Dear Brothers and Sisters and Friends of Prairie Avenue Christian Church,
We continue to monitor and receive information and updates regarding COVID-19. Several adjacent counties have reported their first confirmed cases of this novel virus. As previously mentioned, it is only a matter of time before COVID-19 touches the lives of someone we know and care about, or the institutions, businesses, neighborhoods or neighbors where we live. This is an opportunity as a community of faith to respond in calm and informed ways, to practice loving kindness by taking this situation seriously and by choosing to take measures that will continue to protect our most vulnerable among us. I continue to speak to board leadership regularly to update our plan, not out of fear, but out of love and care for our faith community and the greater community of neighbors. Please read and share these prayerful, thoughtful, and realistically updated plans included here in its entirety.
The latest news and recommendations regarding best practices from national, state, and local health organizations, as well as our General and Regional Church ministries continue to support efforts to control exposure through suspending public events and group activities for the foreseeable future, possibly into April. Our priority remains education, caution, and common sense.
All of our efforts and response should not contribute to panic or anxiety, since neither is warranted or helpful. As long as interactions and gatherings are minimized, the risk of contracting COVID-19 remains extremely low, and a majority of those infected will experience mild symptoms. Please keep gathering information and receiving updates from official sources: the Illinois Department of Public Health, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the Macon County Health Department, or appropriate county agency.
I strongly recommend that you do not gather information from any social media outlet, because misinformation is frequently shared quickly through such "sources." Most professionals do not distribute helpful information through such channels, and parroting what a second-cousin twice removed has heard from a friend who knows a nurse is probably not the best first-hand information to handle and distribute. Ignore political rhetoric, or any politicians' advice of response from either party.
Now is not the time to share theological interpretations of the current crisis, i.e. "God's will," or "punishment" or "cleansing."
We will declare success when the current situation has abated and normal routines can resume, and will not dismiss well-informed decisions as either silly, overreaction, or unworthy of preparation. Our current population likely has a greater than 50% risk pool, including myself and my Lupus diagnosed son. While many small congregations have gathered this past Sunday, and encouraged those with any risk factors to stay at home, many people within the risk pool would have attended when it isn't necessary, and those who shouldn't question the personal decisions of others to stay away would have shamed the non-attendees for "lack of faith" or "overreacting." It was easier to put everyone in the same status than to effectively split between attendees and absentees as different classes of participants.
Our janitor, April Anderson, continues to regularly clean all common surfaces, doorknobs, bathroom fixtures, handles and water fountains with a bleach/water solution. We have placed hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol content in all large spaces. Since we don't know when members will drop in or do some service within the building outside of normal operating hours, we are cleaning all entrance doors with a bleach/water solution daily.
Many of the recommended practices to reduce infection of COVID-19 are routine ways to control spread of almost any seasonal illness.
Here is what you can do:
Stay home if you are sick and wait until you are 24-hours fever free (without taking fever reduction medications) and until your cough is managed without cough suppressants. Sharing your recent illness with those who are ideal candidates for becoming ill is not an ethical or practical response to love others.
Avoid close contact with someone who is sick.
Wash your hands frequently--with soap and water and for at least 20 seconds (singing the doxology should be sufficient, and remember your fingernails!)
If you must sneeze or cough, place your nose and mouth into the crook of your elbow or place a tissue to contain distribution, not your hand. Wash your hands immediately after coughing, sneezing, or blowing your nose.
Avoid touching your face, especially mouth, nose, or eyes, with unwashed hands. If you do touch your face, wash your hands or use hand sanitizer immediately afterward.
Regularly disinfect surfaces and devices you touch, including computer keyboards, desktops, doorknobs, and your cell phone.
Use alcohol-based hand sanitizer (60% alcohol or higher) and disinfectant wipes (baby wipes are neither sanitized or disinfected!) but do not over-purchase and hoard these items. Everyone deserves to have adequate safety resources. There are also alternative ways and practices (like bleach/water solutions) that while slightly less convenient, are just as effective.
Finally, and sincerely, I encourage you to pray for those infected, whether near or far, for their caretakers, and for the medical professionals and responders, and all who are anxious. Please don't become anxious. Cast your burdens upon God and do not be afraid. People of faith are not to be people of fear. People of faith should be people of hope, peace, and love in Jesus Christ. We will not let faith cloud our views with science and knowledge: we value our capacity to learn about and find methods and procedures to heal our bodies. We will not be driven by false narratives from anyone, nor prejudice against anyone. We are part of a movement for wholeness in a broken world. Our ability to care is needed in a hurting and frightened world, as it has always been, for the past two thousand years. If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact me via telephone (217) 428-3327 or email. firstname.lastname@example.org
Blessings to you all,
Rev. Jason A. Butterick
ADDITIONAL UPDATES TO PRAIRIE AVENUE COVID-19 MINISTRY PLAN (As of 3/16/2020)
All In-Person Worship Services are CANCELLED through April 1 (March 22 & 29)
Worship Services for March 22 & 29 will be ONLINE only, broadcasting via our Facebook (TM) page at 9 am each Sunday.
Decisions regarding services after April 1 will be made by Thursday, April 2. All decisions will be communicated to you via e-mail, mail, phone, or social media.
Most nursing home and senior living facilities are limiting public access to their residents. Please contact shut-ins by phone or e-mail, if available.
All in-person communion and care visits are suspended at this time.
General hospital visitation is discouraged.
Any bank or credit union bill payment program can send your contribution by direct mail. Our mailing address is 2201 E Prairie, Decatur, Illinois, 62521. You can even set up one-time or scheduled giving for the duration of the outbreak and public closure.
Contributions can be received via our website. Our website also accepts ACH & Credit/Debit Card transactions (with additional fees).
You can send your contributions by US Mail.
Other Church Operations/Functions:
Dove, Inc. Children's Clothing Room remains closed.
All other meetings, including Pastoral Support Group, and General Board meeting are cancelled.
All youth activities are cancelled through April 1.
Food pantry is by referral only.
Cancellation of other activities will be in accordance with recommendations by national, state, or local health authorities.
Drop in visits are discouraged, but staff will report in mornings 8:30 am - 1:30 pm Monday through Thursday.
If necessary, meetings will be convened by online or phone.