Category : * International News & Commentary

Coronavirus: The Queen’s broadcast this afternoon in full

Across the Commonwealth and around the world, we have seen heart-warming stories of people coming together to help others, be it through delivering food parcels and medicines, checking on neighbours, or converting businesses to help the relief effort.

And though self-isolating may at times be hard, many people of all faiths, and of none, are discovering that it presents an opportunity to slow down, pause and reflect, in prayer or meditation.

It reminds me of the very first broadcast I made, in 1940, helped by my sister.

We, as children, spoke from here at Windsor to children who had been evacuated from their homes and sent away for their own safety.

Today, once again, many will feel a painful sense of separation from their loved ones. But now, as then, we know, deep down, that it is the right thing to do.

Read it all.

Posted in England / UK, Health & Medicine, Politics in General

(NYT) Holdout States Resist Calls for Stay-at-Home Orders: ‘What Are You Waiting For?’

A stretch of Interstate 40, which runs from downtown Memphis across the Mississippi River into Arkansas, has come to illustrate the patchwork of rules restricting movement in the United States. On the Arkansas side of the river, where the governor has resisted a statewide mandate, some “nonessential” businesses remain open. On the Tennessee side, a stay-at-home order went into effect this week, closing stores.

Now, the owner of a chain of clothing stores called Deep South located on both sides of the Mississippi is operating under two different sets of rules. The company’s owner, Munther Awad, a 47-year-old immigrant from the Middle East, said he owned two stores in Arkansas, which are open, one in West Memphis and another in Little Rock. And he owns a third store in Memphis, which is now closed because of a local mandate last week.

“I feel like if you would have just went ahead and put the whole nation at the same time on a lockdown, we could have got some control over it,” said Lavanda Mayfield, 33, who was waiting to serve takeout to customers at the Iron Skillet restaurant at a truck stop near I-40 in West Memphis on Friday.

“But now it’s just out of control,” she said, “because you did state-to-state.”

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, State Government

(NYT) Location Data Says It All: Staying at Home During Coronavirus Is a Luxury

It has been about two weeks since the Illinois governor ordered residents to stay at home, but nothing has changed about Adarra Benjamin’s responsibilities. She gets on a bus nearly every morning in Chicago, traveling 20 miles round trip some days to cook, clean and shop for her clients, who are older or have health problems that make such tasks difficult.

Ms. Benjamin knows the dangers, but she needs her job, which pays about $13 an hour. She also cannot imagine leaving her clients to fend for themselves. “They’ve become my family,” she said.

In cities across America, many lower-income workers continue to move around, while those who make more money are staying home and limiting their exposure to the coronavirus, according to smartphone location data analyzed by The New York Times.

Although people in all income groups are moving less than they did before the crisis, wealthier people are staying home the most, especially during the workweek. Not only that, but in nearly every state, they began doing so days before the poor, giving them a head start on social distancing as the virus spread, according to aggregated data from the location analysis company Cuebiq, which tracks about 15 million cellphone users nationwide daily.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Health & Medicine, Personal Finance & Investing

(Church Times) Philip Williamson–A History of Prayer amidst Wars, famines+pandemics

National acts of special worship could be either particular prayers or whole church services. Until the 1850s, the services were for use on special fast or thanksgiving days. These were usually ordered by royal proclamation, for observance by the whole population. As they were often appointed for weekdays, all work was suspended as on Sundays.

In England and Wales, and in Ireland, these prayers and services involved departures from the Book of Common Prayer. New texts were supplied by special forms of prayer, long series of which are often found in parish records.

The original rationale for these occasions was provided by the conceptions of “special providences” and divine judgements, drawn especially from Old Testament examples of afflictions suffered under the kings of Israel. Dislocations in the natural world as well as in human affairs were seen as God’s punishments for the collective sins of the kingdom, to be assuaged by simultaneous penitence, petitionary prayers, and promises of repentance.

A preface in the forms of prayer used during plague epidemics in the 16th and 17th centuries declared:

We be taught by many and sundry examples of holy Scriptures, that upon occasion of particular punishments, afflictions, and perils, which God of his most just judgement has some times sent among his people to show his wrath against sin, and to call his people to repentance and to the redress of their lives: the godly have been provoked and stirred up to more fervency and diligence in prayer, fasting, and alms deeds, to a more deep consideration of their consciences, to ponder their unthankfulness and forgetfulness of God’s merciful benefits towards them, with craving of pardon for the time past, and to ask his assistance for the time to come to live more godly, and so to be defended and delivered from all further perils & dangers. . . (1563)

Read it all.

