The news media report that the number of cases of swine flu in Mexico, the United States and around the world is rising. While information about the symptoms and human transmission of the virus is available from a number of sources, the situation calls for the intentional and thoughtful response of the faith community.
In the name of the Great Physician, we must be diligent in prayer for the persons suffering with the virus. Pray for their healing and pray for the ones who provide care, that they may be safe and patient in their vigilance. Pray for a calm spirit to pervade our communities, that we might all recognize our potential to stop the spread of the virus with our own precaution. Pray that we might avoid the panic that can cripple our wisdom and create an environment of blame, judgment and isolation.
As a community of faith, we can point to the services of medical care that are available to the most vulnerable among us, such as the Alliance Medical Ministry of Wake County. Alliance Medical Ministry is an Advance of the North Carolina Conference, providing medical care for uninsured, working adults. Learn more about the medical services for children, who have been particularly affected by Swine Flu in Mexico, and be prepared for the “least of these” in North Carolina.
Many churches have “phone trees” or systems of contact with their elderly or home bound members. Creating such a system or adding names of persons who are not members of a congregation but who live alone and worry about this illness is a timely response for the church.
When planning for worship and other ministries of the congregation, consider the ways people interact with one another. Invite communion servers to use hand sanitizer before serving the elements (Did not the psalmist invite us to be people of clean hands and clean hearts?). Ask choir members to sing only if they are well and nursery attendants to serve in good health. The virus is spread through hand to hand contact and coughing and sneezing in close space. There is no need to cancel plans for worship or any other activity, as long as people exercise caution in their participation.
God is in our midst, giving us opportunities to care for the least, the last and the lost. Offer a word of hope to those who worry, and bless those who refrain from participating in the fellowship if they feel ill.
By Rev. Carol Goehring, Executive Director of Conference Connectional Ministries
For more information, please see Swine Flu, Hygiene, and Holy Communion from the GBOD.
UPDATE: We have created a page on the Conference website dedicated to information about the Swine Flu. Please continue to check this page for various updates and links. This link can be found on any Conference page, under Resources > Swine Flu.