Dear friends of Salem,
In light of the developing situation with the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), we wanted to let you know what we as a church are doing. As always, your health and safety are our top priority. As you might suspect, we’ve been closely tracking the news of the coronavirus (COVID-19) both locally and globally. And as you’re likely well aware, there are a handful of confirmed cases in Orange County. We want to take precautionary measures to create a safe and healthy environment for us all to gather and worship.
Before we get into the details of some of the plans already in place, I want to speak first to our posture as Christians.
For many people, the spread of this virus has caused fear, panic, and anxiety. Scripture is clear that God has given us a spirit of love, not fear. In the New Testament, Paul wrote, “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7).
My prayer is that we would sense peace in the midst of these circumstances. In John 14:27, Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”
This does not mean we should either be careless or reactionary; rather, may we work together to serve our church and community in a way that demonstrates trust in our God who is in control and the use of wisdom to care for ourselves and others.
Of course, we are monitoring updates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), World Health Organization (WHO), and the Orange County Health Department. Here are the precautions we will be taking at least through the end of March at worship services to increase health measures and mitigate the spread of germs:
We will, for the time being, forego the “meet and greet” at our worship services. Please do not feel obligated to shake hands with fellow worshipers. In fact, when you greet fellow worshipers, we recommend you greet each other with smiles and waves instead of handshakes.
At our Traditional Worship Service, we recommend that congregants sit in every other pew to allow more space between families and individuals. Offering will not be collected during the service; instead, offering plates will be available near the Chapel entrance for you to place your offering/tithe and Connection Cards in as you leave the service.
At our Contemporary Worship Service, we will be spreading out our rows of chairs to allow more space between seats. We encourage families and individuals to spread out as they feel comfortable (the current CDC recommendation is 6 feet, or approximately 4 chairs). Our Ambassadors will hold the offering bags and walk through the rows to collect Offering and Connection Cards instead of passing them through the congregation.
You will also notice a few changes in our Holy Communion practices. Our Communion Assistants already are in the practice of washing their hands before distributing Communion, but we are adding the extra level of precaution by using sanitizer. Both wafers and wine cups will also be handed to you, except for gluten-free wafers.
Our Altar Guild volunteers have been reminded to utilize proper handwashing techniques when preparing communion.
Pastor will be available after service to chat but will not be hugging or shaking hands with everyone until this season of flu/cold/virus subsides.
We are canceling donuts and coffee this Sunday at our 10:30 service and will be evaluating our procedures moving forward.
Salem's facilities team is working hard to keep the church and school campus clean and disinfected.
We also encourage you to take some time to understand proper prevention measures to avoid spreading the virus by reading through the CDC recommendations that are listed on their website, including the following:
Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
Stay home when you are sick.Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
Always wash hands with soap and water if your hands are visibly dirty.
If you are feeling sick, we encourage you to stay home. A recording of Sunday's service will be available online by Tuesday at www.salemorange.com/sermons. You can submit your tithe online at salemorange.churchcenter.com/giving or use your Church Center app. Prayer requests can be submitted to email@example.com. We ask that you be prayerful for our world and our community, specifically for those who are directly impacted by this virus. Please continue to be praying for many of God’s children who live in places where the availability of medical care is meager or nonexistent. Continue to pray for our health care workers who are on the front lines, the emergency responders, and our government officials who are tackling these complicated issues.
As a believer in Christ, I encourage you to trust God in the midst of uncertainty; stay informed of advice issued by government health authorities; be prudent by washing your hands and avoid touching your face; and to show love by offering support to neighbors.
Pastor Roger Frick
Special thanks to Pastor Arthur Andrews of Hephatha Lutheran Church for allowing us to use some of his verbiage for this message