What the local church can do to respond to Coronavirus, Covid-19

By Sandra Steiner Ball

Dear friends and members of the West Virginia Conference,

Please know that I continue to pray for the health and wholeness of each one of you and for the people around the world. There have been many comments and opinions about the Coronavirus (Covid-19) in the news and social media. For instance, you may have heard that in surrounding states there have been directions given by state leaders that encourage faith communities to limit their gatherings for activities and for worship.  

Your Conference leaders and I continue to stay up to date on the latest information and monitor what directions may be given by our West Virginia leaders. For now, I encourage you to access the Center for Disease Control guidelines for how to best protect yourself, your congregations, and your family.  

Here are the recommended Public Health Resources:
West Virginia Department of Health
U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) 
World Health Organization (WHO):

Based on their advice, in this season we are taking extra precautions. This is a summary of what you and your local churches should do:  

  • Wash hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds throughout the day. Use alcohol-based hand sanitizers if soap and water are not available. Make hand sanitizers and tissues available in your gathering spaces.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with your hands.
  • Cough or sneeze into your elbow – cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough and throw the tissue into the trash.
  • Do check in with those who are elderly or homebound. 
  • Use alternate means of passing the peace. Greet persons by waving, bowing, a nod of the head. Avoid hugs and handshakes. Do not hold hands for prayer.
  • Do not use a Common Cup for Communion. Do not leave water in your baptismal fonts.  Follow this link for alternate suggestions. 
  • Avoid close contact with those who are sick. If you are sick, stay home. 
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces – put sanitizing wipes in your Church bathrooms. Take all non-hard surface, non-easily cleanable toys out of your Sunday School or Nursery areas. 
  • Above all, remember we are people who trust in God.

Your Bishop, your District Superintendents, and your Conference staff all desire for everyone, both individually and communally, to be safe and to put into practice these precautionary measures to help prevent the coronavirus (Covid-19) from spreading.  

  • For now, continue to worship and pray for and with each other.  
  • Update emails and phone numbers so that your church family can be in contact with one another outside worship or fellowship gatherings.
  • Establish intentional ways for your congregation to make sure that those who are sick or homebound may have access to basic necessities. Remember your neighbors who may not be affiliated with a church. 

Grace and peace,
Bishop Sandra Steiner Ball

p.s. You and your congregation may want to experiment with Facebook Live or streaming worship services if churches are asked to limit community gatherings. (Follow this link for more information).