Funeral Policy for First Congregational Church of Westminster, UCC during COVID-19
For Christians, gathering to mourn the dead, celebrate their life and proclaim the hope of Resurrection are essential practices of our faith. During the extraordinary circumstances of the COVID19 outbreak, our usual mourning rituals have been interrupted. We think of those women on that first Easter, who went to follow their familiar mourning ritual to anoint Jesus’s body, to find it disrupted. We remember their initial shock and confusion and feel it too. We’re waiting to feel the hope of resurrection.
In times of trial like the death of a loved one, we turn to the familiar practices and rituals of our faith and ancestors. And so, we know that this disruption for a grieving community is doubly hard. We grieve this disruption with you. During the COVID19 outbreak, on March 10, 2020 Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker declared a State of Emergency and then limited gatherings to no more than 10 people. The Centers for Disease Control has recommended no gatherings larger than 10 people. Until the State of Emergency is lifted for Massachusetts, we will be limited in our funeral practices in the following ways:
Viewing/Wake: We are not able to accommodate a wake at this time.
Funeral: We are able to host a funeral service at the church but only allow in ten people in the sanctuary.
Graveside: We are able to host a graveside service outdoors and require that all people practice social distancing of 6 feet between one another. We are able to accommodate 10 people present.
Collation: We are not able to host a meal following the funeral at this time.
Guidance for Phasing Forward to In-Person Gatherings
As of May 14, 2020
“But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.” ~ Jeremiah 29:7
This is a time unlike anything we have experienced in our lifetimes. This is a challenging time for all of us. We have had moments of creative ingenuity and moments of overwhelming exhaustion.
We entered it in chaos, we plan to move through it with intention. We’re not reopening. Because we never closed. We have engaged ministry in new ways. We will move forward in new ways.
First, there is no way to ensure the overall safety of our congregations and communities until there is a trusted vaccine.
Second, in person worship in sanctuaries is one of the types of gatherings that is most likely to spread the infection.
* In an enclosed room over a length of time the airborne viral particles can reach every corner.
- * 6-foot or 12-foot physical distancing will not prevent this.
- * Speaking, praying and singing aloud propels the virus even further than just breathing.
- * Using masks limits but does not prevent the transmission of the disease.
- * Common surfaces abound.
- * We know that people can be carriers of the virus without any symptoms.
Third, we don’t know everything about this disease and its impact on all ages. New information is coming out daily. This makes it hard to predict trends, safety measures, and phases.
Fourth, our congregations are comprised of the populations most vulnerable to Covid-19.
Fifth, an outbreak in our churches impacts our communities and the capacity of our health care system.
We have been reviewing dozens of documents and websites on next steps for places of worship. This document is an integration and distilling of those resources tailored for our churches. We are presenting a phasing forward approach beginning with our current Base Phase and moving through 4 phases that are tied to local conditions and the guidance of local government and health care professionals.
There is no one date that can be universally applied across our Conference to every church and every community. Things differ; local regulations, building size and condition, age of congregation, size of congregation, health care capacity in community, rate and incidence of spread in community.
The way forward won’t be linear. There is the possibility of new spikes in infection that may return us to Stay Home Stay Safe requirements.
Based on these phases and the current trends we believe in person worship in buildings will need to be suspended through at least the end of the summer.
COVID-19: WHAT CAN WE DO?
A Moment for Mission
COVID-19: WHAT CAN WE DO?
A Moment for Mission
We may be experiencing confusion and perhaps even dismay during this time of global pandemic when most people are in their homes, some people are out of work, others have had their work (and pay) reduced. The problems seem too big. But, even now, there are things we can and should be doing.
