As the coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to spread in North America, EPC Stated Clerk Clerk Jeff Jeremiah said churches should avail themselves to the most current information and monitor how local authorities are dealing with the unfolding situation.
“I am grateful for the way EPC leaders are using their networks and social media to exchange information as they respond to COVID-19,” Jeremiah said. “We know that local conditions vary widely, so we encourage our pastors and church leaders to follow the guidance of the Center for Disease Control and the actions taken by their state and/or local governments.”
In some cases, a church’s decision to cancel worship services or provide an online worship experience only has been made for them by local authorities.
“The mayor of San Francisco asked that non-essential large gatherings not take place,” Jeremiah noted, “and the Governor of Kentucky has requested that churches not hold worship services this weekend.”
Numerous organizations and governmental agencies have made information and other helpful resources available. These include:
- A Concise Coronavirus Guide for Churches, prepared by Christianity Today.
- Coronavirus Communications Plan Guidelines, developed by Northshore Church in Kirkland, Wash., and adapted for EPC use by the Office of the General Assembly. (As a large church near the epicenter of the initial outbreak in the U.S., Northshore became a source for local and national news media on how churches were responding.)
- Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
- COVID-19 Coronavirus Data Pack, a helpful infographic suitable for printing and posting.
- Free Training and Checklists to Prepare Churches for the Coronavirus, provided by LifeWay Christian Resources.
- Responding to Highly Contagious Illnesses, prepared by Church Law & Tax.
Jeremiah reported that the EPC’s permanent committee meetings scheduled for April at the Office of the General Assembly in Orlando will conduct their business virtually in online video conferences. These include the National Leadership Team, the Next Generation Ministries Council, and the World Outreach Committee.
In addition, Jeremiah responded to a request from the Presbytery of the Southeast to hold its spring meeting virtually rather than as an in-person gathering.
“I wrote a provisional opinion that gives EPC presbyteries the ability to provide for virtual presence and participation of commissioners at their spring meetings,” Jeremiah said. “This gives our presbytery leaders the freedom to conduct their business in whatever way they feel is best for their safety and peace of mind.”
Jeremiah emphasized that preparations for the 40th General Assembly are proceeding as normal.
“At this point, we are not planning on postponing or canceling GA,” he said. “But if that changes, we will use every means at our disposal to keep the EPC informed quickly. The Hope Church team is watching the situation too, and they will be prepared.”