COVID-19: Churches in Asia advise for prudence in COVID19 outbreak

Chapel of the Christian Council in Malaysia. Churches in Asia have advised their members to introduce measures at worship to ensure good hygiene, but to avoid spreading panic. Photo: LWF/C. Rendón
Chapel of the Christian Council in Malaysia. Churches in Asia have advised their members to introduce measures at worship to ensure good hygiene, but to avoid spreading panic. Photo: LWF/C. Rendón

"Encourage Faith and Caution”

(LWI) - LWF member churches in Asia have advised congregations to act prudently and avoid spreading panic, while introducing additional hygienic measures.

The Lutheran Church in Singapore advised congregations to ensure they have non-contact thermometers, face masks and hand sanitizers, to come early for temperature screenings and to avoid close contact or sharing of eating utensils. “Some congregations temporarily canceled the fellowship lunch to minimize person to person contact,” Bishop Terry Kee of the Lutheran Church in Singapore related to the LWF.

Hygiene and social media use

 LWF

Temperature check at a congregation in Singapore before worship. Photo: LWF

“Some congregations tried out online live streaming of the Worship Service so those not well can worship from home with the rest of the church now and can still worship should the Risk Assessment turns RED. They also tried out online/QR Code payment systems for offering,” Bishop Kee adds.

The leadership of the Lutheran Church in Malaysia (LCM) in a pastoral letter has asked their members and congregations to stay level headed and not support the spreading of fear and rumours in the current situation. In his pastoral word of encouragement, shared with all LCM congregations in Malaysia, the LCM secretary and Acting bishop Rev. Thomas Low on 10 February reminded his fellow Christians of the words in the Sermon on the Mount: “You are the salt of the earth. (…) You are the light of the world.” (Matthew 5, 13-14)

Together with advice on how to practise good hygiene, the letter strongly speaks out against following and spreading unconfirmed and sensational information, adding to an “atmosphere of fear, tinged with a sense of panic.” The letter asks fellow Christians to “be responsible and discerning in our behaviour and actions”, to verify information before forwarding it, and to ask themselves if the news they are sharing are helpful to the recipient. “We need to be the salt of the earth to give flavor of hope to our neighbors,” the letter admonishes.

In Hong Kong, church services have been cancelled or are being streamed digitally. "All other church programs and gatherings have been cancelled. Most kinds of pastoring and fellowship, including Sunday worship, can only be done via internet or telephone," Leon Chau, General Secretary of the Chinese Rhenish Church Hong Kong Synod, writes. But while physical contact is discouraged, the church has come together to care for those in need: "We gather daily supplies for the elderly and the poor, encouraging members to share what they have, rather than stocking up for longer than one or two months. Ministers are encouraged to spend more time caring via the internet, phone or even in person. In our homes for the elderly, counselors and ministers spend more time talking with residents in their rooms, while wearing a mask and washing their hands carefully." 

"Let us be that light”

“We encouraged faith and caution,” Bishop Kee from Singapore says. “We share information on the virus and update not only the number of new cases but more importantly, the number recovered and discharged from ICU and hospitals.”

Let us be witness of hope, encouragement, generosity, patience and prayer.
Rev Thomas Low, Acting bishop LCM

“This crisis will come to an end, it will blow over,” the LCM letter concludes. “But the witness that we bear as children of God in this crisis is even more important. Let us be witness of hope, encouragement, generosity, patience and prayer. It is in the deepest darkness that light shines brightest. Let us be that light.”

Solidarity from Indonesia youth

 Rev Melina Agustina/GLKI

A solidarity parcel: Youth in Indonesia collected 2,211 surgical masks for their fellow Christians in Hong Kong. Photo: Pastor Melina Agustina/GLKI

A special package of solidarity just made its way from Indonesia to Hong Kong: The Lutheran Youth Network in Indonesia, formed by the Indonesian National Committee, has collected 2,211 surgical masks and 10 large packs of sanitizers for their fellow Lutherans in Hong Kong. “We thank the Lutheran Youth network in Indonesia and also all donors who contributed,” says Evangelist Melina Agustina from the Christian Lutheran Church in Indonesia (GKLI). The group faced difficulties in shipping and with customs in Hong Kong, but managed to get the package on the way.

“Without any clear indication that the spread of the coronavirus is ending anytime soon, Asian communities, including our member churches, are experiencing difficult times,” says Rev. Dr Philip Lok Oi Peng, LWF Regional Secretary for Asia. “Even though we are encouraged to reduce physical contact with our friends, colleagues or church members, I believe that our member churches will be drawn closer together as a Communion to face these challenges together.”

 

By LWF Communications/ Cornelia Kästner

 

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