March 7, 2020
Dear St. John's,
As I am sure you are aware, we find ourselves at the center of an outbreak of a new virus in our region. COVID-19, the illness caused by the new corona virus, has sickened several people in King County and surrounding areas, and there will likely be many more infections in the days to come. It seems as if information on this virus is shifting daily, but here is what seems to be generally known:
1) For most people the illness is mild - similar to a bad cold or moderate case of the flu.
2) The risk is greatest for the elderly or those with compromised immune systems.
3) It has likely been spreading in our region for many weeks.
Last week, I removed the option to intinct (or dip) bread at communion for yourself in an effort to keep each other safe. This week our bishop has issued even more stringent guidelines for our common worship, which we will be adhering to until the danger of passing this virus on to vulnerable members of our community has passed. If you would like to read his entire instruction, you can do so on his blog: click here.
First, I want you to know that we will hold worship and are not canceling any of our small group gatherings or planned events. Now more than ever we need to be together in ways that are safe and supportive. However here is what we are doing and asking to be done by you.
1). If you have any cold or flu symptoms, please stay home. This is the best way to make sure that you recuperate quickly and do not expose others to illness.
2). Our shared Eucharist will be restricted to bread. While there is much scientific evidence to support claims that the shared cup is not an infection risk, our bishop is asking us to suspend the common cup for the time being. The full benefit of the sacrament is available through the bread, and so that is how we will share it. We will still bless a small amount of wine, but it will be symbolic and poured out into the ground following the service.
3). The clergy and eucharistic ministers will be meticulous about hand washing and sanitizing before passing out the bread. We will also do our best to not touch our hands to yours when we give you the bread.
4). We will ask you to refrain from touching other people at the Peace. This is a big ask for a lot of us, but let's have fun with it. Try a solemn bow, a real smile, an air-high-five. Consider this part of our Lenten discipline, refraining from a joyful practice in order to experience it more fully at a later time.
5). We will try to have hand sanitizer available. We have not been able to find any hand sanitizer. If you have extra at home, consider donating some to the church!
If you have your own pocket version, bring it to use as well. As you may be aware, supplies are limited. We will also be extra vigilant about wiping down surfaces and sanitizing common areas.
6). Extra cleaning is happening before and after all gatherings. We are taking extra precautions to clean surfaces that hands touch, like door knobs, faucets, pews, and railings. If you are able to help with this before or after a service or event, please speak with an usher.
7). Smaller gatherings and meetings. We will still hold all scheduled events, including Wednesday soup suppers and coffee hours. Be aware of ways to safely share food and make choices that are best for you. For the time being, all food will be store bought and served by designated people.
This is a new experience for many of us, and we will figure out how to support each other and stay in community, together. If you find you are ill, please let me or the Parish Office know so we can pray for you, and we can all keep track of each other. Our ministries and our lives continue during this anxious time. If it becomes too much, take a walk, read a good book, cook yourself a nice meal, and check in on a neighbor or friend. It is vitally important that we care for each other as well as trust in God's care during uncertain times.
With care and gratitude,
Kate Wesch +