COVID 19

 
March 18, 2020
Dear sisters and brothers in Christ,
 
First, I hope and pray you are all healthy and well. I normally reserve my personal cell phone number for emergency-only, but I recognize that how we define “emergency” is changed in these times. Please do not hesitate to contact me if you are in need.
 
Things look different now than they did a week ago when we sent a note about how we would proceed with ministry at St. Andrew’s. I am writing today to give a brief update and to check in.
 
Rachel and I are both working from home today and will likely be working from home a lot in the coming days and weeks. We ask that if you are able, you stay home too. It is certain that we will not hold worship or Bible study this coming Sunday. We are looking at online options. Much depends on how equipped we are at St. Andrew’s to do such things. Watch for another note; we’ll let you know as soon as we do.
 
Membership at St. Andrew’s is quite fluid, even for our non-student community members. I know many of you are already at home (outside CU) or will be going soon, and you are likely to stay there for an indefinite amount of time. We have a number of grad students who live in town semi permanently and who may or may not be leaving town. Some of you are less formally connected with us but may be in need of a community (even online) in the coming months. We also have a much smaller group of elderly members and others who live here and for whom St. Andrew’s is your primary and only worshiping community. I would like to know who of you will be physically close and potentially in need of support, who will be away, and also what kind of spiritual/community support St. Andrew’s can/should offer in the coming weeks and months. If you are comfortable sharing, I’d very much appreciate hearing from all you with the following information.
 
1. Will you be in CU or on campus this semester, summer, and/or fall, or will you be planning to stay out of CU until the university announces the resumption of in person classes?
2. If St. Andrew’s were to offer online worship services, would you be likely to tune in on a regular basis (3-4x a month)?
3. Is there another way you can imagine our keeping community together by online means? If so, please send your ideas.
4. Is there a particular health concern you have that might make you more susceptible to complications from COVID-19, or is there any other concern you’d like to share? You needn’t share this, but it would be confidential with me alone.
 
Your offering this information would allow me to know who will need what kind of support in the coming weeks and months and how we might concretely do ministry. Your ideas will be important (especially from you Council members!). Online worship is a possibility. We can keep a prayer list by email or other online format. We can host Zoom meetings for Bible studies, fellowship, or check-in. I will surely offer weekly or more regular devotionals — perhaps sending or posting written sermons if we don’t accomplish full online streaming worship. Or both! There are many possibilities. Again, if you could please respond to the above questions, I would appreciate it.
 
We are facing many unknowns. Know that you are held deeply in prayer. I pray again for your health: spiritual, emotional, mental, and physical.
St. Paul writes: “What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else? Who will bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? It is Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us. Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

I finish with my own edit: not even COVID-10 can separate you from the love of God in Christ Jesus. This is the heart of our faith: the Word has become flesh. This is not only a scandal, as the Bible refers to it, but quite dangerous these days: for God to become human and have a body like ours. By the sheer grace and love of God, God is one with us through this crisis. You are not alone, and you are loved. May God bless you and keep you.

I look forward to your responses. Peace in Christ, Pr Amy

 
 
 
March 12, 2020
Dear St. Andrew’s Family in Christ,
 

Some of you know that we have been vigilantly monitoring the novel coronavirus situation. With the sudden news Tuesday evening that universities in Baltimore planned to cancel in-person classes this week, we made the difficult decision to call off our spring break trip. There is no worship at St. Andrew’s this Sunday, March 15 due to spring break, and no programs here next week. That timing is good given the current spread of the virus.

UIUC is migrating all classes to online, and students may choose to stay on campus or stay home after spring break. Dorms, dining halls, and campus buildings will be open. Gatherings of 50 or more people are prohibited by the University. I spent an hour on a special ZOOM conference with area clergy and Julie Pryde, head of the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District. She estimates that we will see confirmed COVID 19 cases in our area within the next days.

Our collective aim — and our attention at St. Andrew’s — is on flattening the curve of the virus’ spread. The Public Health District recommends that any gathering involving low risk groups be no larger than 50, and that any gathering involving vulnerable people (people with underlying health concerns and anyone over 60 yrs of age) be no larger than 10 people. These measures are in place at least until May 15.

