Rodney Stark’s 1996 book The Rise of Christianity shows how the early church made a strong impression on the people around them by the willingness of Christians to stick around and care for the sick when the plague came to town. At risk to themselves, they lived out their love for their neighbors in a tangible way. With Jesus as their example, those earliest followers of his were clear on what they were supposed to do if a neighbor was in any kind of need. Besides, there’s no need to run for your life when God has already given you a never-ending, eternal life to work with.
In this time of COVID-19, the challenge for those of us who aren’t medical professionals is to stay away from each other. Keeping our distance and washing our hands are key practices to help slow the spread of this new virus. But we also can be intentional about maintaining supportive relationships by phone and email and keeping up our prayers for each other.
Your Esperanza Church Council spent time considering how our church community can best deal with this situation. Here’s where we are as of the time I’m writing (Friday, March 13):
If you are in doubt about whether an event (Sunday service, choir practice, etc.) is going to be held, you can check the Esperanza website. We will post cancellations there in as timely a fashion as possible. In addition, we’ll send emails with information when plans change. We’re working on setting up a system to be able to send a text to everyone who’d like to get updates that way.
We will continue to have services as usual, but with modifications to avoid having multiple people touch things. We won’t share the peace or join hands for the Lord’s Prayer. Communion servers will wash their hands immediately before communion. Baskets for the offering will be set out so that people can simply drop their envelopes in. And we will pause the passing of the attendance folder.
If you are providing coffee hour snacks during this time, please consider bringing pre-packaged items.
Sunday, March 22:
We’ve been strongly encouraging everyone to make a concerted effort to be at church for a day-long workshop on Sunday, March 22, in preparation for beginning the call process for Esperanza’s next pastor. At this point we plan to go forward with this event. However, we don’t want anyone to come who feels anxious about being with a group for so many hours. If you are hesitant to come, there will be both online and paper options for sharing your thoughts. In addition, we’ll offer the option of a phone conversation with a member of the Ministry Site Profile Team or the Church Council. This is especially for people who might have trouble doing extensive writing.
Finally, I want to mention what a blessing it is, at a time like this, to be part of a community like Esperanza. Belonging in a community and knowing that there are people who care is a great benefit to both our spiritual and our physical health. Let’s lean on that. And, if you know of neighbors who are already isolated, even before the virus, you can be like those early Christians by reaching out and extending the support you have to others who need it.
May you remain in good health and good spirits.