Beloved in Christ,
This will be a long note, so thanks in advance for sticking with it.
Back in the Day
Do you remember what was going on back in 1999? We were surrounded by stories about the pending “Y2K bug” disaster. Because of a shortcut in computer coding decades before, the turnover from the 1900s to the 2000s threatened to crash computer systems around the world, including the banking industry, the military, security systems, the power grid and other utilities. All these systems faced an unknown peril that had the potential to bring modern life and civilization to a standstill at midnight, January 1, 2000.
As it turned out, because someone had noticed a couple years before and raised the alarm, all these sectors were able to take measure to mitigate and eliminate the effects of the Y2K bug. When the year 2000 rolled in, it was smooth as silk, almost entirely without catastrophe.
COVID-19 and Our Response
We are currently facing a significant global health crisis in the COVID-19 pandemic. Some areas and whole nations have been hard hit by this new virus. As I’m sure you know, the virus is expected to produce relatively mild illness in most people who are infected, but among older adults and those who are already compromised, the effects can be much worse and even deadly. Because the virus is new, treatments have not been developed, leaving virtually the entire population vulnerable. Data is starting to be available about infection rates and the virus’s survivability in different conditions, but the situation is still evolving quickly. It is possible that COVID-19 could prove to be either “a lion or a lamb.”
As in 1999, though, now that people are widely aware of the potential threat of the virus, measures are being taken in many quarters to mitigate the spread of the disease. You are probably aware of much of the basic advice being given:
- Wash your hands with soap and warm water frequently and for at least 20 seconds
- Avoid touching your face, especially after interaction with other people
- If you feel sick or show flu-like symptoms, stay home and contact your doctor
- Avoid gatherings of more than 50 people
- Stay informed with respectable information sources
The Loudoun County Public Schools, working with the county Department of Health, has decided to close for two weeks. Many other organizations are following the same path. Our denomination the Presbyterian Church (USA) and the National Capital Presbytery are also recommending similar moves for congregations.
The Session of Catoctin Presbyterian Church met in a called meeting Thursday evening and voted to close the church and cancel all church activities for two weeks, from March 13-22. At the end of that time we will evaluate the situation to see if it is wise to reopen or to continue the closure. The goal is to interrupt the potential pathways of infection among people and to protect our members, especially those who are most vulnerable to infection and disease. Both state and federal declarations have occurred since we met that will surely affect the length of our shutdown. We continue to monitor the situation and will make adjustments as warranted.
Since worship is our primary service to God as disciples, during the shutdown we will provide worship online on Sunday mornings at 11:00 a.m. We’re new to this game, so we may be adapting and changing as we go, but this Sunday, March 15, we will use the zoom.us platform for videoconferencing. This is widely accessible to pretty much anyone with internet access. This worship service will include liturgy, scripture, a sermon, and prayers, and will last 30-40 minutes. At service time, click on the link below and follow the instructions.
It will say: “If nothing prompts from browser, click here to launch the meeting, or download & run Zoom.” If you don’t want to download the app, click “Cancel,” after which it will add: “If you cannot download or run the application, join from your browser.” Click that link, and it will open the meeting in your browser. In no time you should see my balding, bearded, and be-collared face. You may be asked to give permission for zoom to access your camera and microphone, which is okay to do (and may even be necessary).
Pastoral Care and Helping Neighbors
While “social distancing” is great for slowing a pandemic, it is hard on the Body of Christ. So joining the virtual worship should help you feel connected. We will also continue to offer pastoral care to the best of our ability in the given situation. The elders and I will be doing our best to check up on everybody. I won’t be in the office during the shutdown, so if you want a visit, or someone to pray with, or just to talk with, or have questions or concerns, please feel free to call me at 571-594-6710 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. If you are “self-isolating” because you are vulnerable to infection, but you need help, or you need groceries and can’t get out, please contact me or clerk Sue Douglas. We have a number of members who have volunteered to help in those situations and will be happy to do so.
There will also be lots of opportunities to help one another and our community during this crisis. The Mission Team has been supporting Mobile Hope in helping to care for at risk teens and children. Mobile Hope plans to ramp up their food and meal programs while schools are closed, and they’ll need help. We will send more information about that separately, or check their website, or you can send food to them through their Amazon wishlist.
Don’t Forget Your Pledge
Now, when we can’t get together physically for long stretches, we may experience a bit of “out of sight, out of mind” about the church. However, we will still have bills to pay whether we are in the building or not. So please remember to keep up your pledge during the shutdown. You can mail a check to the church, P.O. Box 195, Waterford, VA 20197, or use the “Donate” page at our website to give securely through PayPal.
Finally (for now)
Beloved, don’t be afraid! We take these steps not because we are afraid but because we love our vulnerable neighbors and our healthcare professionals and want to minimize the impact of this widespread disease. We are not given a spirit to be timid in the face of worldly problems but a spirit of victory in the Risen Christ! So trust in the goodness and mercy of God. Use this odd interruption of life like an extra fast for Lent, to sharpen our awareness of our need for Christ and his church. Let your heart be open to the Holy Spirit at work in confusing situations, and let compassion and generosity fill your own spirit. Let your light shine, so others may see our good works and give glory to our God.
Be of good courage, and know that you are loved!
Grace and peace!
David A. Douthett
Catoctin Presbyterian Church