Message from our Communications Director: How do we respond?

Message from our Communications Director: How do we respond?

Dear Holston Family,
Whether you've watched it on the news, read it in the paper, seen it on social media, or heard it on the radio, we are all aware of the coronavirus. As we hear stories from around the world, it is easy to have one of two reactions: fear or apathy. However, James 5: 14-15 reminds us, as disciples of Jesus we are called to pray for those who are sick. We are not called to propagate conspiracy theories or cast judgement or live in fear, but we are called to pray. We can pray for those who have lost loved ones and for those who are sick. We can pray for our medical teams and those working to contain and mitigate this virus. We can pray for our leaders in churches, schools, and governments to give them wisdom as they make difficult decisions surrounding this pandemic. We can also do our part to mitigate the spread of coronavirus.
On Tuesday, I sat down with Mike Sluder, Director of Connectional Ministries, and Jim Fetzer, Holston's Disaster Response Coordinator, to discuss how we, as the conference, should respond. Mr. Fetzer was quick to point out that we cover a larger territory with churches in three states: Georgia, Tennessee, and Virginia. Because of this, Fetzer said it is extremely important to do the following:
  • Get in contact with your local health department to see what they are doing and how they are handling things in your area.
  • Be observant and stay informed by listening to the news.
  • Stay away from large crowds, especially if you are a senior.
  • If you are sick, stay at home.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water.
We also discussed practices churches may want to consider:
  • How you do you greet one another? Consider fist or elbow bumps or no touching at all.
  • Remember to use hand sanitizer and have it available and visible, especially for those serving communion.
  • Should you serve communion by intinction or individual cups? 
  • How do you help and invite people to donate their offering, especially if services are interrupted? Do you have online giving? Should you place baskets in certain locations versus handling plates? Click here for ideas surrounding giving from Discipleship Ministries.
  • How do you communicate to parishioners around reducing risk and around the decisions you make in response to safety for all?
In addition to this conversation, the question was raised, "What should we do about Jubilation?" After many discussions and considerations, and out of an abundance of caution and care for those in attendance, we have made the difficult decision to cancel Jubilation this year. The leadership and design teams will be meeting soon to discuss the next steps in planning, and we will share more information later. 
I am of aware of your questions and concerns about the possibilities of suspending worship or large-group gatherings, especially with those most vulnerable. The cabinet is meeting this week, and I want to assure you that your concerns are being discussed. More information will be coming soon.
Finally, we want to offer you a few helpful sites you can reference for additional information, practices, and tips that will keep you informed about the coronavirus and its effects on the world and in the Holston Conference. (See below.) We will continue to update with news and resources, so check back often. 

The Rev. Tim Jones is Holston Conference director of communications.

World Health Organization
U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention


Tim Jones