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Dear Ones,

Some of you rightly have been asking about some important issues that lie outside liturgy and worship. The most asked questions are larger gatherings other than worship, food offerings, and feeding programs. So, we try to address these as much as possible here. I can’t require much or don’t intend to yet, but I am going to give some advice and allow you to consider these locally.

Considering Gatherings

Outside of worship services, if you can feasibly avoid bringing large groups of people together, consider postponing events and gatherings. Health officials in King County are advising postponing, canceling, or finding alternatives for any large gathering of people (defined as 10 or more people). This is not required, but is suggested. At this point, we are not asking you to cancel worship, but do follow the guidelines for meeting below. I do ask you to consider alternate ways to hold other needed gatherings and/or cancelling them for now if they are not necessarily imperative. If you want to explore locally other ways to hold worship, please do and contact our office for advice and consultation at communications@ecww.org.

If you can’t avoid bringing groups of people together:

  • Urge anyone who is sick to not attend.
  • Encourage those who are at higher risk for coronavirus to not attend. People at higher risk are people over 60 years of age, those with underlying health conditions including heart disease, lung disease, or diabetes, those with weakened immune systems, and those who are pregnant.
  • Try to find ways to give people more physical space so that they aren’t in close contact as much as possible.
  • Encourage attendees to maintain good healthy habits, such as frequent hand washing.
  • Clean surfaces with anti-viral cleaners, such as alcohol and bleach. You will need to look at this carefully, many GREEN cleaners are not powerful enough to kill virus and bacteria.
  • Use and liberally provide alcohol based hand sanitizers.

Food Service and Handling

Seriously consider food offerings. All home prepared meals and snacks should be ceased for the time being. This means any planned potlucks are ill-advised. I am asking you to postpone these for now if at all possible. With food handling procedures in commercial food the risk should be much lower, IF they are following them. It is our advice that home prepared food be discontinued for now as there are no precautions and no way to know how the food was prepared, and quite frankly most of us don’t don gloves and follow other precautions when making food at home. Many of our churches have told me they have already changed this policy with only food bought from a commercial food outlet, or not having food at all. Commercial prepackaged foods – not buffets or self-serve  platters – would be good options.

Large Food Offerings and Feeding Programs

I know many of you have food service to the homeless and others. These fall under large gatherings and food offerings and so you will need to consider these carefully. Most of the larger ones I am aware of do follow safe food handling by wearing gloves, not bringing in outside or homemade food, etc. It would be very important to consider this, where food is coming from, etc. Also, if you do find someone who is sick, you should segregate them from the healthy attendees and urge them to seek shelter in one of the sites set up by the city or other health facilities. I can tell you, after being in Taiwan a few weeks ago, before every meal we attended in a public space, our temperature was taken before we walked through the front door and began eating. You may consider this upon entrance – having someone take temperatures. This alone is not an end-all solution, but is one indicator and should be considered.

Again, the safest and most effective way to stop spread is to not meet in large gatherings. I know this cannot be done in totality. However, you should truly consider every gathering, its necessity right now, and what will be lost by not gathering at this time.

Hopefully, we can relax all of this at some time soon, but the main hope of health officials is to dramatically slow or even stop the spread. My hope, certainly, is to protect our people. Bless you all as we navigate this new reality.

+Greg

COVID-19 Updates, March 5: Large Gatherings and Food Offerings

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