World Council of Churches, WCC, general secretary, Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit and WCC moderator, Dr Agnes Abuom, have urged people and churches to give highest priority to “doing whatever we can do to protect life” and “ask churches not to have public services tomorrow as this can become hubs of transmission of the virus” and to follow strictly the rules and guidelines from authorities based on WHO guidelines.
Tveit and Abuom ask the fellowship to reconsider their way of working. “We must also be particularly aware that exactly what we normally do, in community, is what we should not do now if we want to protect life. We value togetherness in worship and Christian fellowship. But in this time of crisis, and out of love for each other and the neighbor, we should not gather in great numbers together, if at all, nor touch or embrace each other.”
They added: “This is a time to touch each other’s hearts, by what we say, what we share, what we do – and what we do not do – to protect the life God loves so much. In that love, we must adapt our modes of worship and fellowship to the needs of this time of the pandemic, in order to avoid the risk of becoming sources of transmission rather than means of grace.”
Tveit and Abuom invite the fellowship to make the Sunday as a day for prayers for the most vulnerable people as refugees, elderly and people affected by COVID19, to pray for the entire fellowship, and one human family worldwide.
Tveit and Abuom “commend to all of you the advice and practical recommendations offered by intergovernmental and governmental health authorities to help protect the vulnerable in our communities and others.”
In a similar development, a historic joint pastoral statement released on March 26, the World Council of Churches and Regional Ecumenical Organizations affirmed the urgency of standing together to protect life amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
For the first time ever, all regions in the ecumenical movement around the world are standing together with a common message that urges both prayers and action for one world to protect life.
“We urge people everywhere to give highest priority to addressing this situation and assisting in whatever ways we can in our collective efforts to protect life,” the statement reads.
For the sake of God’s love, “it is important and urgent that we adapt our modes of worship and fellowship to the needs of this time of pandemic infection, in order to avoid the risk of becoming sources of viral transmission rather than means of grace,” stated the global ecumenical leaders.
The ecumenical leaders recalled, “Our faith in the God of life compels us to protect life” and continued, “Let us manifest God’s unconditional love in safe, practical ways that protect life, alleviate suffering, and ensure that churches and public services do not become hubs of transmission of the virus.”
The leaders of the global and regional ecumenical organizations affirmed that physical distancing does not mean spiritual isolation, and they urged churches all over the world to review their role in society by safely ministering to, providing for and caring for the poor, the sick, the marginalized, and the aged – especially all those who are most at risk due to COVID-19.
The general secretaries further stated, “People in many parts of the world have become homebound these days. Being homebound does not mean that we cannot experience a deep spiritual solidarity with each other, by virtue of our baptism into the one body of Christ.”
The statement suggests praying at home, giving thanks to God for strength, healing, and courage. “We can show our love for God and our neighbor by not gathering in person for public worship,” reads the text. “Many congregations can share their worship gatherings online or digitally. Members and pastors can also stay in touch with each other and provide pastoral care by telephone.”
The novel coronavirus pandemic has reached all the regions of our planet, the text continues. “There are fear and panic, pain and suffering, doubt and misinformation, about both the virus and our response as Christians,” the text reads. “Amid stories of suffering and tragedy, there are also stories of simple kindness and extravagant love, of solidarity and the sharing of hope and peace in innovative and surprising ways.”
The general secretaries also urged all to consider the needs of the most vulnerable people in the world. “In the midst of this grave crisis, we lift up prayers for those providing leadership and for governments around the world, urging them to give priority concern to those who live in poverty as well as to the marginalized and refugees living in our midst,” the statement concluded.