Becoming a community of healing & hope

By Chris Keating

Yesterday a health official from one of the government agencies coordinating responses to the spread of the coronavirus was interviewed on the radio. Among the prevention tips he shared was this little gem: “There may come a point where you need to refrain from participating in religious gatherings.”

I nearly drove off the road. “Friend,” I said to myself, “I don’t need your help giving people another reason to stay home on Sundays!”  His comments made me think of a sign that was posted outside a church. It read, “Don’t let worry kill you. Let the church help.”

I’m writing today to ask that you don’t give up church for Lent!

Here’s something I learned today: a 2017 study by Vanderbilt University  revealed that people who attend worship regularly live longer and experience less stress. (The survey did not take into account whether or not attending church included the regular eating of donuts!)
It turns out that attending church reduces stress, boosts your immune system and offers all sorts of intangible emotional benefits.

Makes sense. Now, obviously, if you are sick please remember we love you – and look forward to seeing you when you’re feeling better! Please also let us know how you’re doing, and if there are ways your church family can help.  It is important that we keep tabs on each other.

As far as the spread of the COVID 19 virus is concerned, at the moment, we can be assured of two things: first, new cases of this virus are continuing to be reported each day. The Centers for Disease Control call this an “emerging outbreak.” Most people who become sick have mild cases and recover.

Secondly, we need to separate facts from fiction. You can take control over your health by learning how the virus is transmitted and discovering the appropriate steps you can take. Follow the same guidelines in place for flu season. Consult reliable resources like the Centers for Disease Control, the World Health Organization, or health websites maintained by major medical centers.

Know, for example, that there’s no need to wear face masks unless your doctor has advised you to do so, or if you are healthcare worker. You won’t get it by ordering Chinese food, or drinking Corona beer!  Wash your hands frequently.

Our church is the following steps:

• Stepping up our normal sanitizing of door handles, surfaces, toys, kitchen and restroom areas.

• Asking those preparing communion or food to wear vinyl gloves.

• Encouraging good hand washing hygiene, providing adequate hand sanitizer and supplying tissues.

For those unable to attend worship, we will be experimenting with live streaming worship through Facebook live and uploading videos of sermons. Remember that you can keep your giving up to date through our secure online giving portal at www.woodlawnchapel.com.

Let me close with this prayer, offered last week by the Stated Clerk of the PCUSA, The Rev. J. Herbert Nelson:

Please join me in crying out for relief from this plague:

We pray for healing for those who are infected, in China and in all the places where the virus has spread.

We pray for all who already have lost loved ones to the illness and those who will yet suffer such loss.

We pray for doctors, nurses and aides providing medical care, for insight in their caring, and for their health and well-being.

We pray for wisdom for the medical and scientific experts who are desperately seeking ways to control the spread of the virus.

We pray for public officials who must make the hard decisions about the quarantining of those who may have been exposed to the virus; and we pray for all those for whom those decisions feel like unjust imprisonment.

We lift up the Christian church in China and our partners throughout the region as they seek to bring Christ’s healing presence and peace.

We pray for God to keep us alert to the threats posed by such a worldwide crisis, remembering the millions of God’s children who live in places where the availability of medical care is meager or nonexistent.

May God open our hearts, our financial resources, and our political will, so that the vision of a better future can become a reality for all of God’s children.

In the Providence of the God who created us, in the Passion of our Savior Jesus Christ who redeems us, and in the Power of the Holy Spirit through whom God’s will is done.
AMEN.