Bishop Dunlop’s Pastoral Letter on the Coronavirus
Don't be afraid! (But do be prepared)
“Don’t be afraid,” Jesus said again and again, as have prophets and angels throughout the Bible. Wise words, because fear can block our better judgment and cause us to act irrationally — or not at all. Instead of fear, we trust in God to give us wisdom and strength and discernment.
We cling to Jesus’ words as the coronavirus continues to spread fear across the world and our nation, leading in some cases to panic and overreaction. Many of our brothers and sisters in Lower Susquehanna may be gripped by fear, perhaps brought on by misinformation and confusing signals in the media.
Remembering our special calling as followers of Jesus, let us look for ways to be salt of the earth and light to the world while crisis unfolds. Let us continue to pray for communities and families affected by the virus, but also be proactive and lead our people wisely and responsibly. Here are some ideas:
Share authoritative information with your parishioners through your Facebook page and other social media, on your website, via email and other media.
Make a “coronavirus fact sheet” or “update” for Sunday bulletins.
Watch for (and share) messages about coronavirus from our synod coronavirus page and our Churchwide offices.
To tamp down anxiety and misinformation, encourage conversation about the coronavirus in your congregation. If possible, enlist doctors and other medical professionals to lead temple talks or give an over view during Sunday announcements.
We dare not be fearful, but we do need to be smart and careful. Do stay on top of advice from medical authorities. Church bodies around the world are advising some commonsense steps:
Remind parishioners to be diligent in hand washing and other hygiene practices.
Keep plenty of hand-sanitizer available for parishioners to use.
Maintain a supply of tissues for those who need them.
Gently encourage those with cold or flu symptoms to stay home.
Suspend handshakes and touching during “passing of the peace.”
Similarly, consider suspending use of common cup for Eucharist.
Frequently clean common surfaces that people may touch, such as handrails and tabletops.
The coronavirus will eventually work its way through our culture, as have all the medical emergencies of the past. But as long as it is with us we need to be fully engaged: prayerful, vigilant, informed, proactive, wise, strategic and community minded.
Above all, we will remember the words of Jesus: “Don’t be afraid.”
The Rev. James S. Dunlop Bishop, Lower Susquehanna Synod
March 6, 2020