The United Church of Christ has many resources for dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic. Please prayerfully consider supporting these:
www.sneucc.org/coronavirus — The Southern New England Church of Christ Conference (which combined the Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island Conferences) has a wealth of resources—for financial, pastoral, and programmatic information. Here are some highlights:
www.sneucc.org/blogdetail/what-can-i-do-outreach-in-the-time-of-corona-13537143 — This is an excellent article, as well as a template for local church adaptation. There are ideas that all of us can be applying. Please read it.
https://iaphs.org/racism-in-the-time-of-covid-19/?fbclid=IwAR1vE6iB43RRP5fDkcriXgR7tGt_kFsuOEdAyff0U2YT3z_YDVRSOg8O2Eg – a fascinating research article describing the treatment of others in pandemic.
www.sneucc.org/blogdetail/discipleship-in-the-time-of-pandemic-13539711 — an important article about economic disparity; often the least well-paid among us are those who work for minimum wages in grocery stores, gas stations, nursing homes, etc.— and risk their lives daily for those of us who are able to stay home.
And there is much more—including closer to home, the Westminster Food Panty – the following explains how you can help in this time of greater need:
May all of you stay safe and well.
Committee members are listed below the Franciscan prayer that captures what mission means:
May God bless you with anger
At injustice, oppression, and
Exploitation of people,
So that you may work for
Justice, freedom, and peace.
March 29, 2020
All measures are being taken to eliminate the risk of spreading the COVID-19 virus. As of now, staff are working from home as much as possible. Our goal is to have only people with an essential reason to be there. Anyone other than staff is requested to contact Pastor Ray if you need to access the building. This includes people who have a key. Our aim is to maintain a sanitized environment without Brett having to disinfect the entire premises daily. Careful monitoring of who has been where, and when they were there allows him to focus on areas that have actually been recently accessed.
Grace and Peace,
March 15, 2020
Governor Baker announced limits on gatherings of more than 25 people including places of worship. Worship Service is being filmed and streamed on Facebook. You can also access them here on the Sermons To Go page.
Statement from Church Issued on March 13, 2020
The three Bridge Conference Ministers of the Southern New England Conference are recommending that the 608 churches in the Conference suspend in-person worship for at least the next two Sundays, to help slow the spread of the Covid-19 coronavirus. “Part of the reason for that is, as many of you have seen, the way in which the virus escalates,” said Bridge Conference Minister The Rev. Kent Siladi. Public health officials have said that slowing the spread of the virus is necessary to avoid overwhelming hospitals.”
In my personal communication with local health professionals, I have heard similar concerns expressed about being insufficiently equipped to respond effectively to the anticipated rate of patients if voluntary steps to reduce exposure through large assemblies are not implemented in a timely fashion.
In prayer and consultation between myself, the church moderator, representatives of the Diaconate, Trustees, Safe Church Committee, and staff, a decision was reached for our church to move forward with the implementation of the Conference recommendation for the Sundays of 3/15 and 3/22. This course of action is being undertaken for the benefit of at risk members of our congregation and the wider community. Other faith communities are taking similar actions, as are many schools and senior centers.
Most other functions of the church will continue during the suspension of in-person worship services. Church staff will maintain regular office hours as much as possible. I plan to produce video sermons to be aired on the FCCW Facebook page along with other creative ways to be in fellowship in the weeks ahead.
We are all called to comfort and support one another during this time and to maintain our pledges to the ongoing expenses of the church. Feel free to call the church office with any questions you may have.
These are uncharted waters in which we now find ourselves. We are coping with unprecedented circumstances and stressors. But it is, as it always has been, times of trial such as these that have called faithful people to live their trust in God and compassion for their neighbors in bold new ways.
SOME EXPERT ADVICE ON CORONAVIRUS By Norman Lebrecht March 2, 2020
From the eminent pathologist Dr. James Robb: Date: February 26, 2020 Subject: What I am doing for the upcoming COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic. Dear Colleagues, as some of you may recall, when I was a professor of pathology at the University of California San Diego, I was one of the first molecular virologists in the world to work on coronaviruses (the 1970s). I was the first to demonstrate the number of genes the virus contained. Since then, I have kept up with the coronavirus field and its multiple clinical transfers into the human population (e.g., SARS, MERS), from different animal sources. The current projections for its expansion in the US are only probable, due to continued insufficient worldwide data, but it is most likely to be widespread in the US by mid to late March and April.
