I sent this note to our NT-NL Leaders:
On Thursday evening, Judge Clay Jenkins issued a state of emergency declaration for Dallas County after tests revealed five new presumptive-positive cases of the COVID-19 coronavirus. Beginning 11 a.m. Friday, March 13, and continuing through 11 a.m. Friday, March 20 – though Judge Jenkins said this period could be extended – there will be a prohibition on public gatherings of 500 or more people. Additionally, Judge Jenkins strongly discourages public gatherings of 250 or more people, as well as those with 10 or more people who are over the age of 60 and/or are part of a high-risk group.
On Friday, Tarrant County health officials declared a local public health disaster. The county is recommending that events over 250 people be canceled and strongly recommends organizers of events of any size where people are in close contact with each other be canceled or postponed.
Friday afternoon, I participated in two Conference calls with political, business, education, and faith leaders both in Dallas County and Tarrant County. In those calls we received more information about the process for making these decisions and what that means for these communities.
These conversations coincided with Gov. Abbot’s declaration of a statewide public health disaster and President Trump’s declaration of a national emergency. Each level of warning reiterates the seriousness of my previous communications with you on these matters.
Our primary task in this time is to prioritize the protection of vulnerable populations as we seek to slow the rate of virus transmission. Some of our ecumenical partners, as well as some of my colleagues, have recommended cancelling worship entirely the next two Sundays. Some of our NT-NL congregations have taken this step. This is a faithful and thoughtful response to these
circumstances we face.
I trust that you as leaders are making wise decisions about worship and caring for our communities based on health professional guidance and local circumstance. These are decisions best made by leaders familiar with local contexts. This is particularly true in a synod as geographically widespread as ours.
Nevertheless, I also know that leaders sometimes need encouragement to make the decision to not worship in order to prioritize public health. My counsel is this: communicate with your membership, use wise worship practices if you choose to do so, and encourage members in vulnerable populations to stay home.
Let your people know that the faithful decision in this time is staying home to protect themselves and their communities. Make a plan to communicate with all members in a community – particularly those at home – so they know they are prayed for and remembered.
Many of our congregations offer online worship opportunities. If your congregation does, please contact our synod communicator Jason O’Neill at email@example.com so we can collect links and share that information in the spirit of being #InMissionTogether.
We will continue to share information about how we do life together as we adapt to this new and ever-changing reality. This is an opportunity for the church to find new ways to serve our neighbors and connect to one another. To care for the poor and vulnerable who are hit hardest by interruptions to school and work. To connect with local schools on ways we can ensure those receiving free breakfast and lunch are not forgotten or lost in the midst of anxiety.
Remember, we are also a global community. Please read this statement by our siblings at The Lutheran World Federation, Coronavirus: Love and self-discipline needed to protect the vulnerable.
God is in the midst of us and is our stronghold and our hope. You are all daily in my prayers. Please contact my office if we can be of service to you in this time. I look forward to our Zoom call Tuesday:
Topic: Rostered/Authorized Leaders COVID-19 check-in
Time: Mar 17, 2020 10:00 AM Central Time (US and Canada)
Join Zoom Meeting
Meeting ID: 741 117 998
One tap mobile
+16699006833,,741117998# US (San Jose)
+16465588656,,741117998# US (New York)
Dial by your location
+1 669 900 6833 US (San Jose)
+1 646 558 8656 US (New York)
Meeting ID: 741 117 998