Limit gatherings to 10 people for next 8 weeks (or longer?) due to pandemic

Bishop Peggy Johnson has revised her appeal to churches to further reduce any gatherings, over at least the next two weeks, to 10 people or less to limit exposure to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic sweeping the nation.

That appeal follows Monday’s recommended maximum of 50 people, issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The bishop cited advice US President Donald Trump gave at a Monday night press conference:

All Americans, including the young and healthy, should avoid gathering in groups of more than 10 people, avoid all non-essential travel and avoid eating in bars, restaurants and public food courts.  Americans should follow these increased CDC guidelines for the next 15 days, after which the agency will re-evaluate whether those recommendations will be extended.

Further updates may extend that period for more weeks or months, depending on the progress of nascent efforts to contain and mitigate the spread of the potentially deadly coronavirus outbreak. Gatherings affected include worship services and church meetings and programs, in addition to conferences, festivals, parades, concerts, sporting events, weddings and other types of assemblies.

“I realize this will make it impossible for our churches to gather in person for the next two weeks at least,” Bishop Johnson wrote in her latest letter, with a title based on Ecclesiastes 3:1: “A Time and a Purpose.”

“It is hard to know how long this will continue but we must prioritize health and safety until this virus passes,” she continued. “Make every effort to develop on-line worship options and widely advertise your plans to your congregation. Continue to contribute your offerings to the church so that ministries stay strong.”

“Events of any size should only be continued if they can be carried out with adherence to guidelines for protecting vulnerable populations, using hand hygiene, and social distancing,” the CDC said Monday. “Large events and mass gatherings can contribute to the spread of COVID-19 in the United States via travelers who attend these events and introduce the virus to new communities.”

Meanwhile, many states and cities are closing schools, universities and businesses not essential to the purchase of food, medicines and gasoline. Schools and businesses are implementing telework and online classes. And New Jersey, New York and Connecticut now have public curfews of 8 PM to 5 AM.  

“For a while, life is not going to be the way it used to be in the United States,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said on CNN’s “State of the Union” Sunday morning. “We have to just accept that if we want to do what’s best for the American public.” He earlier reported that the US can expect many more cases and deaths. “We have not yet reached our peak.”

“I hold you in my prayers during this challenging and fast-moving situation,” wrote Bishop Johnson to her churches. “Please keep up with the latest updates and may God use our church in many healing ways during this time and season.”

ALSO: View Bishop Johnson’s new video pastoral message, intended to help us focus during this challenging time on “our ultimate source of hope in all of this: God.”  She reflects on Isaac Watts’ classic, inspirational hymn, “O God, Our Help in Ages Past,” and uses this crisis—as he did his hymns—as an opportunity to “call us to our better selves.” View Our God, Our Help in Ages Past’