook page. Email blasts will be sent out to the congregation. In addition, we will use a phone tree to contact church members.
The Lord’s Supper: This past Sunday, March 8, we adopted a new routine for The Lord’s Supper at the 8:30 am service. Rather than two lines, there will be one. The server on the left (generally the pastor) will serve bread cut by someone wearing gloves. The server will wear a glove and hand a cut piece of bread to the congregant, who will then eat it and move to the next section, where the server is holding a tray of individual cups of wine. That server, also wearing gloves, will hand the cup to the congregant, who will then drink it and place it on another tray nearby. We will watch this process to see how it should be adapted when communion is served on Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, where we expect larger crowds. Please note that it’s appropriate to come forward and receive only bread. This is generally considered an acceptable way to receive the Lord’s Supper.
Care and compassion to church and community: We are creating a Pandemic Supply Store in the basement. This is a resource we want to offer first to our own church members should folks be homebound either by sickness or by store closings. We invite you to help us collect these supplies for people in need: Canned food, peanut butter, jelly, crackers, nuts, trail mix, dried fruits, granola bars, bouillon cubes, sugar, salt, pepper, baby food, toilet paper, pet food, bottled water or electrolyte water, contact lens fluid, over-the-counter pain relievers. For more recommendations and also guidance on supplies yourself should keep on hand, see https://www.usatoday.com/in-depth/money/2020/03/04/coronavirus-what-stock-up-and-how-prepare-your-emergency-kit/4937518002/. Your help on this is greatly appreciated. Please bring supply donations to the office.
Alternative worship arrangements: First, please feel no obligation to attend worship but use your judgment as to whether your health or the health of others is at risk. Should worship need to be cancelled, Fritz and Jordan will post short worship videos on our Facebook page and website. Links will also be emailed to congregants.
Sanitary Practices: Gloves will be provided to those who handle communion ware and those who continue to minister to the homebound, sick and infirm. Hand sanitizer is located in key areas and we are in search of more. We strongly encourage everyone to wash hands for twenty seconds before and after worship and at other times as needed. The lyrics to hymns will be published in the bulletin to minimize use of hymnbooks.