Dear Sharon Chapel,
A friend in ministry recently quoted the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) as calling people to "planning not panicking" in response to the possibility of a COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak in our country and in the world. Sharon Chapel is making plans we hope we won't need, not panicking.
As the coronavirus is now present in the "DC Metro region" according to the Fairfax County Public Health Department, though with no cases in Virginia, and remains in low numbers in surrounding states, we will continue to take the CDC's main advice: wash our hands! Priests and chalice bearers will clean their hands before serving. We will also add hand-sanitizers as we are able. Please bring a some of your own and please, if you are able, bring a dispenser to be placed around the church buildings.
In consultation with the Wardens, taking advice from the CDC, The Diocese of Virginia, and from other parishes around the Anglican Communion, here are the steps that we are taking and planning-for in the event of an outbreak:
Stay home if you are sick.
Wash your hands - everybody & often!
Pass the Peace creatively - refrain from handshakes and hugs
Offering - ushers only hold the plates
Communion in Bread alone (concomitance)
Coffee Hour servers - not fingers
Even if you are not in a high-risk group, helping reduce the overall spread and attempting to avoid illness for all, the best thing you can do is stay home if you are not feeling well.
Ushers, altar guild members, greeters, coffer hour hosts, and clergy will wash their hands (20-30 second, etc.) before the service, while preparing, and after interactions with other people.
Catechesis of the Good Shepherd has already been doing additional hand washing. Everyone who attends or volunteers with the Atrium will wash her or his hands when arriving, after interpersonal interaction, and before eating.
Everyone needs to cover their coughs - use your elbow or a tissue, not your hands. Avoid touching your face, especially mouth and eyes. Use hand sanitizer.
At the Peace, avoid handshaking and hugs for the time being. A wave, nod, smile, and even elbow or fist-bumps are all wonderful alternatives during this season of attention. Do whichever makes you feel comfortable.
For the offering, ushers will not pass the plate but will walk to you as needed to enable the offering. You may also place your offering in the plate before or after the service. Vestry members will wash their hands after counting. Gloves will be available for vestry members if desired.
At Communion, we will temporarily receive the bread only. Concomitance affirms that the sacrament received in one kind (consecrated bread or consecrated wine) is just as efficacious as it is when received in both kinds. Full communion, then, is effected when we receive either the consecrated bread only, the consecrated wine only, or both together. This is not a forever change, but it is one that will reduce the risk of spreading germs unnecessarily while keeping the sacrament available to all. Again, all Eucharistic ministers will sanitize their hands before administrating the elements. If you would like to learn more or have questions about this, please talk with me.
Coffee hour will no longer be self-serve. Do not use your fingers. For all food that is not in individual servings, a volunteer will wash her or his hands and serve you with utensils what you would like. Please help our children especially contain their enthusiasm and supervise them when going through the food tables.
In the Future: if the virus becomes widespread in our area and CDC recommends closing schools and other public gatherings, we will send additional details about if we are canceling meetings, groups, and public worship, perhaps instead using live-stream of services on a platform such as Facebook Live or similar.
For our siblings, sisters, and brothers on the margins. Many of our neighbors live and work in situations where medical leave is not offered, where hourly wages determine whether they can pay bills, or where medical insurance is not a benefit and medical care is brutally expensive. Please consider how we and you can support them during this time and please continue your prayers for all of our friends and neighbors in Alexandria.
By worshipping together, we stay connected and in God's peace instead of living isolated and afraid. We can pay attention to who is not with us and might, therefore, need care. We can continue to faithfully serve the poor and the vulnerable among us whose needs do not change just because there is a new virus on the scene. We also consider the most vulnerable in our community and the well-being of all by making changes to our common life so everyone may remain safe and healthy.
Holy and gracious God, give us the strength to meet the health crisis growing in our world. Enlighten researchers that they may discover the right vaccine against this disease. Guide the doctors, nurses and all medical technicians working with those who are infected to take correct actions for their care. Protect all medical staff and family or friends caring for those who are ill. Bring together the governments and governmental agencies around the world to work together to eradicate this health threat. All this we ask through Jesus Christ, our Savior. Amen.