Ministering during a time of illness

Courtesy Photo / The Bison

 Collyn Dixon

Assistant Faith Editor

Covid-19 is the greatest obstacle for the church today. 

The CDC recommends distancing from one another to slow the spread of the virus. 

The obstacle occurs, because the church is called to gather and minister together to support those in need. 

The National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases (NCRID), Division of Viral Diseases of the CDC sets recommended guidelines for communities of faith about gathering together and coming in contact with other persons. 

According to the NCIRD, “millions of Americans embrace worship as an essential part of life… [but] gatherings present a risk for increasing spread of Covid-19 during this Public Health Emergency.” 

“[The] CDC offers these suggestions for faith communities to consider and accept, reject, or modify, consistent with their own faith traditions, in the course of preparing to reconvene for in-person gatherings while still working to prevent the spread of COVID-19.” 

The recommendations stem from keeping facilities clean, physical distancing and training church staff to keeping an eye on personal health, planning for when someone is sick, creating back-up plans for absentee staff members and posting signs to ensure proper practice. 

Some of these recommendations are: “clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces… allow time for cleaning and disinfecting… limit size of gatherings… promote [physical] distancing at [gatherings]… limit touching [of shared community objects]… staying home if sick… establish procedures when [a person has Covid-19]… implement flexible sick leave… and post signs… that promote… protective measures.” 

“This guidance is not intended to infringe on rights protected by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution or any other federal law, including the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 (RFRA),” according to the NCRID. 

As the CDC has set out its recommended guidelines, ministries such as ReachGlobal and the Director of ReachGlobal Crisis Response Mark Lewis, give a guideline for all ministries that are continuing during the pandemic. 

Lewis responds to many questions that are causing anxiety and worry within the church community and is making sure that ministry can still be properly done. 

“Everything has changed [and] everyone is affected,” Lewis said. “Online services – keep same rhythm [as if attending service], e.g., times, content.

Utilize technology to support ministries… Use online forums, group discussions, chat boards. 

Buddy system for church members to check on each other. Neighborhood prayer walks –ask how you can help.

Shopping ministry for more vulnerable / infected. 

Door knockers telling people to call if they need help. 

Emphasize online giving, request additional resources for benevolence and to meet church financial needs now.” 

Lewis’ model recommends an online format, but a format that can be easily molded to shape a church that is now doing in-person services. 

“We do not fear, we are children of the King,” Lewis said. 

“Ignore [comments such as]: event is overblown, Media is creating panic, waiting and seeing, this won’t last long comments, no impact on ministry [and] no impact on finances.” 

Lewis commented on how church should respond.

“[The church should] embrace [a somewhat new standard]: Nothing is certain, this is the new normal, adapt ministries, embrace [physical] distancing, new ministries to focus on trauma and counseling, prepare for the next wave [and] raise funds now,” Lewis said. 

The church, both local and universal, ought to respond to this crisis in a manner appropriate to the gospel of Christ.

Lewis recommends some ways the church can be God’s hands and feet while abiding in social distancing. 

Lewis recommends “prayer, reading the Bible, and devotionals for personal spiritual growth… praying for leaders, [being involved with] online community groups, purposefully meditating and prayer walking through neighborhoods.” 

Keeping in touch with communities, both inside and outside the church is essential. 

Making sure that everyone’s needs are met. 

“Love others – From your own home, check-in by phone with others who you know do not have a strong support system. If you aren’t aware of someone’s support system, reach out to them to find out how to best encourage them,” Lewis said. 

The ultimate goal of the church at this time is to adapt to the environment of the times and respond to whatever crisis is at hand, which includes Covid-19 and making sure that the gospel is still being used to reach out to those in need.

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