Bishops of the Diocese of North Carolina Offer Thoughts on Coronavirus
Many of you heard the news that the coronavirus, or COVID-19, has reached North Carolina. We know upon hearing it, your hearts may have beaten a bit faster, or your stomachs may have experienced a few butterflies. We understand, and they are natural reactions to learning that weeks of fear-inducing headlines are now real and close to home.
Coronavirus in North Carolina, however, is not cause for panic. It is a call for keeping perspective and continuing preparation.
To help keep that perspective, we urge you to gather your facts from reputable and knowledgeable sources, such as the Center for Disease Control (CDC), the World Health Organization or the NC Public Health Department. All are outstanding sources of facts, updates and recommendations. The Diocese of North Carolina has curated these resources for you to make them easy to access.
Episcopal Relief and Development has also provided resources and response recommendations specifically for faith-based organizations. We encourage you to utilize it, but we also want you to know that the clergy and congregations in the Diocese of North Carolina have our full support of whatever steps they feel necessary to put in place to maintain parishioner health and peace of mind. These efforts might include introducing a “touch-free” passing of the peace, or adapting the Eucharist to keep fingers out of the chalice or to answer an individual’s wish to take the host only. There may be no formal adaptations at all, as congregations instead simply choose to honor the choices each individual makes to stay healthy while taking part in worship.
And, of course, prayer can offer not only comfort, but the perspective we need as we think of and pray for those who are ill and those who are caring for them. Those working so hard to keep us safe and informed are carrying a heavy load during this time, and we can offer our strength and gratitude through prayer.
For those who need action to help manage the stress, we encourage you to turn to ministry to help implement recommendations on behalf of others. A widely shared preparation tip is to have several days’ worth of food and supplies in a household. Contact your local food bank or ministry to ask what supplies they might need to help those with fewer resources accomplish their preparations. Or reach out to local shelters to see if they have enough soap for the simple but all-important preventative measure of hand washing. Within your own congregations, ask how you might support those who are having trouble preparing or dealing with the worry. Reaching out to others in times of need reminds us we are not alone and are, in fact, part of a beloved community.
In the last week alone, we have seen excellent responses from churches in how they are discerning preparation steps, sharing updates, engaging in conversation, allaying fears and maintaining their worship communities. Every example tells us that the Diocese of North Carolina will face this challenge as it does all others: with grace, compassion, intention and, above all, with love.
O God, the source of all health: So fill our hearts with faith in your love, that with calm expectancy we may make room for your power to possess us, and gracefully accept your healing.
Sanctify, O Lord, those whom you have called to the study and practice of the arts of healing, and to the prevention of disease and pain. Strengthen them by your life-giving Spirit, that by their ministries the health of the community may be promoted and your creation glorified; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.