Here are what I have done and the precautions that I take and will take. These are the same precautions I currently use during our influenza seasons, except for the mask and gloves.:
1) NO HANDSHAKING! Use a fist bump, slight bow, elbow bump, etc.
2) Use ONLY your knuckle to touch light switches. elevator buttons, etc.. Lift the gasoline dispenser with a paper towel or use a disposable glove.
3) Open doors with your closed fist or hip – do not grasp the handle with your hand, unless there is no other way to open the door. Especially important on bathroom and post office/commercial doors.
4) Use disinfectant wipes at the stores when they are available, including wiping the handle and child seat in grocery carts.
5) Wash your hands with soap for 10-20 seconds and/or use a greater than 60% alcohol-based hand sanitizer whenever you return home from ANY activity that involves locations where other people have been.
6) Keep a bottle of sanitizer available at each of your home’s entrances. AND in your car for use after getting gas or touching other contaminated objects when you can’t immediately wash your hands.
7) If possible, cough or sneeze into a disposable tissue and discard. Use your elbow only if you have to. The clothing on your elbow will contain infectious virus that can be passed on for up to a week or more!
What I have stocked in preparation for the pandemic spread to the US:
1) Latex or nitrile latex disposable gloves for use when going shopping, using the gasoline pump, and all other outside activity when you come in contact with contaminated areas. Note: This virus is spread in large droplets by coughing and sneezing. This means that the air will not infect you! BUT all the surfaces where these droplets land is infectious for about a week on average – everything that is associated with infected people will be contaminated and potentially infectious. The virus is on surfaces and you will not be infected unless your unprotected face is directly coughed or sneezed upon. This virus only has cell receptors for lung cells (it only infects your lungs) The only way for the virus to infect you is through your nose or mouth via your hands or an infected cough or sneeze onto or into your nose or mouth.
2) Stock up now with disposable surgical masks and use them to prevent you from touching your nose and/or mouth (We touch our nose/mouth 90X/day without knowing it!). This is the only way this virus can infect you – it is lung-specific. The mask will not prevent the virus in a direct sneeze from getting into your nose or mouth – it is only to keep you from touching your nose or mouth.
3) Stock up now with hand sanitizers and latex/nitrile gloves (get the appropriate sizes for your family). The hand sanitizers must be alcohol-based and greater than 60% alcohol to be effective.
4) Stock up now with zinc lozenges. These lozenges have been proven to be effective in blocking coronavirus (and most other viruses) from multiplying in your throat and nasopharynx. Use as directed several times each day when you begin to feel ANY “cold-like” symptoms beginning. It is best to lie down and let the lozenge dissolve in the back of your throat and nasopharynx. Cold-Eeze lozenges is one brand available, but there are other brands available.
I, as many others do, hope that this pandemic will be reasonably contained, BUT I personally do not think it will be. Humans have never seen this snake-associated virus before and have no internal defense against it. Tremendous worldwide efforts are being made to understand the molecular and clinical virology of this virus. Unbelievable molecular knowledge about the genomics, structure, and virulence of this virus has already been achieved. BUT, there will be NO drugs or vaccines available this year to protect us or limit the infection within us. Only symptomatic support is available. I hope these personal thoughts will be helpful during this potentially catastrophic pandemic. You are welcome to share this email. Good luck to all of us!
Jim James Robb, MD FCAP Dr. Robb is a recognized expert in biospecimen science with over 50 years of experience in molecular pathology, virology, and genetics. He is board certified in anatomic pathology, clinical pathology,cytopathology, and dermatopathology. Dr. Robb is a consulting pathologist to the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and the Office of Biorepositories and Biospecimen Research (OBBR)