Posted in Church History, Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Natural Disasters: Earthquakes, Tornadoes, Hurricanes, etc., Religion & Culture, Spirituality/Prayer

Nearly 315 million Americans are in the midst of some kind of stay-at-home order as of today

Posted in America/U.S.A., City Government, Health & Medicine

(CNN) Experts tell White House coronavirus can spread through talking or even just breathing

A prestigious scientific panel told the White House Wednesday night that research shows coronavirus can be spread not just by sneezes or coughs, but also just by talking, or possibly even just breathing.

“While the current [coronavirus] specific research is limited, the results of available studies are consistent with aerosolization of virus from normal breathing,” according to the letter, written by Dr. Harvey Fineberg, chairman of a committee with the National Academy of Sciences.

Fineberg told CNN that he will wear start wearing a mask when he goes to the grocery store.

“I’m not going to wear a surgical mask, because clinicians need those,” said Fineberg, former dean of the Harvard School of Public Health. “But I have a nice western-style bandana I might wear. Or I have a balaclava. I have some pretty nice options.”

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Health & Medicine

(Stat News) Navigating the Covid-19 pandemic: We’re just clambering into a life raft. Dry land is far away

Imagine you are in a small boat far, far from shore. A surprise storm capsizes the boat and tosses you into the sea. You try to tame your panic, somehow find the boat’s flimsy but still floating life raft, and struggle into it. You catch your breath, look around, and try to think what to do next. Thinking clearly is hard to do after a near-drowning experience.

You do, though, realize two important things: First, the raft is saving your life for the moment and you need to stay in it until you have a better plan. Second, the raft is not a viable long-term option and you need to get to land.

In April 2020, the storm is the Covid-19 pandemic, the life raft is the combination of intense measures we are using to slow the spread of the virus, and dry land is the end to the pandemic.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Health & Medicine

(9 Marks) Colton Corter–4 Reflections after Listening to 18 Hours of Sermons in America’s Biggest Churches

1. The gospel at best assumed; most of the time, it’s entirely absent.

Let me begin with the most important observation: in 36 sermons, the good news of Jesus Christ’s life, death, and resurrection was unclear 36 times. Often, some or all of these facets of the Christian gospel were left out. “No gospel” became a common note. (Here’s an answer to the question you’re probably asking: What content is necessary in order to communicate the gospel?)

I don’t mean to say various elements of the gospel weren’t occasionally mentioned; they were. Todd Mullins (Christ Fellowship Church) mentions in his sermon series, “What Do You See Next?, that faith is believing in what Jesus did for you—carrying the cross, rising from the dead, etc. But none of those elements are articulated or explained. It’s unclear exactly why we need Jesus to do anything for us. Furthermore, it’s unclear exactly what he did by doing the things Mullins mentions. Isolated phrases here and there without much reference to how the Bible puts them together was the norm.

In his sermon, “The Robe of Righteousness,” Robert Morris (Gateway Church) provides a happy exception. He mentions the doctrine of imputation, stating that we aren’t worthy of God and are in need of a “balancing (of our) . . . account.” Morris goes on to say that in the gospel we get Jesus’ assets while Jesus receives our debts. That’s as close to the gospel that any of these sermons gets—and even in this instance, the true things Morris mentions are isolated from the rest of the truths that make up the gospel message. (Neither God’s holy judgment, sin, nor repentance is mentioned.)

But here’s what’s even more disheartening: in his next sermon, Morris says the Jesus who accomplished all this for us “lays down all his divinity” (“The Ring of Authority). Conspicuously missing from Morris’ explanation of what he calls “substitutionary, propitiatory, blood-bought salvation” is the response one must have to this message in order to be saved, which leads us to our next observation.

