A Pastoral Letter

Responding to the Coronavirus
How will the CoronaVirus impact Central St Matthew UCC?

Dear Central St Matthew United Church of Christ,

The coronavirus is here! Yesterday morning I received word that Greg Johnson, president of the New Orleans association and member of our church in Teche was in the hospital in ICU, diagnosed with the coronavirus.(Please pray for Greg.) It was sobering news.  I know that all of us are concerned because the virus is a health risk, especially to the elderly and to those whose health is already compromised.

So I wanted to write to you concerning the virus and our life together. If you fall in that category, of being on the older side of life and have health conditions then please do not feel any pressure or obligation to be present on Sunday mornings. Take care of yourself. You have my blessing, the church’s blessing and yes, I would even say God’s blessing. 
 Of course if you are ill please do not come to church!

However, if you do stay home on Sunday morning you can still participate in worship and the life of the church. For some time now we have been simulcasting our Sunday morning services on Facebook. On Sunday morning at 10 am, open Facebook on your phone or your computer, go to Central St. Matthew UCC, and it will be just like you are sitting in the pew. (Yes, Pastor Brockett is now a tel-evangelist and proud of it. 
) Please join us.

In addition, you can give online. Just go to our website, 
centralstmatthewucc.com and follow the prompts, and you can make your contribution.

Also, if we don’t see each other in person on Sunday morning, please know that I am available to you via phone or email at any time and so is Melissa in the church office. Don’t hesitate to reach out even if it is just to chat. I’ll be reaching out to you too. 

You may ask, “Will CSM at any time cancel services?” I don’t know the answer to that question, we will have to see how things unfold. However, it’s not my inclination to cancel worship unless it is absolutely necessary. Even if it is me preaching and Steven playing and everyone watching online, I’ll be fine. I count upon all of you to exercise your best judgment regarding your attendance.

When you do attend church, I want you to know that we will be doing our best to make our church and sanctuary as safe as possible.

1. Mr. Mike will have done everything in his power to clean all those surfaces that people usually touch when they come to church including door handles, railings, etc.

2. During worship we won’t pass the peace by shaking hands or giving a hug instead, we will make the peace sign or wave and smile.

3. Likewise, at the conclusion of the service, we will still encircle the sanctuary but we won’t hold hands.

4. When we celebrate communion, we will temporarily use prepackaged communion cups. Have you seen them? It’s a plastic cup that has been pre-prepared and hermetically sealed so there can be no contamination either in the preparation or the receiving of the sacrament. Communion will be served in the pew.

I know that all of us react differently in situations such as this one. I want to encourage you not to panic or be overly anxious, but instead to use good common sense and make wise decisions to protect your health and the health of others.

Educate yourself from reputable sources such as
https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/about/index.html and https://ready.nola.gov/home/ so that you understand what is happening and how best to handle it. I hope that all of us understand at this point, what we are attempting to do is to slow down the spread of the virus so as not to overwhelm our health resources. This means we will be dealing with this for some period of time.

An important resource for all of us in times of threat and anxiety is our relationship with God and our connection with our brothers and sisters in Christ.

So if you’re feeling anxious about all this, take time to pray, meditate and be quiet. Turn off your media with its incessant harangue. Reach out to me or to your fellow church members. Talk about how you’re feeling, pray together, over the telephone and remember that God is always present, sustaining, loving and encouraging all of us every moment of every day.


God Bless You!

Pastor Phil