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Coronavirus - a letter of encouragement

Dear Ministers, Pastors and Church Secretaries,

We want to encourage and support you in your work at this time of unprecedented disruption to our daily lives. Thank you for all you do and will continue to do as a Minister, Pastor or Church Secretary.

It may be that your church has had to postpone indefinitely any regular hosting of meetings of people, including Sunday worship services. (Although guidelines at the moment in Scotland are to remain open). We also realise that some of you will have multiple buildings and spaces to consider.

During this time, we will be feeling saddened and frustrated that we are unable to support the people who depend on us and on our facilities and opportunities. We will all be taking the best advice we can, and we will all be grateful for those in our churches who are committed to helping us to find the best ways for us to keep in touch with people and to support them.

Realising that some of you may have expertise at hand, we are offering here some guidelines that we hope will help at least some of you. And in all this we remind ourselves of God’s presence and promises, and we take time to pray.

  • Work with your deacons and congregation to create a ‘formal’ network for the sake of anyone, including perhaps yourself, who is affected with the virus, or who must self-isolate.
  • Don’t visit anyone who has self-isolated or who has tested positive - but keep in regular contact with them.
  • As part of this, ask people to help you to find out who is able to use Skype (or any similar communication software) to keep in face-to-face touch with others - albeit electronically. Then contact them with clear and simple instructions as to how to set up their Skype facility. And then suggest a rota of people to keep in touch with them.
  • You could also suggest a rota of people to keep in regular telephone contact with those having to stay at home. Offer to pray with people on the telephone.
  • If possible, explore with someone who has the expertise how you can have more of a supportive online presence, especially if you have cancelled services.
  • If possible, explore the possibility of recording and then providing, or even live streaming your service. However, we must be mindful of copyright and licencing laws and guidelines. We will try to find good advice on this to send to you.
  • Consider printing and posting encouragement cards, or the service to your communities.
  • If possible, don’t visit hospitals or nursing homes unless it is deemed urgent. But send notes and cards, books or magazines, to encourage people and to let them know that you are thinking of them and praying for them.
  • Otherwise, best hygiene practice should be observed in all pastoral contacts, including visiting hospitals and nursing homes.

Many people at the moment are anxious and scared and we know that many too are going to suffer during these coming months as the virus reaches its peak. You will be called upon for funerals and supporting those who are grieving, and we await further guidance on how we conduct these.

The church is going to look very different in the months ahead as we no longer meet together on a Sunday but let us still be known for our prayers and service we offer. There are lots of stories of kindness and we should be encouraged.

Churches Together in England have called us all to pray on Sunday and remember those who are sick or anxious and all involved in our Health Service. We are asked to place a lighted candle in our windows at 7pm as a sign of solidarity and hope in the light of Christ that can never be extinguished.

Be assured of our prayers at this time; prayers for wisdom, protection and grace. “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” (Psalm 46:1)

Together we will follow Jesus confidently into this strange future.

May God bless us all,

Yvonne Campbell and Walter Riggans