2. Repentance rarely comes across as something urgent and necessary; instead, it’s either optional or not worth mentioning at all.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Christology, Preaching / Homiletics, Religion & Culture, Soteriology, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(NYT) Restrictions Are Slowing Coronavirus Infections, New Data Suggest

Harsh measures, including stay-at-home orders and restaurant closures, are contributing to rapid drops in the numbers of fevers — a signal symptom of most coronavirus infections — recorded in states across the country, according to intriguing new data produced by a medical technology firm.

At least 248 million Americans in at least 29 states have been told to stay at home. It had seemed nearly impossible for public health officials to know how effective this measure and others have been in slowing the coronavirus.

But the new data offer evidence, in real time, that tight social-distancing restrictions may be working, potentially reducing hospital overcrowding and lowering death rates, experts said.

The company, Kinsa Health, which produces internet-connected thermometers, first created a national map of fever levels on March 22 and was able to spot the trend within a day. Since then, data from the health departments of New York State and Washington State have buttressed the finding, making it clear that social distancing is saving lives.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Health & Medicine

(Stat News) Biotech VC Bob Nelsen called it right on the coronavirus. Now he has thoughts on therapeutics — and masks

How do we get through this pandemic?

Social distancing is number one; contact tracing and antibody testing are number two; and therapeutics in the fall are number three. And then vaccines. We’re going to be fine. And I know this because the Chinese are asking me all kinds of questions about business stuff that I don’t want to answer because we’re in the middle of a pandemic.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Corporations/Corporate Life, Health & Medicine

(60 minutes) “Beyond Anything I’ve Seen In My Career”: Doctors On The Front Lines Describe Surge In Coronavirus Patients

Dr. Mangala Narasimhan is chief of critical care at Long Island Jewish Medical Center, one of 23 hospitals in the Northwell Health System.

Dr. Mangala Narasimhan: I have 18 beds in one ICU full of people on ventilators, completely sedated unable to open their eyes or interact or talk to their families. And we are feeding them through tubes, and we are completely keeping them paralyzed so that we can properly ventilate them. It’s our sickest patients, and they’re in every single room of our ICU.

The pictures in our story were shot for us by hospital staff. By the end of this past week, New York City hospitals admitted more than 5,000 COVID-19 patients. At Northwell Health hospitals, about a third of COVID-19 patients go to intensive care, often suddenly.

Dr. Mangala Narasimhan: Very quickly, within hours. They walk into the hospital, talking, or into an urgent care. And 12 hours later they’re on a ventilator, fighting for their life.

Scott Pelley: Is that unusual?

Dr. Mangala Narasimhan: Very unusual. Very unusual. We don’t see that course in progression like this with any other disease that we deal with.

Scott Pelley: How long are they staying in the ICU?

Dr. Mangala Narasimhan: Much longer than our normal patients are. Normal patients, we have three or four days of ICU stay and they leave. These patients, and this is consistent with China and with what Italy is seeing, take about two weeks on a ventilator before they can come off, if they come off.

Read or watch it all (video highly recommended as it will have more impact).

Posted in America/U.S.A., Health & Medicine, Urban/City Life and Issues

(NYT) Coronavirus Slowdown in Seattle Suggests Restrictions Are Working

The Seattle area, home of the first known coronavirus case in the United States and the place where the virus claimed 37 of its first 50 victims, is now seeing evidence that strict containment strategies, imposed in the earliest days of the outbreak, are beginning to pay off — at least for now.

Deaths are not rising as fast as they are in other states. Dramatic declines in street traffic show that people are staying home. Hospitals have so far not been overwhelmed. And preliminary statistical models provided to public officials in Washington State suggest that the spread of the virus has slowed in the Seattle area in recent days.

While each infected person was spreading the virus to an average of 2.7 other people earlier in March, that number appears to have dropped, with one projection suggesting that it was now down to 1.4.

