As communities continue to report new outbreaks of the COVID-19 virus, the Stated Clerk of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) is urging all churches to refrain from conducting worship in person. The Reverend Dr. J. Herbert Nelson, II, shared the messages via video on Facebook Saturday after hearing from church and presbytery leaders across the country about the continued spread of the virus.
In his Saturday message, Nelson said, “I ask that each and every one to be safe and smart during this period of time. I know Sunday is a Sabbath day and many of you are planning to attend church and many pastors are preparing a sermon of hope and possibilities. I know there are many of you who are seeking persons you have not seen since last week.”
Nelson is urging church members to allow themselves to be safe.
"We know this virus is taking the lives of individuals across this country. Therefore, it is important that we hear the warnings of the CDC and other health councils, sharing with us the need to stay away from each other and to create some level of distance when we began to interact with other people,” he said. “That includes going to church. It means staying away from gatherings of more than 10 people. It calls us during this particular time to wash our hands more than we ever have before. It creates in us a time in which we seek ways to prolong our lives and live healthy lives while not endangering others.”
Nelson said he never believed he would be giving a message urging people not to come to church. He is now, he says, because it is a matter of life and death.
“There are persons who want to bring their tithes and offerings to church tomorrow morning who really want to continue to keep that small church alive in that small town," he said. "I know there are those of you, like me, who have history with many of our congregations and see the need to continue going, not only for the longevity, but for our own lineage and our own understanding of what that church means in our life.”
Nelson said tithes and offerings can be mailed. The most important thing, he adds, is to take care of the vessels (the bodies) that God has given.
“Wash your hands, stay away from church and large gatherings tomorrow, be smart in these times so we can really come and rejoice in the Lord’s house when all of this has cleared and we can witness to the fact that the Lord has once again delivered us and given us all that we need to be the people we are called to be in this period,” he said.
The Stated Clerk says congregants should use the time to call someone they love and pray with them. “There will be a day when we will be restored and where the healing of our land will allow us to get back into church again. Let’s pray for that day.”