We plan to follow both the University and the Public Health District on these things. Because our gatherings are (especially with fewer students on campus after break) fewer than 50, we plan to stay open at St. Andrew’s unless/until we are directed otherwise.

Response to this crisis is a community effort; we will take precautionary measures, and we ask that you do the same.

We have committed and will commit to the following:

1. Social distancing practices in worship and at our gatherings (no hand contact or hugging, remaining 3 ft apart).

2. We will not offer the sacrament of Holy Communion for the foreseeable future. We may make exceptions on Maundy Thursday and Easter.

3. We will not offer foot washing on Maundy Thursday.

4. We are wiping surfaces at church with alcohol wipes a few times a day (door knobs, handles, tables, etc). We have put out many more bottles of hand sanitizer around the building.

5. We will continue to implement other worship strategies like not passing an offering plate (leaving it in the back for people to drop money into), leaving our doors open around worship times so people needn’t touch handles, and any other ideas shared that make good sense.

6. We will take attendance at every gathering so that, in the event someone tests positive, we have a list of who was in the building at the same time.

7. When/if the University closes completely, St. Andrew’s will follow its lead and close all gatherings here.

8. If someone who is active at St. Andrew’s tests positive for COVID 19, we will close our doors for 2 weeks, staff would self-quarantine for 14 days, and we would ask anyone who had contact with that person to also self-quarantine for 14 days.

9. We are asking all others who use our building (AA, Hessel Park Christian Church, etc) to cancel your gatherings here if/when the university closes down entirely.

10. If your gatherings are fewer than 50, you are welcome to continue to use our space, but we ask that you take some steps (listed below).

11. We will continue to follow all CDC, University, County guidances regarding COVID 19.

*This list is subject to change and we will update as necessary.

We ask you to commit to:
1. All the above measures that involve individual action

2. STAYING HOME at the first sign of flu-like symptoms (cough, fever of 100.4 or higher, chills, runny nose, sneezing, etc). People in low risk groups (university students in good health are low risk) who contract COVID 19 or who just catch a cold should stay home to keep area hospitals free for COVID 19 patients who need a hospital stay in order to survive. If you can be sick and recover at home, this is the recommendation.

3. Regular hand-washing following the 20-second hand washing procedure

4. Avoid touching your face.

5. If you are 60 yrs of age or older, please stay home from worship and other gatherings for your own health and safety. This is very difficult to write, but you are the most vulnerable group.

If you are an outside group that uses our building:
1. ONLY gatherings of 50 or fewer are allowed.

2. We ask that you take attendance at every gathering and keep record of it.

3. We ask that you create a Cleaning Team to wipe surfaces after you gather here (door knobs, handles, tables, etc). Please provide your own supplies if you’re able. If you’re not, let me know.

4. If anyone in your community tests positive or develops flu like symptoms, we ask that you let us know and self quarantine immediately.

5. If we discover that our outside groups are not following these recommendations, we will ask that you not use our space at all for the time being.

The vulnerable will face hardship as we go forward. Students with strained or no relationship with family may not be able to go home. International students are likely to be stranded on campus. Some may not have access to food. We want you to know that you are in our prayer, and I stand at the ready to be a support, especially to the vulnerable. If you find yourself suffering due to this illness, you need not suffer alone. I will be available to talk by phone, perhaps Skype, and if circumstances are safe, meet in person. We can develop online social support systems. I will know where you can go for food and other services.

Most of you get University updates through email. Please see this list for other resources:

1. For any Coronoavirus or COVID 19 questions, please call here: (217) 239.7877

2. Send questions here to receive written information on the virus, write Coronavirus@c-uphd.org

3. A brand new website has been set up for our area. Please check here for updates. http://champcoprepares.com/

4. I encourage watching this video from March 9 in full.
 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t2kqVFleI1g&feature=youtube

I am praying for all affected, all suffering, all health care workers, doctors and nurses, and government officials. I am praying for the St. Andrew’s community, especially our beloved older members, and for collective courage and calm as we go forward. Please don’t hesitate to contact me with questions or concerns.

The Peace of Christ be with you all, Pr Amy