The researchers who are preparing the latest projections, led by the Institute for Disease Modeling, a private research group in Bellevue, Wash., have been watching a variety of data points since the onset of the outbreak. They include tens of thousands of coronavirus test results, deaths, and mobility information — including traffic patterns and the movements of anonymous Facebook users — to estimate the rate at which coronavirus patients are spreading the disease to others.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Health & Medicine, Urban/City Life and Issues

(CBS) Scott Gottlieb discusses coronavirus on “Face the Nation” This Morning

GOTTLIEB: Well, we’ve said in a report that we put out today that you should wait until you see sustained reduction in the number of cases for 14 days. So 14 days after you start to see a sustained reduction in the number of daily cases, that’s the point at which you can contemplate lifting some of these measures that we have in place right now, some of these very aggressive social distancing measures. But you need to do it very gradually. You need to substitute in other things. There’s other conditions that need to be met. You need to have the ability to test the population widely so you can determine who has the infection, who doesn’t, and use case-based interventions, where you isolate individual people. You also want good information about where the virus is spreading. You need to be testing very widely to know where the virus is spreading. So those tools need to be in place. Now those tools are getting in place. I think by the end of the week, we’ll have the capacity to screen maybe as close to- close to 750,000 people a week. And in going into the week after that, maybe close to a million. The limitation on our ability to screen isn’t going to be the screening platforms themselves. We’ve now deployed a lot of sophisticated platforms, including plat- platforms into doctors’ offices. The limitation is going to be the low commodity components of testing, like the swabs or the plastic components used to actually run the tests. The manufacturing supply chain for those components is very limited right now.

Read (or watch) it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Health & Medicine, Urban/City Life and Issues

(NYT) ‘White-Collar Quarantine’ Over Virus Spotlights Class Divide

In other cases, the rich aren’t going east or west, but down. Gary Lynch, general manager of Rising S, a Texas maker of safe rooms and bunkers that range in price from $40,000 to several million dollars, said he had added a second shift of 15 workers to handle the flood of new orders, mostly for underground bunkers.

“I’ve never seen interest like there is now,” said Mr. Lynch, who has taken to turning his phone off at night so he can get some sleep. “It has not let up.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, America/U.S.A., Health & Medicine, Personal Finance & Investing

(CBC) Physical distancing has halved rate of spread of COVID-19 in British Columbia, official modelling suggests

Health officials say physical distancing restrictions in B.C. are successfully beginning to slow the rate of spread of new COVID-19 cases in the province, perhaps by as much as half.

But despite the “glimmer of hope,” provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and other officials stressed that the province is not out of the woods and the health-care system still needs to be prepared for an inevitable surge in hospitalizations.

“I’m trying not to over-call it, but I do believe we’ve seen a flattening, a falling-off of that curve,” Henry said Friday, referring to the growth of new COVID-19 patients in B.C.

“What we need, though, is for everybody to continue to pay attention to these [physical distancing] measures so we can continue to prevent transmissions in our communities … for the coming weeks.”

Read it all.

Posted in Canada, Health & Medicine

The Latest letter from the Archbishops to the Church of England on the Coronavirus Situation

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

Stay home, protect the NHS and save lives

We are writing further to you given the rapidly changing nature of the situation in our country at present. We want to thank you for the ministry you are exercising and for the creative and imaginative ways in which you are responding to the crisis and showing the love and care of Christ to the communities we serve, particularly to the most vulnerable in our society.

As we move towards Passiontide, focussing on what Jesus did for us on the cross, more than ever this is brought into stark focus. We want to reiterate the advice we have already sent. The government is asking us to stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives. We call upon all our churches and church leaders, clergy and lay, to follow this advice.

Read it all.

Posted in --Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, Archbishop of York John Sentamu, England / UK, Health & Medicine, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Parish Ministry, Politics in General

(WSJ) Robert Nicholson–A Coronavirus Great Awakening?

Could a plague of biblical proportions be America’s best hope for religious revival? As the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II approaches, there is reason to think so.

Three-quarters of a century has dimmed the memory of that gruesome conflict and its terrible consequences: tens of millions killed, great cities bombed to rubble, Europe and Asia stricken by hunger and poverty. Those who survived the war had to grapple with the kinds of profound questions that only arise in the aftermath of calamity. Gazing at the ruins from his window at Cambridge University, British historian Herbert Butterfield chose to make sense of it by turning to the Hebrew Bible.

“The power of the Old Testament teaching on history—perhaps the point at which the ancient Jews were most original, breaking away from the religious thought of the other peoples around them—lay precisely in the region of truths which sprang from a reflection on catastrophe and cataclysm,” Butterfield wrote in “Christianity and History” (1949). “It is almost impossible properly to appreciate the higher developments in the historical reflection of the Old Testament except in another age which has experienced (or has found itself confronted with) colossal cataclysm.”

