By Caleb Hennington

Digital Content Editor

We know that, with the ongoing news of Coronavirus, people may be cautious to attend church. However, many still want to participate in the connectionalism and comfort that our United Methodist Churches offer to everyone.

Here are a few suggestions for staying safe whenever a viral infection is spreading and how you can participate in worship even when you aren’t in the same building as everyone else.

  • If you’re a pastor, make sure to remind your staff to wash their hands regularly, and use antibacterial hand sanitizers to prevent the spread of viruses that transfer through skin-to-skin contact.
  • Encourage people to carry tissues, and cough or sneeze into tissues and immediately throw them away after they’re used. If they do not have tissues, remind them to cough or sneeze into their elbows or shoulder, NOT their hands.
  • If you feel sick, STAY HOME. Staying away from face-to-face contact with others prevents the spread of viruses in healthy individuals.
  • Don’t discourage church members from attending church, unless an official government entity, such as the Center for Disease Control, recommends it. You don’t want to cause fear and panic among your congregants.
  • Keep up with official warnings and news from the CDC by visiting their website at https://www.cdc.gov/. This is official news and information on any viruses currently affecting the U.S. and should be checked regularly.
  • Instead of physical contact, such as hugging or shaking hands, encourage people to Pass the Peace without skin-to-skin contact. You can wave, give a peace sign, or even give an air high five to people; but skin-to-skin contact and airborne particles are the fastest way for viruses to spread.
  • For communion, be sure the ones who are handling the bread and juice have washed their hands thoroughly, and reduce the chances of increased viral spreading by only allowing one person to handle the communion elements. Intinction can still be done but in order to avoid fingers dipping into the juice, lean the cup forward a little to make it easier for people to reach. If intinction seems too risky for you and your congregation, you can also suspend that form of communion for a time until it seems like the virus is under control in your community.
  • If a virus has spread quickly throughout your community and your local government has recommended you limit your in-person contacts with others, consider providing additional forms of worship that don’t require large groups of people to be gathered in a small space, such as Facebook Live streams, emailed or mailed sermons to congregants, podcast or audio sermons, or smaller gatherings of people in homes or other venues.

Although these tips can greatly reduce the number of people affected by viruses, it won’t prevent all viruses from spreading. Please remember to stay in contact with your congregation, and stay up-to-date with official warnings and news from the CDC. We hold the health and safety of all our Arkansas United Methodists in our prayers.