In response to the increasing number of COVID-19 cases in Washington state, where at least 16 people have already died from the disease, Seattle Presbytery has sent a notice to congregational leaders that “it’s time to cancel worship.”
The co-executives of Seattle Presbytery, Eliana Maxim and Scott Lumsden, sent an announcement to pastors and congregational leaders on March 6 stating that “the prudent path is to cancel worship until further notice.” The presbytery executives say they lament the recommendation to cancel, but “believe in our hearts that it’s in the best interest of our community, our neighbors, our parishioners, our family, and our friends.”
The executives also wrote that “by cancelling worship, we come in line with the latest recommendations of King County Health Department to ‘cancel large gatherings.’ ”
The Office of the General Assembly announced on March 5 that it is delaying registration for the 2020 General Assembly, scheduled for June 20-27 in Baltimore, until at least March 24 to monitor the fast-evolving COVID-19 situation.
Since the announcement was sent March 6, “two more individual members of different congregations have been hospitalized with the virus,” Maxim said in an email.
Here is the text of the notice that the Seattle Presbytery executives sent on Friday.
March 6, 2020
MARCH 6, 2020: IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENT TO SEAPRES CHURCHES REGARDING WORSHIP & GATHERINGS
Pastors and Leaders in Seattle Presbytery,
It is time to cancel regular worship.
Eliana and I, as pastoral leaders in this presbytery lament this conclusion, but believe in our hearts that it’s in the best interest of our community, our neighbors, our parishioners, our family, and our friends.
Jeremiah told us to “seek the welfare of the city…and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.” (29:7) So let us turn our corporate worship into prayers for our community.
To be clear, by canceling worship, we come in line with the latest recommendations of King County Health Department to “cancel large gatherings.”
We appreciate all the good work your churches have done to mitigate the spread of this virus, and know that many of you are taking precautions for worship this Sunday.
But if you’re asking for our advice, we believe the more prudent path is to cancel worship until further notice. We do not know how long churches should do this, and if pastors and leaders want to pray together or discuss long term decisions, let’s figure that out.
Please don’t hesitate to let us know if there’s anything we can do to help.
As always, you are in our prayers,