Americans, chastened by the horrors of war, turned to faith in search of truth and meaning….

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Eschatology, Health & Medicine, Religion & Culture

(Gallup) Most U.S. Adults Expect Long-Term COVID19 Disruption

As COVID-19 ravages the U.S., more state and local officials are placing stringent restrictions on residents’ activities in an effort to curb the spread of the virus. Two-thirds of Americans say they are following news stories about the pandemic “very closely,” with the same percentage saying the situation has disrupted their lives — either a great deal (30%) or a fair amount (36%). Nearly as many expect it to take a few more months (51%) or longer (12%) for the level of disruption to travel, work, school and public events to improve, while 36% say it will only be a few more weeks.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Health & Medicine, Sociology

(AI) Archbishop Kaziimba’s pastoral letter asking Ugandans to work from home

Dear Bishops, Clergy, and Christians,

Praise God from whom all blessings flow!

Even in the time of coronavirus and COVID-19, all blessings flow from God and we offer praise to Him because He is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13.8) and His mercies never come to an end (Lamentations 3.22).

Today, 25th March, the Ministry of Health has reported five more confirmed cases of coronavirus in Uganda, bringing the total of confirmed cases to fourteen. Yesterday, 24th March, His Excellency, the President of Uganda, addressed the nation and reminded all of us that Uganda can defeat the enemy of coronavirus if all Ugandans will focus on three things:

Distance yourself from people who are coughing or sneezing and reduce all non-essential travel;
Wash your hands often with soap and water;
Do not touch your eyes, nose and mouth with your hands….

Read it all.

Posted in Church of Uganda, Health & Medicine, Religion & Culture, Uganda

(WSJ) China’s Progress Against Coronavirus Used Draconian Tactics Not Deployed in the West

U. S. and European leaders are looking at China’s progress in curbing the coronavirus pandemic to guide them on how to beat the virus within their own borders.

They may be drawing the wrong lessons, doctors and health experts say.

The cordon sanitaire that began around Wuhan and two nearby cities on Jan. 23 helped slow the virus’s transmission to other parts of China, but didn’t really stop it in Wuhan itself, these experts say. Instead, the virus kept spreading among family members in homes, in large part because hospitals were too overwhelmed to handle all the patients, according to doctors and patients there.

What really turned the tide in Wuhan was a shift after Feb. 2 to a more aggressive and systematic quarantine regime whereby suspected or mild cases—and even healthy close contacts of confirmed cases—were sent to makeshift hospitals and temporary quarantine centers.

The tactics required turning hundreds of hotels, schools and other places into quarantine centers, as well as building two new hospitals and creating 14 temporary ones in public buildings. It also underscored the importance of coronavirus testing capacity, which local authorities say was expanded from 200 tests a day in late January to 7,000 daily by mid-February.

The steps went beyond what’s envisioned in many hard-hit Western cities. As a result, many doctors and experts say the recent lockdowns in the U.S. and Europe may slow the rise in new infections—if properly enforced—but still won’t be enough to stop it or prevent many hospitals from being overwhelmed, as they were initially in Wuhan.

“A lot of the lessons have been lost,” said Devi Sridhar, professor of global public health at the University of Edinburgh. “A lockdown helps buy time: The only way it will work is if you actually backtrack and start figuring out who has the virus.”

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., China, Globalization, Health & Medicine

(NYT) Jessica Lustig–What I Learned When My Husband Got Sick With Coronavirus

We both wear disposable gloves. I put my hand through the crook of his arm, and we slowly start for the clinic. The day before was one of the harder ones, with T lightheaded and nauseated most of the day, eating only if I spoon-fed him, coughing more and using his albuterol inhaler more, then coughing more again. He was soaked in sweat in the morning and by evening was lying curled up, looking apprehensive. “I coughed up blood just now,” he told me quietly.

We talked to his doctor on speakerphone. “We are all kind of working blind,” he told us. Many patients, he said, seem to begin to feel better after a week. But others, the more serious and severe cases, take a downturn, and the risks rise as the virus targets the lungs. Pneumonia is a common next step in that downward progression. We read about it in the patients admitted to the hospital. Now the doctor called in a prescription for antibiotics to the CVS pharmacy that would close in less than an hour. I texted T’s friend down the block, and he texted back that he would pick up the medicine. I asked if he would get oranges too; T has been accepting a little fresh-squeezed juice or cut-up pieces, and we were down to one last orange. They suddenly seemed an unimaginably exotic treat.

