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Churches across the country and around the world are scrambling to adequately and effectively respond to the novel coronavirus/COVID-19, which has now caused the death of more than 100 people in the U.S. (as of this writing) with more than 5,800 people infected. Schools are closed. Many businesses and offices have instituted telework or have also closed. College students have been sent home for the semester. Graduations have been canceled. Church doors have been closed and services have moved online. As the hymn says, “In times like these you need a Savior. In times like these you need an anchor…” 

In this moment of national and global crisis, the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA (NCC) is encouraged and inspired by the strength and resilience being shown by its 38 member communions during the COVID-19 pandemic.  Late last week, institutions, businesses, and houses of worship were confronted by the urgent need to fundamentally alter their work in order to meet the challenge of containing this pandemic. Our churches have responded with love, grace, creativity and attentiveness to the spiritual, emotional and physical needs of congregants. 

Churches everywhere are working to implement necessary social distancing while attending to the need to provide pastoral care and a loving community.  We are encouraged by the devotion faith leaders everywhere are exemplifying in the midst of this crisis and commend churches that are working for the health and safety of all persons. In a broader sense, NCC and its member communions are also advocating for just policies for those who are incarcerated, the elderly and low-wage and hourly workers as well as those whose income comes from “gigs,’ all of whom are particularly vulnerable during this crisis.

Even as we are encouraged, we are painfully aware of the difficulties being endured because of this virus, which disproportionately affects our society’s most vulnerable persons. Facilities that provide services for the aging are becoming places of greater isolation and despair.  Persons experiencing homelessness are particularly at risk, and we are concerned that necessary medical services will not be available to those who do not have health coverage and cannot pay for them. As government officials ponder economic aid during this crisis, we urge Congress and the president to do so with an eye to helping those who are most in need. 

In addition, this pandemic has affected the life of the church and has interrupted the work of so many of our institutions, including the NCC.  We offer this partial list of faith events that have been postponed or canceled. As gatherings of people have been limited in order to abide by “social distancing” guidelines, key events have been either canceled or indefinitely postponed.

The NCC has closed its offices for two weeks with staff continuing to work remotely during this time.  All staff travel has been temporarily halted.

In addition to these steps to enact social distancing and limit the spread of the coronavirus, NCC member communions have published guidelines and statements regarding the current crisis:

As we cope with this crisis during our Lenten season, we urge everyone to collectively and sacrificially be the church by engaging in these best practices:

NCC hopes to be a source of encouragement and information for you during this crisis. We will post daily scriptures from our Uniform Series, post prayers and interview church leaders on our podcast. We will also list major announcements and closings on our website, and on social media.  If you would like your organization’s announcement included in this list, please email Rev. Steven D. Martin, Director of Communications and Development.

This situation is fluid and developing rapidly. It is a crisis like none we’ve experienced in our lifetime. But, we are all in this together and we will make it through knowing that God is with us and grace and mercy abound.