Ways to be the Church in the Time of the Coronavirus (COVID-19)


March 13, 2020

Ideas on how to be the Church in the midst of the unfolding health crisis.
See also; Coronavirus (COVID-19): United Methodist updates and resources
 
HOLY WEEK/EASTER IDEAS (adapted from the National Council of Churches)

  • Put a branch on your door or window to celebrate Palm Sunday.
  • Share in a home foot-washing with those with whom you are sheltering in place on Holy Thursday to replicate Jesus asking his disciples to serve each other.
  • Share in prayers at home on Good Friday and blow out a candle to symbolize the crucifixion.
  • Hang white Christmas lights (or other lights, or electric candles) on Holy Saturday and turn them on.
  • Participated in "Egging" neighbors. Learn more at Happy Home Fairy.
  • Easter morning in time for what might have been your Easter Sunrise service.
  • Hang the attached template of an empty tomb (maybe colored by your children) in your front window or on your front door.
  • Join the ecumenical Quarantined Easter Celebration and sing Charles Wesley's hymn of Christ's victory over death, "Christ the Lord is Risen Today." at 8:00 am in your time zone. on Easter morning.
  • Write in chalk on your driveway or sidewalk the words, “Christ is risen!”
  • Ring your church bells at noon on Easter Day.
  • Step outside with the persons with whom you are sheltering in place and offer a prayer of thanksgiving.
  • View an additional online service of a church of another racial or ethnic background and offer your prayers for that community.

OTHER WORSHIP AND DISCIPLESHIP
  • Small groups and leadership team meetings can be held via Zoom or other video conferencing platforms. The basic Zoom account is free: https://zoom.us/pricing.
  • If you’re in a church without livestreaming capabilities, which sister churches might you encourage your church to watch and worship with?
  • If you do livestream worship, keep in mind copyright concerns related to music and liturgy (yes, liturgy can be copywritten). Hacking Christianity offered a blogpost about the technical and legal aspects of livestreaming worship.
  • How might you collaborate with other UMCs and denominations in your community for shared livestreamed worship?
  • Keep open portions of the church for private prayer rather than communal worship through the week.
  • What might car drive-in worship look like?
  • If your church is on the radio or TV, how do you share those venues for people home-bound? Do you consider buying advertising to promote your TV or radio broadcast?
  • Consider which Bible and devotional apps might allow a study option with comments from participants. This might be a better option in areas where the internet is limited.
  • Share worship playlists on Spotify or YouTube and invite people into new spiritual disciplines they can do at home (e.g., examen, lectio divina, visio divina, scripture memorizing, centering prayer).
  • Consider offering teaching around solitude as spiritual practice.
  • Band meeting toolkit

NEXTGEN MINISTRIES
  • While the virus’ impact appears low among young people, they are carriers of the virus. Since youth-based activities tend to be “high-contact”, be intentional about which activities they participate in order to respect the close contact rule the CDC recommends (being within approximately 6 feet/2 meters).
  • What texting activities might the youth engage in to maintain contact? How might you conduct theological discussions via group text. Consider tech options like Text-in-Church, GroupMe and WhatsApp (and following your Safe Sanctuaries policies for communication with minors).
  • Host youth activities via video chat.
 
TALKING WITH CHILDREN ABOUT ILLNESS
  • Avoid using language that blames others for the illness.
  • Remain calm. Your child will learn how to respond by watching your reactions.
  • Provide honest and accurate information to your child. Give fact-based information that is age or developmentally appropriate. Don’t make promises you can’t keep (i.e., you won’t get the virus or Grandma won’t get sick). See this link Talking with your child about an outbreak to learn age-appropriate talking points.
  • For age-appropriate thoughts on talking to children about COVID-19.
  • Limit your child’s viewing of online, social media and TV to reduce the amount of exposure to the news about the virus. After viewing, give your child the opportunity to discuss what she heard and to share feelings. Clarify any misinformation and validate any feelings. Identify possible coping skills to help reduce any anxiety.
  • Maintain routines as much as possible. If routines will be different, communicate the plan with your child. Keep plans day to day without being too forward thinking at this time.
  • Teach children everyday actions to reduce spreading germs.
  • What is the role of prayer in illness?
  • Why would God let this happen?
  • Look for the helpers! How can you (we) be a helper today?
 
PASTORAL CARE
  • Is the Church stocked with cards for snail mail contact to home-bound and assisted living residents?
  • Do you have phone numbers for home-bound and assisted living residents?
  • Is there a resident or healthcare worker at an assisted living or nursing home that may be willing to serve in a chaplain capacity and host worship services in the event the facility is closed to the public?
  • Can you provide large-print devotional resources to nursing homes?
  
GIVING
  • How many ways are you providing for worshippers to give? Consider e-giving and text-to-give options and pushing enrollment in Electronic funds transfer (EFT). Most banks offer online bill pay. Through that tool, the bank actually prepares and sends a check on your behalf. Sometimes, this does result in a delay because of the processing time and mail, but it’s still a great way to ensure continued giving from home.  If members utilize online bill pay, they can simply be instructed to let a designated staff person or volunteer accustomed to handling the giving know they’ve sent a payment via online bill pay and that it might take a few days to arrive.
  • Consider a 24-hour goal to fund a specific need (e.g., stock the food pantry, provide bagged breakfast and lunch for school-age children in the event school is closed).
  • Vanco Online Giving Solutions. For any UMC church that enrolls with Vanco, the monthly fee for the Start Plan will be waived for a full year and for those that enroll with the Sustain Plan, the monthly fee would be waived for the first 3 months.
  • Online Giving Guide
  • Non-Traditional Giving Toolkit

MISSION/SERVICE
  • With travel to and from the United States restricted for the time being, and travel around the country not recommended, how can we still support the vital work being done by our partners at mission sites where we serve? Here are some ways to stay engaged while staying home.
  • Ask members to start making and freezing soup to deliver to neighbors should they be quarantined.
  • There may be neighbors including students and adult workers who need access to free wifi should they be limited from returning to school or work. How might your church create wifi hotspots in your parking lot (for people to work in their cars) or in other spaces in the building with limited exposure to others?
  • We know marginalized communities like low-income and homeless populations will likely be more impacted - how might your Church provide care and service to low-income seniors, refugee and immigrant communities and the homeless population during this time?
  • Identify food pantry needs and plan a blitz collection drive.  Bags of food, paper products or cleaning supplies could be dropped off at the doors of those that may be ill.