The doctor told us to go back to the clinic for a chest X-ray first thing in the morning. Now we slowly walk the three blocks, T coughing behind his mask. As we move along the street, we see some other people too — fewer than a few days ago, before Gov. Andrew Cuomo directed New Yorkers to stay indoors as much as possible. Some joggers go by. Just over a week ago, that was still me. Now I point out the buds about to bloom on the branches we pass, drawing T’s attention away from the few passers-by so we won’t see if they start or turn around. A few are wearing their own masks, but they are walking upright, striding along, using them as protection for themselves. Not like us….

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Children, Health & Medicine, Marriage & Family, Urban/City Life and Issues

(NPR) When The President will see a time to reopen the economy remains a very difficult decision with many dimensions

In his Tuesday afternoon briefing with the coronavirus task force, President Trump couched earlier comments about the need to reopen the U.S. economy within weeks, emphasizing the decision would ultimately be data-driven and made in consultation with public health experts.

The president said he still wants Americans working again by Easter Sunday, something he first said during a virtual town hall with Fox earlier in the day. But he was much more circumspect over whether that would be possible from a medical standpoint.

His previous comments about reopening the economy prompted alarm among public health experts across the country, who said it’s far too early. Trump seemed to much more carefully toe the line during his briefing as he talked about “carefully and responsibly reopening the country.”

“I want to assure Americans that we have a team of public health experts … also economists and other professionals working to develop a sophisticated plan to reopen the economy as soon as the time is right, one based on the best science, the best modeling and the best medical research there is anywhere on earth,” he said.

Trump stressed that this is a “medical crisis, this isn’t a financial crisis.”

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Politics in General, President Donald Trump

Latest letter from C of E’s Archbishops on how to Proceed given the pandemic and the Government’s instructions

Following the Prime Minister’s announcement last night, it is imperative that for the health of the nation and in order for the National Health Service itself to manage the increase in those
requiring medical help, the Church of England strictly observes the new guidelines on staying at home and only making journeys that are absolutely necessary, such as shopping for essential
items and to take daily exercise.

Our church buildings must now be closed not only for public worship, but for private prayer as well and this includes the priest or lay person offering prayer in church on their own. A notice
explaining this should be put on the church door (please find template attached). We must take a lead in showing our communities how we must behave in order to slow down the spread of
the Coronavirus.

Read it all.

Posted in --Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, Archbishop of York John Sentamu, Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Health & Medicine, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture

(Science Mag) ‘I’m going to keep pushing.’ Anthony Fauci tries to make the White House listen to facts of the pandemic

Q: I’m curious about some things that aren’t happening on a national scale. One is, why are shelter in place orders happening state by state? Why are we doing this sequentially? Is that a mistake?

A: No, I don’t think we could say it’s a mistake or not a mistake. There is a discussion and a delicate balance about what’s the overall impact of shutting everything down completely for an indefinite period of time. So, there’s a compromise. If you knock down the economy completely and disrupt infrastructure, you may be causing health issues, unintended consequences, for people who need to be able to get to places and can’t. You do the best you can. I’ve emphasized very emphatically at every press conference, that everybody in the country, at a minimum, should be following the fundamental guidelines. Elderly, stay out of society in self isolation. Don’t go to work if you don’t have to. Yada, yada, yada. No bars, no restaurants, no nothing. Only essential services. When you get a place like New York or Washington or California, you have got to ratchet it up. But it is felt—and it isn’t me only speaking, it’s a bunch of people who make the decisions—that if you lock down everything now, you’re going to crash the whole society. So, you do what you can do, as best as you can. Do as much physical separation as you can and ratchet it up at the places you know are at highest risk.

Q: But I heard a guy say, if you think you’re doing too much, you’re probably doing the right amount.

A: That’s me.

Q: I know it’s you. The “15 Days to Slow the Spread” campaign doesn’t mention religious gatherings. I know Pence mentioned them yesterday. But why aren’t they on the 15 days recommendations? All these other places are mentioned.

