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LCMS president’s message and resources for coronavirus pandemic

Comments (13)
  1. Avatar Susan Pierce-Ruhland says:

    I think that you should address the question of communion (no common cup, those who distribute must wash hands immediately prior to the Sacrament of the Altar). In addition, let’s go to church, but leave a pew empty between two occupied pews. That will help keep germs from spreading as well.

  2. Avatar Brian Peterson says:

    Excellent comments and tone, Pastor Harrison, and thank you so much for a calm, reasoned approach. I might just add, with respect to the Common Cup, there is simply no danger. I am a physician, forensic pathologist, medical examiner, and would be happy to provide references. Ultimately, though, our Lord knows much more about the Coronavirus than do we; He made no comments regarding eschewing the Common Cup in Scripture of which I am aware. At times like these, we ought to attend services more frequently, not less.

  3. Avatar JP says:

    Susan, you would do well to research the use of the Chalice at the Lord’s Supper more carefully. While people might feel like it is a danger for virus transmission, the Church’s historic mode of receiving the Lord’s Blood is at least as sanitary, if not more so, when examined scientifically. See the following for research related to this:

    1) CDC: Recommendations for preventing transmission of infection with human T-lymphotropic virus type III/lymphadenopathy-associated virus in the workplace, NWMR 1985;34 (Nov 13): 681-695.
    2) B.C. Hobbs, J.A. Knowldon & A. White. “Experiments on the Communion Cup.” Journal of Hygiene, Vol. 65 (1967): 37-48.
    3) Glaser & Nadler, Archives of Internal Medicine, Vol. 145:1653, 1985.
    4) O. Noel Gill. “The Hazard of Infection from the Shared Communion Cup [Review].” Journal of Infection, Vol. 16, No 1 (January 1988): 3-23.
    5) Anne LaGrange Loving. “Holy Communion and Health-is there a Risk?” Journal of Environmental Health, July-August 1997.

  4. Avatar Mark Harrison MD says:

    I am an LCMS Lutheran physician, board certified in infectious diseases and trained in hospital epidemiology and public health. I work as an internal medicine hospitalist in Michigan. I have worked overseas in Haiti and India and am at the end of a 35 year career in infectious diseases care and training.
    People like me have trained our entire careers for this epidemic. We have studied these epidemics with concern since the 1918 great influenza epidemic. This one is real and portends to be similar to the 1918 pandemic, but thankfully, is not killing children and young adults as the Spanish flu did.
    My community has identified its first “index” cases of coronavirus just this week.
    I very much appreciate pastor Matthew Harrison’s communication and message. It is to be heeded. There is no reasonable reason to believe that the epidemic in the USA and Canada will behave any differently than in Italy.
    We are on the precipice of a full blown epidemic which will threaten to kill some of our elder citizens. We must act purposefully, deliberately and peacefully within our vocations to respond to the advice of our God given leadership. Preparation as directed by CDC is not panic. It is to follow calmly the preparation necessary to love our neighbors.

    I would recommend to following:

    1. As it is Lent currently, sobriety and self denial to control this epidemic is in keeping with our Lutheran piety and love toward our neighbor.
    2. I have recommended to my parish pastor that all meetings and events be cancelled or postponed except Divine Liturgy. Other parish activities could be transitioned to virtual platforms such as web-based meetings. With the blessings of modern technology we should be able to continue our ministries and outreach to those in need and keep our church life vibrant and active. I would recommend transitioning to this level of restriction if there are confirmed case(s) in your immediate county or the any adjacent county or if directed to so by any authority in your jurisdiction.
    3. Social distancing short of quarantine is appropriate in all settings and locales currently. Handshakes and other forms of touching for communication should be stopped. Frequent handwashing and disinfection of commonly touched surfaces should be the norm.
    4. Individuals with symptoms of coronavirus should not attend any public gatherings including church. Other means of providing sacramental care to the ill will need to be worked out.
    5. We should be aware of fomites and alter our practices to control contagion through these means. Fomites are inanimate objects that can transmit infection once contaminated. In the use of our churches for Divine Liturgy articles that are vulnerable to being fomites are door knobs and openers, handrails and stairrails, bathroom faucet handles and toilet flushers, offering plates, church bulletins and hymnals that are hand distributed, communion rails, the chalice and articles for distribution of Holy Communion. As best as can be accomplished these should be touched as by few people as possible and those touching these articles should wash or sanitize their hands before and after use.
    6. With regards to the distribution of Holy Communion I would suggest the following given my professional insights. I realize there are vital sacramental matters to the stewardship of this Gift that will require guidance from our pastors.
    A. Distribute communion with the recipients standing rather than kneeling at the rail and touching the rail to receive. Reverence for Christ’s body and blood can be given by bowing or other manners.
    B. Wipe the chalice with something with greater than 70% alcohol content. One suggestion I have seen is Everclear which is 95%. However, any liquor greater than 140 proof should be effective.
    C. For parishes that practice common cup, provide a way at the alter for the recipient to guide the chalice to their mouth without touching the chalice base with their hands and/or contaminating it with their hands.
    D. For those handling all of these items, hand washing and hand sanitation practices are a must.

