Dear Greenwood Forest Family,
We are writing today to share some decisions we are making in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. We have been carefully following the news about the spread of COVID, and remain in prayer for situations around the world. The situation here in North Carolina is very fluid. As we write this, the NC Department of Health and Human Services is reporting 14 cases in North Carolina, and we expect Governor Cooper to make more recommendations about community measures this afternoon. So, we ask that you bear with us and continue to check your email for further updates in the days ahead.
Greenwood Forest is a community that cares about the most vulnerable people in our world. We believe that the mission of God is to be in solidarity with the vulnerable, to listen deeply to the concerns and needs of those on the margins, and to respond faithfully and compassionately. In the midst of this crisis, our identity as people who act with and for the vulnerable is guiding us. We must all take active and extraordinary steps to protect those who are most at risk from this virus, including senior adults, people who are immunosuppressed, and people with other medical conditions. This concern is guiding all our decisions. If we step out in faith now and take drastic action, we can save lives.
With that in mind, here are the actions we will be taking as a church community:
- All in-person services and programs are canceled this Sunday, March 15. We will re-evaluate early next week for the coming weeks. This may seem drastic and/or premature, but based on what we are hearing from other areas where the pandemic is further along, early and aggressive social distancing is the most effective way to limit the spread of the virus, prevent overwhelming our healthcare system, and save lives. The service will be live-streamed so we can all worship together; the link for the live stream is as follows: gfbccary.org/worship/live. Stay tuned for an email that will include a bulletin for the live-stream service.
- Along the same lines, the office will be closed to the public (including church members) until further notice. We want to minimize the amount of interaction with the building and each other we are having per social distancing recommendations.
- All meetings will be conducted via video or teleconference. This includes the scheduled meetings for next week with Allan Burton from Hope Manifest.The relevant committee chairs will be in touch about their meetings. Please be attentive to your email and other forms of electronic communication as we try to continue doing what church business we are able to do.
- We are temporarily stopping in-person visitation. This was a difficult decision to make, but we feel strongly that for the protection of people who are at risk, this is the safest option. As your pastors who have come in contact with a lot of people, we don’t want to be the ones to pass the virus to our congregants, many of whom are in at-risk populations. We will do whatever we can to be attentive to pastoral care needs via phone and email. The exception to this will be in the case of someone who is actively dying. Our Congregational Care Ministry will also not be making visits until further notice.
As we practice social distancing measures, here are some further recommendations for our life together:
- Resist racist responses to COVID-19 and support/check-in on affected neighbors. Asian people are not more likely than others to have COVID-19. Labeling this virus as Wuhan virus, Chinese coronavirus, or foreign virus inaccurately stigmatizes certain populations. Be aware of your own internal biases and try to correct others in love. Check in on and express your solidarity with your neighbors who are affected by this stigma.
- Do things to mitigate loneliness in the midst of social distancing measures. Call, text, email your friends and others you know who are being affected by this pandemic. Many people who are immunosuppressed right now are experiencing a lot of fear. Many peoples’ lives and routines are being interrupted. As we practice social distancing and quarantining, we are all at risk of feeling the negative effects of such isolation. Be intentional about caring for each other in the midst of this.
- If you need financial assistance in order to take sick leave during this pandemic, contact one of the ministers. In addition to people whose health is at risk, the response to COVID-19 threatens the financial stability of people without adequate sick leave policies. The Missions Assistance Fund was designed to address needs like this in our congregation. Ensuring that people can stay home from work when they are symptomatic is vital to everyone’s safety so we are prepared to assist you with that if you need it. You can give online and designate it to the MAF here.
- Continue to practice hygiene recommendations from the CDC including washing your hands frequently and thoroughly, disinfecting high traffic areas in your home, covering coughs and sneezes with your elbow or a tissue, and refraining from touching your face.
- Give online or mail your tithes/gifts to the church. It will be important in the coming weeks that we continue to financially support the work of the church even though we are not meeting in person. You can give online here, set up an automatic draft with your bank, or mail your check to 110 SE Maynard Rd. Cary, NC 27511.
Please consult public officials for the most up-to-date information as events unfold. If you’d like further information, here are some informational articles:
- "Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) advice for the public" from the World Health Organization
- "Steps to Prevent Illness" from the Center for Disease Control
- "What Is Social Distancing? How Staying Away From Others Can Help Stop The Coronavirus Spread," from Buzzfeed News
- "NC Coronavirus Q&A: We answer your questions about symptoms, events, pets and more" from the Raleigh News and Observer
As we all struggle with many unknowns right now, let’s do all that we can to comfort one another as we journey through this together. Remember whatever wilderness we walk through, our God goes with us. Keep loving one another well. We will be in touch with any updates to this letter in the coming days.
Love and grace and peace-
Rev. Lauren Efird
Rev. Dr. Stephen Stacks
Rev. Wesley Spears-Newsome
Dr. Rick Hoyle, Chair of Deacons