A: It was implied in no crowds of more than 10 people. But you’re right, crowds in church are important and every time I get a chance to say it, I mention it. I can’t really criticize them strongly for that at all. When you say less than 10, it makes common sense that it involves the church. I say it publicly and even the vice president has said it publicly.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Health & Medicine, Politics in General, Science & Technology

A Rowan Williams sermon on the life and ministry of Oscar Romero on Archbishop Romero’s Feast Day

And so his question to all those who have the freedom to speak in the Church and for the Church is ‘who do you really speak for?’ But if we take seriously the underlying theme of his words and witness, that question is also, ‘who do you really feel with?’ Are you immersed in the real life of the Body, or is your life in Christ seen only as having the same sentiments as the powerful? Sentir con la Iglesia in the sense in which the mature Romero learned those words is what will teach you how to speak on behalf of the Body. And we must make no mistake about what this can entail: Romero knew that this kind of ‘feeling with the Church’ could only mean taking risks with and for the Body of Christ – so that, as he later put it, in words that are still shocking and sobering, it would be ‘sad’ if priests in such a context were not being killed alongside their flock. As of course they were in El Salvador, again and again in those nightmare years.

But he never suggests that speaking on behalf of the Body is the responsibility of a spiritual elite. He never dramatised the role of the priest so as to play down the responsibility of the people. If every priest and bishop were silenced, he said, ‘each of you will have to be God’s microphone. Each of you will have to be a messenger, a prophet. The Church will always exist as long as even one baptized person is alive.’ Each part of the Body, because it shares the sufferings of the whole – and the hope and radiance of the whole – has authority to speak out of that common life in the crucified and risen Jesus.

So Romero’s question and challenge is addressed to all of us, not only those who have the privilege of some sort of public megaphone for their voices. The Church is maintained in truth; and the whole Church has to be a community where truth is told about the abuses of power and the cries of the vulnerable. Once again, if we are serious about sentir con la Iglesia, we ask not only who we are speaking for but whose voice still needs to be heard, in the Church and in society at large. The questions here are as grave as they were thirty years ago. In Salvador itself, the methods of repression familiar in Romero’s day were still common until very recently. We can at least celebrate the fact that the present head of state there has not only apologized for government collusion in Romero’s murder but has also spoken boldly on behalf of those whose environment and livelihood are threatened by the rapacity of the mining companies, who are set on a new round of exploitation in Salvador and whose critics have been abducted and butchered just as so many were three decades back. The skies are not clear: our own Anglican bishop in Salvador was attacked ten days ago by unknown enemies; but the signs of hope are there, and the will to defend the poor and heal the wounds.

Read it all.

Posted in --El Salvador, Church History, Preaching / Homiletics, Theology

A Prayer for the Feast Day of Oscar Romero

Almighty God, who didst call thy servant Oscar Romero to be a voice for the voiceless poor, and to give his life as a seed of freedom and a sign of hope: Grant that, inspired by his sacrifice and the example of the martyrs of El Salvador, we may without fear or favor witness to thy Word who abideth, thy Word who is Life, even Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with thee and the Holy Spirit, be praise and glory now and for ever. Amen.

Posted in --El Salvador, Church History, Spirituality/Prayer

(AP) As offerings dwindle, some churches fear for their future

As in-person worship services are canceled or downsized amid the coronavirus outbreak, some churches across the U.S. are bracing for a painful drop in weekly contributions and possible cutbacks in programs and staff.

One church leader, Bishop Paul Egensteiner of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America’s Metropolitan New York Synod, said some of the 190 churches in his region were unlikely to survive because of a two-pronged financial hit. Their offerings are dwindling, and they are losing income from tenants such as preschools which can no longer afford to rent church venues.

“As much as I’d like to help them, everybody’s reserves are taking a hit because of the stock market,” Egensteiner said,

At Friendship Baptist Church in Baltimore, a mostly African American congregation of about 1,100, the Rev. Alvin Gwynn Sr. bucked the cancellation trend by holding services last Sunday. But attendance was down by about 50%, and Gwynn said the day’s offering netted about $5,000 compared to a normal intake of about $15,000.

“It cuts into our ministry,” he said. “If this keeps up, we can’t fund all our outreach to help other people.”

