How DC Churches Responded When the Government Banned Public Gatherings During the Spanish Flu of 1918

1918: "DC churches responded by calling an emergency meeting of the Protestant ministers....they 'voted unanimously to accede to the request of the District Commissioners that churches be closed in the city.' As The Evening Star reported the next day that the 'Pastors Federation of Washington' would comply with and support the safety measures called for by the city." - 9 Marks

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Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

Jim's picture

Redeemer Bible Church - Minneapolis

We are planning to hold our Sunday morning service this Sunday at 10:30 AM, but please read what follows VERY carefully:

  • There will be no Sunday School.
  • We are setting up the ability to livestream the service, so check your email for a link and instructions before Sunday morning.
  • If you are not feeling well, please stay home and watch the service online.
  • If you have a compromised immune system, please stay home and watch the service online.
  • If you fall into the high risk age category (60 years and above) for COVID-19, please stay home and watch the service online.
  • If you have visited an area within the last 14 days identified by the CDC as Level 3 Travel Health Notice, please stay home and watch the services online. 
  • For those who choose to attend, please refrain from shaking hands, hugging, or greeting each other with a holy kiss :-). We certainly encourage you to be friendly, but to also exercise caution in how you physically interact with each other.
TylerR's picture

Editor

Our team is meeting this evening to discuss our approach. Basically, we're having services this Sunday then suspending all meetings until at least 05 April, and likely longer.

  • We're in WA, which has 568 cases and 37 deaths. The Governor has declared a state of emergency and cancelled all K-12 schools statewide until 24 April. The county with the majority of deaths is one hour north. We now have three positive cases in our county; up from just one confirmed yesterday.
  • During this period, we will do the Sunday sermons live on YouTube and provide the live link to the church to watch. That means I'll just do the sermon in front of my laptop on Sundays.
  • We may do Sunday School. We do this in an interactive format, and we'd do it via Zoom if we choose to go forward with it.
  • I'm expecting to have to cancel Palm Sunday, Good Friday and Easter services.

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

TylerR's picture

Editor

I have a draft letter that's going out to the congregation tomorrow. This is what part of it says, to give you an indication of the situation here:

We're closing the building at least until 05 April, after services this Sunday. Here is what is compelling us to take this step:

  • According to the WA State Department of Health, there are now 568 cases of COVID-19 in WA State and 37 deaths; the majority of which have been in King County. There are 67 cases that WA Department of Health haven't yet assigned to a particular county.
  • According to the Thurston County Public & Social Health Services, there are now three confirmed cases in Thurston County; up from one yesterday. Because the first confirmed case in Thurston County was only two days ago, I expect the number in Thurston County to rise dramatically.
  • On 11 March, Governor Inslee canceled all large gatherings of 250+ people in King, Pierce and Snohomish counties.
  • On 12 March, Governor Inslee canceled all public school in King, Pierce and Snohomish counties.
  • On 12 March, Thurston County declared a public emergency and banned all public gatherings of 250+ people, and required all smaller gatherings to implement social distancing.
  • On 13 March, in a remarkable press conference, Governor Inslee canceled all public and private K-12 schools Statewide. He did likewise for all public and private universities, colleges, technical colleges, apprenticeship institutes, etc.

This virus spreads much like the flu. WA State and, more particularly, Thurston County’s ability to treat infected individuals depends on the hospital system not being overwhelmed with a large influx of patients at one time. The system is more apt to survive and provide resources for patients if the impact is distributed over a longer period of time. This is why there is a push to restrict social gatherings. If we stop getting together, we dramatically lower the risk of infection. By doing so, we help our local public health system cope with the storm that’s about to break in Thurston County.

For all these reasons, we’re closing the building after services, this coming Sunday. Governor Inslee is closing all schools until 24 April. We are closing at least until 05 April, but this will likely change as the situation develops in Thurston County.

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Mark_Smith's picture

I was wondering how things were going up there for you. Stay well and keep preaching!

I pray for your church, your family, and your state.

TylerR's picture

Editor

Here is the letter I sent the church. Here is the video I sent the church. Here is the Facebook announcement I posted. So far, I have received criticism from two individuals as follows:

  • We aren't trusting God
  • The government can't be trusted
  • We are panicking
  • We should institute evening services immediately and meet as often as possible throughout the crisis
  • We are forsaking the assembling of ourselves together
  • The church should have all voted on the closure as a body

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Mark_Smith's picture

I would say don't sweat the naysayers, but you probably should keep both eyes open just in case. I say you did a wise thing. I once heard a pastor say about the sovereignty of God with respect to illness and such that it was amazing how in the days before OSHA and reasonable safety precautions around machinery, it was "God's will" to take so many limbs... but since people put in place shields and safeguards it seems to be "less His will" to cut off arms.

I think that logic and wisdom applies here.

Keep moving forward brother!

Mark_Smith's picture

in my Sunday School class which meets in a tiny room I know there are 2 adults who just returned from a European trip this week... With all due respect to them, I know they have no clue about quarantining themselves out of respect for others. I am considering not going to class with them there. Problem: I am the teacher.

TylerR's picture

Editor

In the past 24 hours, confirmed cases in WA grew by 55, to 642 total. Fatalities also rose by 3, to 40 total. This is why we're closing.

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Praying for you all out there.

Churchwise, it's still business as usual here in rural Wisconsin, but we'll see what happens. I'm still hearing a lot of skepticism that this thing is anything more than "media hype" etc. We'll see how long that lasts.

In my day job, got word from upper management this afternoon that we're all to work remotely this week. (For me, this is actually a productivity multiplier)

 

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.