Like much of the global population, the ELCA is concerned about the Coronavirus, also known as COVID19. With the outbreaks in the United States and around the world being classified as a pandemic, congregations and houses of worship need to be well-informed and well-prepared. Some sources of information that can and should be trusted are the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the World Health Organization (WHO), and locally, the State of Michigan. Both sources release the most up-to-date information on the disease, and both have developed a variety of resources regarding prevention and response.
The virus is spread through droplets, which means that it is passed through direct contact. For example, if someone coughs into their hand, then touches your hand, and you touch your mouth, you would be at risk of infection. Symptoms of the virus include fever, cough, and shortness of breath, to varying degrees. Increasing our care around health and hygiene and practicing social distancing will keep the risk low and decrease the chance of a major outbreak.
- UPDATED 3/23/20: Governor Whitmer signed an executive order directing Michiganders to stay at home unless they are members of the critical infrastructure workforce, performing tasks necessary to their health, such as going to the hospital or grocery store, or exercising. Bishop Satterlee again implores congregations to suspend all in-person worship services and weekly in-person gatherings for the next eight weeks, or until May 10. Read the full letter.
- UPDATED 3/19/20: Given the ongoing spread of the COVID-19 virus and the continually updating recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO), Bishop Satterlee is joining ELCA and ecumenical colleagues in strongly urging congregations to suspend all in-person worship services and weekly in-person gatherings for the next eight weeks, or until May 10. Read the full letter.
- UPDATED 3/18/20: After prayerful reflection and in keeping with the recommendations of the Office of the Secretary and the Office of the Presiding Bishop, Bishop Satterlee recommended and Synod Council affirmed that we will NOT gather for Synod Assembly May 14-16, 2020 in Mount Pleasant. For more information, please read the letter from Bishop Craig A. Satterlee and Christine Allen, Secretary of the North/West Lower Michigan Synod.
- The Michigan Department of Education (MDE) is pleased to announce that an online map has been developed for families to find locations where meals are being provided during this period of school closure. The map can be found at: www.michigan.gov/meetupeatup, and will be updated twice each day during the closure period.
- The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Michigan is now 65. The State of Michigan is tracking the statistics on their website. The Detroit Free Press has a map of the locations and number of cases. The CDC has a map showing the number of cases around the country.
- UPDATED 3/16/20: Governor Whitmer has also ordered the closure of all K-12 school buildings, and bars and restaurants for dine-in service. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is recommending the suspension of gatherings of 50 people or more for the next eight weeks. President Trump has asked that people do not gather in groups of 10 or more. In light of these mandates and recommendations, we continue to encourage congregations to suspend in-person worship gatherings. Read Bishop Satterlee’s March 16 Update.
- ELCA Coaching Ministries is offering a weekly opportunity for leaders to gather via ZOOM (Web Conference) in conversation around various topics related to: Being the Church in the Time of COVID-19. Learn More.
- President Trump has issued updated guidelines on slowing the spread of COVID-19.
- UPDATED 3/13/20: Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer has temporarily prohibited assemblies of 250 people or more beginning Friday, March 13 and ending on Sunday, April 5 at 5:00pm and is urging community groups and businesses to consider cancelling gatherings or events with more than 100 people.
- ELCA and Episcopal Bishops in Michigan have issued a statement in response, encouraging congregations to suspend worship until the end of March. Bishop Satterlee has also shared a letter with further information.
Upcoming Synod Events
- March 19-20: Lenten Preaching Retreat – Cancelled
- April 23: Synod Boundaries Workshop – Cancelled
- May 14-16: Synod Assembly – Cancelled’
- Registration fees for these events are in the process of being refunded. If you submitted a credit card payment, it will be refunded to your card. If you submitted a check, you will be issued a refund check. Please allow 2-3 weeks for processing.
- For Synod Assembly, all hotel rooms at the Comfort Inn & Suites and the Fairfield Inn have been automatically cancelled. If you booked at another hotel, please verify the status of your room directly with your hotel. If you have any questions about refunds, please contact Ann Stavros at email@example.com.
Opportunities for Online Worship
- Many congregations are hosting weekly worship via live stream on Facebook. Check with your congregation or follow us for more information.
- Bishop Satterlee will be preaching for Psalm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter on his YouTube channel. We will announce when the sermons are posted.
- If you are looking to stream your worship service, the ELCA has provided a starter guide.
- We also have information on getting started with Facebook Live, YouTube Live, and Zoom. Review additional Live Streaming Resources.
Resources for Virtual Meetings and Gatherings
- Many congregations are using Zoom to host virtual meetings and small gatherings.
- Learn More about Zoom Plans
- Learn How to Get Started with Zoom
- View Zoom’s FAQ and Quick Start Guide
Maintaining Congregational Stewardship
During this time, please be mindful of your ongoing stewardship with your congregation. Remember that day-to-day operation of our churches often relies on the ongoing gifts from the congregation.
- Consider setting up automatic withdrawals to be sent to the church.
- Consider using an online donation system.
- Consider mailing in your donations (being mindful of your procedures for money-handling).
- If you are looking to set up online giving, the ELCA has a list of preferred vendors.
- Rev. David Sprang, Director of Evangelical Mission has compiled additional resources on stewardship during this time.
Resources for Outreach Ministries
Based on current CDC Guidelines, we recommend:
- No more than ten people gathered for preparation or distribution at any time.
- Avoid the use of the church building for food preparation or distribution.
- Distribution should be “curb-side” only.
- Consider delivering goods, rather than having a central point of group distribution.
Resources from the ELCA Churchwide Office
- Video Message from Presiding Bishop Eaton
- Coronavirus Planning Sheet
- Worship Resources
- Resources for Funerals
- Live-Stream Starter Guide
- Online Giving Resources
- Find additional resources at ELCA.org/PublicHealth.
Resources from the State of Michigan
- What Michigan is Doing
- Community Mitigation Strategies
- Executive Orders & Directives
- Latest Guidance for Residents
- COVID-19 Hotline: 888-535-6136, open everyday from 8am-5pm
- Email: COVID19@michigan.gov, emails answered everyday from 8am-5pm.
The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to this virus. However, as a reminder, the CDC always recommends these everyday preventive actions to arrest the spread of respiratory diseases:
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
- Stay home when you are sick.
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces, using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
- Follow CDC recommendations for using a face mask.
- CDC does not recommend that people who are well wear a face mask to protect themselves from respiratory diseases, including COVID-19.
- Face masks should be used by people who show symptoms of COVID-19, to help prevent the spread of the disease to others. The use of face masks is also crucial for health workers and people caring for someone in a close setting (at home or in a health care facility).
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom, before eating and after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing. If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty.
In this time of concern, we ask that you join us in prayer: Merciful God, we know that your heart overflows with compassion for your whole creation. Pour out your Spirit on all people living with this illness, or who are living with anxiety about this illness, for which there is not yet a cure. Be with those who tend to the needs of the sick. Strengthen us all in body and spirit, console us when anxious, comfort us in grief and hearten us in discouragement. Help to remind us that you claim us as your own, and are with us wherever we go. Through Christ, our healer and Lord. Amen.