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Economy, Health & Medicine, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Parish Ministry, Personal Finance, Religion & Culture, Stewardship

(NYT) Britain Placed Under a Virtual Lockdown by Boris Johnson

Facing a growing storm of criticism about his laissez-faire response to the fast-spreading coronavirus, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced on Monday that he would place Britain under a virtual lockdown, closing all nonessential shops, banning meetings of more than two people, and requiring people to stay in their homes, except for trips for food or medicine.

People who flout the new restrictions, the prime minister said, will be fined by the police.

The steps, which Mr. Johnson outlined in a televised address to the nation, bring him into alignment with European leaders like President Emmanuel Macron of France and Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, who have all but quarantined their countries in a desperate bid to slow the outbreak.

“No prime minister wants to enact measures like this,” a grave Mr. Johnson said. “I know the damage that this disruption is doing and will do to people’s lives, to their businesses and to their jobs.”

But while these were the most draconian restrictions placed on the British people since World War II, Mr. Johnson is still leaving a bit of breathing room.

Read it all. Also, those interested may read Mr. Johnson’s full remarks there.

Posted in England / UK, Health & Medicine

(WSJ) Tevi Troy–A Minyan in the Time of Social Distancing

Losing a parent is always difficult, especially as important financial and religious arrangements must be made during a time of intense grief. A global pandemic doesn’t help. But when my mother died on March 3, my family still had no idea how difficult it would be to stay safe while still honoring her in the Jewish tradition.

The Jewish response to death is communal. The local community comes together to support the mourners, who open up their home for a week of shiva. During this time the kaddish, or Jewish prayer for the dead, is recited at services three times a day. The mourner then may leave the home but remains obligated to say the kaddish three times daily for 11 months. According to Jewish law, these obligations must be fulfilled in the presence of a minyan, or prayer quorum of 10 men over the age of 13.

The current coronavirus crisis creates a challenge for those wishing to adhere to these Jewish mourning customs, especially in light of Judaism’s prioritization of public and individual health over ritual obligation. In Maryland, where I live, synagogues closed their doors last weekend to services and other community activities. In New Jersey, communities could not have communal prayer services in the home or even outdoors. In the interest of safety, similar changes are occurring throughout the country.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Children, Death / Burial / Funerals, Judaism, Marriage & Family, Religion & Culture

(New Republic) Alex Shephard–The Pandemic Movie of Our Time Isn’t Contagion. It’s Jaws.

There is nothing fast-paced about the coronavirus. For months, dread has slowly accumulated in my midsection. Every day brings a succession of new anxieties about the virus and the economy; about my family and friends; about my hands and the many, many things they touch, particularly my face. Above all, there is the sense that everything that is bad today will be worse tomorrow. And the movie that best reflects that reality is not Contagion but Steven Spielberg’s Jaws.

It is notable that the shark is barely in the movie, appearing for all of four minutes. This was not by design. Initially, Spielberg had three mechanical sharks made, but they looked hokey and frequently broke down. He was forced to embrace his inner Hitchcock, rarely showing the movie’s titular villain. As a result, the shark was more of an invisible threat, which turned out to be even scarier. “The visual ellipsis,” Molly Haskell wrote in her critical biography of Spielberg, “created far greater menace and terror, as the shark is nowhere and everywhere.” Sound familiar? If Jaws had been made only a few years later, we would have almost certainly been burdened with a CGI shark. Forty years after its release, the movie’s great white works as a metaphor as well as it does as a shark.

One of the strangest things about the coronavirus panic is how normal everything seems. Even with few people going out, my neighborhood looks the way it does on a Sunday morning. The difference is that I’m bombarded by a constant stream of push alerts and texts. That is a key part of what makes Jaws work. Even when everything appears fine, you know that terror is lurking just beneath the surface.

Our world is also divided between the types that Jaws establishes. There is Roy Scheider’s Sheriff Brody: apprehensive, well-meaning, but out of his depth. Then there is Richard Dreyfuss’s chatty Spielberg stand-in, Dr. Hooper: jittery, neurotic, a sudden expert on whatever topic is in front of him. The scene in which Brody, a transplanted New York cop who is afraid of boats and open water, comes home to spend the evening reading about sharks, feels particularly relevant. Set in 2020, he would be scrolling Twitter for updates—or, for that matter, watching Contagion.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Health & Medicine, History, Movies & Television