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In wake of Coronavirus, local faith leaders urge caution and compassion

By Tracy Simmons

With 10 deaths and 39 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the Seattle area as of March 5, it’s clear Washington State is ground zero for the Coronvirus and faith leaders in Spokane are taking action.

On Thursday morning Bishop Thomas Daly of the Catholic Diocese of Spokane issued a statement urging pastors to cease the passing of the peace during services and to refrain from distributing wine during Eucharist.

“Although it is likely the infection will continue to spread, experts still indicate the risk of this new virus to the general public remains low.  Vigilance is nonetheless warranted,” he wrote. 

Daly also urged clergy to drain, or at least frequently clean, holy water fonts.

Although taking precautions are important, local faith leaders say it’s also a time to practice compassion.

“The church of Jesus Christ has always called us to offer help and not be fearful,” said the Rev. Heather Tadlock of Bethany Presbyterian Church. “Our prayer is that overall we would turn toward each other and not away.”

In an email to her congregation she echoed Daly in reminding them to practice safety measures, but emphasized leaning on their wisdom to stand up against racism.

She said her church has been focused on doing their part to dismantle racism and white supremacy and because of the COVID 19 outbreak, there’s been an uptick in racism and xenophobia against persons of Asian descent.

“We need to be mindful of that in ourselves and as we notice it in conversations with others and do our part to tamp that down,” Tadlock said.

She added that she’s also praying for those with inadequate healthcare during this time.

In an email to his congregation, Rev. Geoff Helton of Audubon Park Methodist Church also called for prayer.

“I would ask you to be in prayer for those impacted by this dangerous disease that God might bring healing and comfort to those who are afflicted or who lose loved ones,” he wrote.

He added that the CDC recommendations to stay home if you don’t feel well or are especially vulnerable and discouraged church potlucks for the time being.

Rev. Gen Heywood of Faith Leaders and Leaders of Conscious reminds worshipers that situation will pass and said everyone needs to follow the direction of trained scientists working to solve the situation.

“We have an opportunity to use our hearts, minds, and souls and practice what we believe. It is an opportunity to use our hearts in acts of love for our neighbor. It is an act of a loving heart to not go to work when you are sick. It is an act of neighborly love to listen and follow the directions of our local Health Board and providers,” she said. “It is an act of love to use our minds and take seriously the threat while still checking in on neighbors and friends. Lastly, it is an act of love to let our souls reach out to the Divine in prayer, thought, or mediation to ask for illumination for all those helping to ease suffering.”

For up-to-date information on the virus outbreak visit the CDC website.

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About Tracy Simmons

Tracy Simmons is an award winning journalist specializing in religion reporting, digital entrepreneurship and social journalism. In her 15 years on the religion beat, Simmons has tucked a notepad in her pocket and found some of her favorite stories aboard cargo ships in New Jersey, on a police chase in Albuquerque, in dusty Texas church bell towers, on the streets of New York and in tent cities in Haiti.
Simmons has worked as a multimedia journalist for newspapers across New Mexico, Texas and Connecticut. She serves as the executive director of SpokaneFAVS.com, a digital journalism start-up covering religion news and commentary in Spokane, Wash. She is also a Scholarly Assistant Professor at Washington State University.

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