Dear People of God
We are so grateful for your amazing ministry in these most unprecedented times. MCCers around the world are offering hope and hospitality in new and creative ways in the midst of this pandemic.
Many countries are now changing the restrictions relating to Covid-19, which may enable churches to offer limited face to face activities. It is important that church leaders and congregations take time to think through the most caring and wise choices to make, so that we continue to keep each other both safe and strongly connected. Here are some issues that you may already be discussing:
When is it truly safe to begin offering face to face worship again? Governments (local, state, provincial, regional, national) are often the ones who decide what restrictions there are for public gatherings. It is also true that their decisions are motivated by many competing issues, including economic and political concerns in addition to public safety. There have already been cases of specific countries relaxing these restrictions prematurely, paving the way for a second wave of increased infections and resulting deaths. It is wise to listen to and consider a range of experts providing advice, including public health experts. Churches may wish to refrain from gathering again, even if it is legal to do so, out of concern for public health, including those who are most vulnerable to this illness. It is not “unfaithful” for you to prioritize the health of your congregation. Be clear about the variety of factors motivating your decision, and which you would like to prioritize.
Personal protective gear – Will you encourage or require attendees to wear face masks when you return to worship? If so, in what ways are you helping to provide these to people who may not have access? Are there other items that are needed to ensure safety and minimize the spread of the virus?
Physical distancing – It will be so good when we see each other face to face; and, it is vitally important that we remember to show we care by giving each other safe space. We can all make a difference in keeping each other healthy by doing this. What steps are needed in your church to make sure that people still keep their physical distance in church gatherings? Is your meeting space large enough to remove chairs so that those who gather are 6 feet (2 metres) apart? Will you need to limit the number of people who can be present at any gathering? What type of entrance procedures will you employ to help people keep distance? How will you monitor and reinforce distance guidelines?
Consider having a phased return to worship, so that there is enough safe space for each person, rather than everyone coming back to church at once. Limiting the number of seats and placing them at the proper distance can help those who are unsure about how close they should be (2 metres or 6 ft apart is the standard recommendation). Many of us can still join the worship service through Zoom, Facebook Live, Youtube, or alternative technology. You may wish to prioritize attendance in the sanctuary for those of us who struggle with or don’t have access to technology. Consider how you will monitor and manage how many people are in attendance and how you will offer people guidance about how they can best remain in community.
MCCers love music and love to sing! Group singing is also an activity that increases the risk of spreading the virus, as air, including water droplets can travel further than the 6 foot physical distancing space. Just now, how can we praise in creative ways that don’t mean we share our breath? It may be time to listen to some of our fantastically talented soloists or enjoy instrumental music for a while. Take special care with any groups who sing in your space, especially choirs, so that they can maintain a healthy distance. If that is not possible, it may not be time to bring the choir back just now.
Keeping safe, keeping clean – Every church has faithful people who come in early and make everything ready, from fresh flowers to setting out the coffee cups. Who can be on the deep cleaning team to make sure that every single surface is disinfected before the building is used? Perhaps there are people in your community who already do this professionally and can give some good tips. If you have other groups using your space, make sure that they also maintain the same cleaning guidelines and protocols that are established for worship or other meetings.
MCC churches are passionate about being inclusive and welcoming. At the moment, part of a warm welcome should include asking people to use hand sanitizer as they enter the building and at other times. If we want the Communion table to be truly open to all, what steps will be necessary to serve the elements and keep an appropriate physical distance? Some churches are using the pre-filled individual communion cups, so that people can share the words of consecration and feed themselves. The practice common in many MCC settings of personalized prayer for those coming forward is likely not a safe practice right now. How might you be creative with communion liturgies and prayers that respect distancing guidelines?
Many churches already use electronic giving. The way that we give our offerings in worship will also need to be considered. Passing the plate is not safe, so what else could be done?
Sharing your experiences – Throughout our history, MCC has been at the forefront of developing imaginative worship and inclusive community. We embraced inclusive language and made it our own. We created and offered an open communion table, symbolising God’s all inclusive love. When HIV came into the heart of our community, we adopted new ways of serving communion which protected the most vulnerable. MCC has always been ready to embrace the new and rise to meet any challenge. We know that you have experience and ideas to share, and this is the perfect time to reach out more often to colleagues and other churches for shared learning. We look forward to hearing all the different ways that local MCCs minister through this next era in the pandemic, offering hope and light to the communities that you serve.
Thank you for all that you do. Together, we are stronger. Together, we are MCC.
Rev. Elder Cecilia Eggleston – Moderator
Rev. Elder Héctor Gutiérrez – Team Lead for Community Development
Rev. Dr. Kharma Amos – Team Lead for Resource Development
Wednesday, April 29th, 2020 5pm EDT / UTC-04
MCC hosts a webinar discussion to consider precautions, recommendations, and perspectives about when and how we might safely gather in person for worship once again. A panel of three medical doctors, who are also members of MCC, will share their recommendations and perspectives as they respond to your questions.