As you will be aware from media reports, the Australian and New Zealand governments are taking action to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) around the two nations.
The World Health Organization (WHO) earlier this week declared COVID-19 a pandemic, due to there being ‘a worldwide spread of a new disease’. However, WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus described it as ‘a controllable pandemic’.
The LCA/NZ recommends that members stay informed of developments and enact any action that may be recommended by the relevant authorities.
For information about the situation in Australia, you can visit the Department of Health website, or in New Zealand, go to the Ministry of Health site. If you are planning to travel overseas, we recommend that you refer to the Australian Government’s Smartraveller website or the New Zealand Government’s Safetravel site.
The LCA/NZ College of Bishops, in consultation with other churches, medical professionals and the Commission on Worship (CoW), has offered the church some guidelines on worship practice in response to the threat of COVID-19.
Sent to all pastors, the Guidelines on Hygiene in Worship and Guidelines for Distribution of Holy Communion can be accessed via CoW’s Worship Planning Page website here, along with a prayer petition suggestion. The ‘Intercessory Prayer in the midst of the spread of COVID-19’, which has been produced and distributed by the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) will also be made accessible through the Worship Planning Page.
Meanwhile, LWF President Archbishop Dr Panti Filibus Musa and General Secretary Rev Dr Martin Junge have written to all member churches offering prayers, support and encouragement as they face up to the challenges presented by the spread of the virus.
‘This is a time to continue trusting in God’s compassionate presence among humankind’, the Lutheran leaders say. ‘We take courage in the knowledge that God never abandons us, even if it means going through the experience of the cross. We see the cross of Christ as the sign of our strength and hope.’
Dr Mus and Dr Junge also expressed gratitude for the lead that Asian churches have offered in respect to practices for worship and gatherings. A Lutheran World Information story highlights that LWF member churches in Asia have advised congregations to act prudently and avoid spreading panic, while introducing additional hygiene measures. Read more here.