The ELCA, the SWCA Synod and its sister synods, and our congregations and people, like much of the global population, are concerned about the Coronavirus, also known as COVID19. Globally, over 80,000 cases of the disease have been reported across 50 countries. With the continued spread of this disease, the ELCA is actively and intentionally assessing the situation, communicating with personnel and companions in Europe and Asia, and taking action that prioritizes the safety of their members, their global companions, and our entire human family.
We encourage everyone to stay informed and to prioritize the safety of themselves and their communities. Unfortunately, there is significant misinformation spreading about the disease. However, two sources that can and should be trusted are the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO). Both sources release the most up-to-date information on the disease, and both have developed a variety of resources regarding prevention and response.
In this time of concern, let us join us in prayer:
Merciful God, we know that your heart overflows with compassion for your whole creation. Pour out your Spirit on all people living with this illness, or who are living with anxiety about this illness, for which there is not yet a cure. Be with those who tend to the needs of the sick. Strengthen us all in body and spirit, console us when anxious, comfort us in grief and hearten us in discouragement. Help to remind us that you claim us as your own, and are with us wherever we go. Through Christ, our healer and Lord. Amen.
This post will be updated as new information and resources become available.
I have seen remarkable resilience and creativity on the part of our rostered ministers, many of whom have worked long and hard this week to transfer worship and meetings from face-to-face to virtual, digital format. Most of our congregations took my advice and transferred their in-person services last Sunday to a virtual format; almost all have done so for the Sunday just ahead. And now there is no choice for any of us. I am grateful for your cooperation with the public health authorities, as hard as it is to suspend our normal ways of “being church.” I know it is for the best, and I hope it will save lives—some of them ours.
The apostle Paul reminds us in this passage from Philippians that we are to seek not our own interests, but to do that which will help others. These days, looking to the interests of others means doing all we can to safeguard the health of our neighbors during the current worldwide Covid-19 pandemic. In our letter last Thursday, we encouraged you to cancel all mid-week gatherings, but gave no recommendation on the question of cancelling Sunday worship, leaving that decision to pastors and church councils. In light of today’s call by the President and the Virus Task Force to cancel all gatherings of more than 10 persons for the next 15 days, we have decided to strongly urge our congregations to suspend all in-person worship gatherings through Palm Sunday, April 5, at least, and perhaps beyond.
I wish to add an addendum to my pastoral instruction of 29 February 2020 on the church’s response to the COVID-19 virus. Like that statement, this one is a reflection and recommendation from me to our pastors in particular, because in the end it is our pastors, informed by the church and the public health authorities, who must guide their congregations in determining the best practices in their contexts and locations.
A pastoral instruction on the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) and its global spread (Bishop Guy Erwin)
I wish to share with you some thoughts I have about this emerging, possible health emergency, and how I believe we as Christians should react. Mostly we should use common sense; but there are also ways our faith can help shape our response.
ELCA presiding bishop addresses concerns about the coronavirus (Bishop Elizabeth Eaton)
We are living in the time of the coronavirus. We are also living in the time of social media and constant, relentless news coverage. Many of our people have the same concerns as those in Luther’s day. Many of our people are anxious. Luther’s counsel, based on Scripture, is still sound. Respect the disease. Do not take unnecessary risks. Provide for the spiritual and physical needs of the neighbor. Make use of medical aid. Care for one another, especially the most vulnerable.
ELCA Public Health (ELCA)
With the outbreaks of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) in the United States and around the world, congregations and houses of worship need to be well-informed and well-prepared. The following information offers guidance as we minister to and engage with each other, and within our communities, as the body of Christ.
Worship leaders should take some time to be well informed of the situation in their area and to examine worship practices with regard to the spread of pathogens, perhaps making small changes that will help alleviate the anxiety of the gathered assembly.
Congregational Planning Checklist for a Pandemic (Lutheran Disaster Response)
This is a supplement for you and your congregation on how to plan for the impact of a pandemic in your church. A pandemic is something many of us have not experienced. Our goal at Lutheran Disaster Response is not to prepare you completely for a pandemic outbreak, but to give you a handle on what might occur and how to keep your congregation running if such a disaster occurs.
COVID-19 Domestic Travel (downloadable PDF from Direct Travel)
The CDC has not issued general restrictions on domestic travel at the time of this communication. However, employees whose positions require domestic travel should be in direct communication with their supervisors regarding those work plans. Please remember this information is rapidly evolving and subject to change based on updated recommendations by the CDC, WHO and other local health organizations.
Key planning recommendations for Mass Gatherings in the context of the current COVID-19 outbreak (World Health Organization)
The purpose of this document is to outline key planning considerations for organizers of mass gatherings in the context of the COVID-19 outbreak.