Monday, March 16, 2020


On yesterday, the Centers for Disease Control recommended new guidelines for reacting to the spread of COVID-19.

The guideline includes this:

Therefore, CDC, in accordance with its guidance for large events and mass gatherings, recommends that for the next 8 weeks, organizers (whether groups or individuals) cancel or postpone in-person events that consist of 50 people or more throughout the United States.
This recommendation does not apply to the day-to-day operation of organizations such as schools, institutes of higher learning, or businesses.

Find the "Interim Guidance for Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) here .

Elsewhere in the "Guidance" the CDC says there should be no gathering of more than 10 people who classify as "at risk." At risk are the elderly and persons with existing immune compromising conditions as heart disease, diabetes, cancer, lung diseases, and the like.

While yesterday's direction is not an official order, it is to be taken seriously. Dr. Fauci said on the talk shows yesterday that we may soon get to the point of "lock down" such as is now occurring in some countries abroad. Right now, the authorities are asking for voluntary cooperation to limit public gatherings in order to contain the spread of the virus.

The coronavirus is spreading in the U.S. rapidly, lately doubling about every two or three days. 

This leaves the churches facing some hard decisions. If we follow the CDC guidelines, we have to close the churches.

This will require the church officers to "think outside the box" to find ways to "do" church and move to non-traditional ways of interfacing between clergy and laity. For that, fortunately we live in the digital age. We have mass electronic means of communications. If we ever needed this, it is now. Let's use the resources we have.

Yesterday, the Washington National Cathedral and the presiding bishop gave us models on how to present church through electronic media. Through Youtube, the Cathedral livestreamed its 11:15 a.m. service. There was no congregation. There, in that cavernous building that we all know and love, were the clergy around the altar, the organist and a small choir. The bulletin was posted so that people at home could follow the whole service. It was a great success. Separately, Presiding Bishop Michael Curry videotaped and posted a fifteen minute sermon, also successfully.

As probably many of you, I watched the 11:00 service of Grace Church Cathedral in Charleston. It too was a big success. I especially appreciated the words of Dean Wright in his homily.

If we follow the CDC guidelines, we should close all churches to the public.

We should not close religion to the public. Church officials should find ways to provide church services to the people and to keep up communications. The National Cathedral and the presiding bishop have shown the way, thankfully. I should think that Grace Church Cathedral will continue its livestreaming services without a congregation, with the bulletin posted.

The diocese of South Carolina is in a unique position in this national crisis since it does not have a seated bishop. Bishop Parsley is generously providing essential services but he is not the provisional bishop of the diocese. This puts extra burden on the present authorities, particularly the archdeacon and the chair of the standing committee who so far have done good jobs. They might want to think of ways to increase communication between clergy and people in this hour of emergency, perhaps presenting periodic talks online. Above all, people need reassurance that we will get through this crisis and the church can be a great part of this. The people need to hear from their leaders in person, not just by letter.

All signs indicate that this crisis will get worse for weeks, maybe months, to come. We are in for a hard time. We people of faith know that there is a higher power that is always with us and will stay with us through thick and thin. Now is the time for the church to bring this truth home to the people using the media of the day.