Several of you have asked about our church’s response and specific precautions around the Covid-19, or coronavirus, outbreak.
Like everyone else, including the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), US Department of Health, and even the World Health Organization, we are learning as we go about this virus and its spread in our local community. As you know, things are changing rapidly, and more information becomes available every day about this virus and the most effective preventative measures.
Today our clergy and program staff, after a lengthy consultation with a local public health official, decided to suspend all worship services, group meetings, and activities until March 25. At that time we will we re-evaluate the spread and severity of Covid-19 in our Fort Worth community and the best time to resume our normal operations.
We did not make this decision lightly.
This is a particularly hard call to make because, as a church, it feels wrong to not meet in the middle of a crisis. However, after learning more about this pandemic in the last 24 hours, it makes sense for the protection of our congregation’s most vulnerable members as well as our responsibility to our local community.
By doing our part to help stem the spread of this extremely contagious disease that is particularly dangerous for senior adults and those with underlying health concerns, we are taking an important stand and setting an example for others to follow. By making our decision now rather than later, we are demonstrating the courage and social conscience to respond appropriately rather than to try to react once it is too late.
Last week, you may recall, we published an FUMCFW Enews article, “Pass the Peace, Not the Germs” with a list of recommended precautions, and I encourage you to review and follow those recommendations. However, as we learned this morning, this type of individualistic response is simply not enough.
In responding to the lessons learned from other communities devastated by this virus around the world and enacting “social distancing,” we lead others in the only measure discovered so far to slow down the exponential spread of this virus. Our role — and our opportunity as people of faith — is to help our community contain this virus, and by so doing, to become part of helping to protect our city from crisis, especially our most vulnerable populations.
Although our church will be closed to the public during this time, our staff will still be working hard to use technology to provide you with a sense of connection, pastoral care, and diverse worship opportunities during this time. Look for details in this week’s FUMCFW Weekly News about how to access these services, download worship bulletins, register your attendance, make your weekly offering online, and even take notes as you worship.
If you are in a Bible study, Grace Group, or other group that has planned to meet at church between now and March 25, you will have the opportunity to get together via Zoom. Watch for details on how to set up a Zoom meeting from your own home so you can continue to meet as planned and participate fully in real time from the safety of each individual’s home.
Meanwhile, please keep those who have contracted this virus and their families and friends in your prayers, as well as those who are in at-risk populations. We especially pray for all the first responders and health care workers around the world who have no choice but to be exposed, and for their families and friends who are most certainly worried for their health and safety. We pray, too, for all the leaders of governments, organizations, businesses, and service providers of all kinds who are having to make some hard decisions with serious repercussions in all directions.
Please also remember that this coronavirus outbreak will not last forever. Regardless of our local and church responses, the important thing to remember is that even if we don’t agree with the decisions made, we must pull together for the good of all. If we all work together, we can help limit the spread and minimize the effects of Covid-19 in our community and beyond.
Grace & Peace,
Dr. Tim Bruster
Rev. Lance Marshall