TLC & COVID-19
 

March 16, 2020

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

I am sure that many of you have questions about gathering for worship in this time of a coronavirus outbreak.  Right now many colleges and universities, including Kent State, Akron, and Ohio State Universities have cancelled in-person classes.  Some states have banned gatherings of more than 250 people (state of Washington).  Recently, the Lutheran Church of South Korea requested prayers for our brothers and sisters there because the government had forbidden public gatherings, including for worship, in order to help stop the spread of the Corona Virus, COVID-19.

At the time of this writing, There are more than 3,774 cases in the United States – eight times more than just a week earlier. At least 32 people have died of the virus nationwide.  There have now been almost 170,000 cases worldwide, and more than 4,800 people have died (out of 7.6 billion people). The vast majority of cases are mild, and almost half of those infected have already recovered.  https://www.cbsnews.com/live-updates/coronavirus-updates-cases-fears-deaths-us-latest-2020-03-11/

There is a lot of confusion regarding COVID-19. This is due, largely, to the fact that we do not have enough information yet, and the information that is out is often misunderstood or wrong. What is clear is that the virus is spreading, there is real danger (especially for people whose immune systems are compromised), and our church and preschool are potential sites for spreading the disease. For the sake of the love of all people, we are suspending all activities at Tallmadge Lutheran Church for the next three weeks through April 5, 2020.

Here are some of the approaches TLC is taking to address this disease:

Pray – In his recent blog post, Thom Rainer writes, “Focus on prayer instead of panic. Remind your congregation that God is in control. Encourage them to pray …[1] We would remind you that our God is a loving Father who responds to the prayers of His children, and one of the ways that we can serve our neighbors is to pray.

Get Good Information – Remember the famous news adage, “If it bleeds it leads.” The medias’ coverage of COVID-19 is not designed to calm people, nor is it always accurate. Here are four sources that are generally reliable which will be guiding us as we consider any future responses to this disease. They are The Summit County Health Department[2], the Ohio Department of Health[3], the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)[4], and the World Health Organization[5].

Also, we want you to know that there are malicious groups who are taking advantage of the fear related to COVID-19 who are sending computer viruses and malware claiming to be important information related to the disease. Be vigilant. Don’t trust emails from strangers.

Basic Sanitation Saves Lives – It sounds overly simple but, hand washing is one of the most effective things we can do to protect ourselves and one another from illness. However, hand washing is often skipped or done too quickly. A good 20 second wash with soap and water will do the job. 

 

Please Keep Giving!    This might be a good time to make a one-time online gift and/or to explore setting up online giving (https://www.tlcoh.org/tithing-and-offerings/).  

 

Please Stay Home – If you need pastoral care or encouragement, please reach out to the church office or to Pastor Andy and we will make individual arrangements for visiting and communion.  Our Sunday and midweek sermons will be live streamed at (https://www.facebook.com/TallmadgeLutheranChurch/) are all posted online (www.tlcoh.org/2020sermons.)  .

The best way to contain and slow the spread of illnesses like COVID-19 is to put space between people. This is sometimes done through social distancing, people keeping about six feet between them. However, isolation and quarantine are also used in cases of actual illness. If a person is ill, it is probably best if they stay away from others. This, however, raises questions about how we will minister to them during their illness, and that must not be forgotten. Please tell us if you are sick so we can pray for you and help you if you need help.

Communication – Every Wednesday we send out an email blast.  We would like to have everyone on this email list as it is our easiest channel for mass communication. However, we are also updating our phone number information and looking into ways to text large groups. If you are on Facebook, please like and follow TLC’s facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/TallmadgeLutheranChurch/ We share information there about upcoming events and important announcements, as well as report on things that happened at church.

As you can see, there is a lot to think about here. Perhaps you think we are overreacting. Perhaps we are, but as I was thinking about the risks and potentials related to COVID-19, I realized that I was thinking about these matters in relation to myself. I am fairly healthy and am unconcerned that I might get the coronavirus. I started thinking about others in the congregation for whom COVID-19 could potentially be devastating: cancer patients, elderly people, folks who have had open-heart surgery, and others. It seems to me that this is not overreacting, but reacting out of Christian love for our neighbor – our brothers and sisters in Christ.

If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to reach out to any of us on staff.

Yours in Christ,

Pastor Andy

(This email draws heavily on a similar communication Pastor Eric Tritten shared with his congregation Gloria Dei in Hudson at https://lotrittens.blogspot.com/.)

[1] https://thomrainer.com/2020/03/coronavirus-and-your-church/

[2] www.scphoh.org

[3] www.odh.ohio.gov 

[4] www.cdc.gov

[5] www.who.int