    7. Anticipate that those whose vocations put them in the front lines of this epidemic will be taxed and challenged, and some will be endangered. These include clergy of all kinds, health care workers of all kinds, first responders of all kinds, and nursing home staff and managers. Support them with your prayers, kind words through media, loving support. For those who are able, strongly consider contributing your tithe and offerings a month in advance.

    8. Realize that this stress will try to break even the most resilient members of our communities and churches. Love them, pray for them, talk them through this. Be self aware in advance and identify within your vocational responsibilities which of your neighbors will need extra support to navigate the threatening nature of this trouble. There is excellent guidance on remediating the psychosocial impacts of epidemics and quarantine on the internet.

    9. Pastors and elders would do well in advance to think through the practical aspects of hospital visitation during this epidemic. Hospital and nursing home visitation will be restricted by infection control and public health officials.

    10. Pastors and elders are advised to think though the practical aspects of funeral practice and bereavement care in the midst of an epidemic of this character.

    Finally, as layperson acting out my vocation and vulnerable to danger, I would encourage creating a webbased modality for community wide prayer for those affected by this epidemic, again appropriate to our Lutheran piety and practice.

    Mark S. Harrison, MD

    BTW I am not related to Matthew Harrison our president as best I know.

  5. Avatar Paul Doenges, says:

    Thank you Pastor Harrison for the reassuring message.

  6. Avatar D. Richard Carlson says:

    No closed or open captions, again. Vimeo’s Help page is impaired to load in both Safari and Chrome. Through googling I discovered the remedy of no caption or subtitles.

    It says: ”To turn on captions or subtitles when viewing a video, click the CC button in the player’s bottom toolbar.“ Well, no CC button can be found.

    Even through Jesus preach to Hearing audiences, interpreters of Deaf people is our best friends. So, we DO hear. Did you know Jesus conversed in sign language [Mark 7:33]? He put the Deaf man aside from the crowd privately.

    Praise to Our Lord who knows universal language.

    1. Avatar LCMS Church Information Center says:

      Thank you for your comment. We apologize for the inconvenience. This has been an ongoing challenge for us. We appreciate your patience.

  7. Avatar Douglas Skinner says:

    President Harrison was irenic and not wrong. But I think, given a lot of recent events, that at some point the church should do more. It should send a clear message that those who hoard, gouge, look at their fellow creatures as vectors of disease, regard the precious body and blood of Our Lord itself as a possible contagion, that we should separate ourselves in the pews, flee from each other in the streets, forsake gatherings, are flat out wrong. All of this presupposes the primacy of material, earthly, existence over the eternal existence promised us by Our Lord, Jesus Christ.

  8. Avatar Jo N says:

    I’m just a lay person looking for a virtual church today. My daughter is 2 and sick, but I want her to see we still go to church every Sunday even when we can’t be there. My husband asked for resources, and I came here, but I’m not finding what I’m looking for. It would be nice to have some resources available for those looking for a church option. Thanks!

    1. Avatar LCMS Church Information Center says:

      Thank you for your comment. Please contact your district office with your request for online church services. You’ll find district contact information at http://www.lcms.org/districts.

    2. I would always encourage you to find a local congregation (even though you are watching online) to help connect with the members of the church and community. If you still struggle finding a place, visit http://www.zionpevely.com for a church just south of Saint Louis until you find something closer. I would also encourage you to check out LHM for daily devotions.

      Prayers on your journey to find a church.

  9. This excellent website truly has all of the info I wanted concerning this subject and didn’t know who to ask.

  10. Thank you for the resources! All you church leaders make sure to use these resources but also provide local county and state information on your websites and Facebook pages.

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