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Join us this Thursday, April 23rd at 7pm for

Covid Correction:  Conversation to Correct the Myths about the Corona Virus 

Click here for more information on how to connect via Zoom to this online discussion.

 

 

During this time of crisis, Sunday Worship Gatherings have temporarily been suspended. 

Please click here to read a letter about our Online Services.

 

Sunday Morning virtual services will be on YouTube at 11:00am.  Click here to view.

        

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This information is from Dr. Chris Conti, pastor of the Emmanuel Baptist Church in Rankin.  It is a “must read!”

COVID-19 AND THE CHURCH

**DISCLAIMER:  I can only offer comments from the perspective of my Christian faith but I believe that much of this discussion is applicable for any of our multiple faith-based practices

As I sit here at work having spent the weekend recovering from an incredibly physically and emotionally draining week at work, after having reviewed countless pieces of relevant and credible data regarding COVID-19, I offer these observations & recommendations as both a Lead Pastor and as a skilled and highly trained emergency physician on the front lines.

I make no apologies for these statements or the proverbial  feathers that might be ruffled.

FACT:  Every pathogen has a weakness.  For bacteria, there may be flaws in its design that make it vulnerable to chemicals called antibiotics. Additionally, certain bacteria can only survive in certain parts of the body.   For viruses like Ebola, the flaw is in its lethality— the virus kills so fast and completely that there is little time for rapid spread, because infected individuals don’t survive long enough to transmit the virus to multiple people.   For SARS-CoV-2, the weakness is that it requires “clusters” of people… people in close proximity to & contact with one another— a weakness only if clusters of people can be minimized or even illuminated.

FACT:  although social distancing does significantly reduce transmission, the exponential rise in cases globally suggests that even greater levels of isolation/Quarantine  are required in order to stem the tide of new cases which is WHY PEOPLE MUST STAY HOME IF AT ALL POSSIBLE.

FACT:  it has become more evident that a higher than initially thought number of patients are considered “pre-symptomatic positives“, meaning that for an average of 2-5 days, these patients have no symptoms and do not feel sick; but have very high viral loads and therefore are able to infect dozens of people unwittingly.  It is estimated that within the population there are 10-12% of patients who meet this “pre-symptomatic positive“ designation who will never get tested because they do not meet current guideline-based criteria.

FACT:  There 35 identified Christian denominations in the United States with 100,000 local congregations and 45,000,000 congregants.

FACT:  The average Christian church congregation in the United States has between 50 and 75 regular-attendees.

FACT:  approximately 30% of the American Christian church congregation population is over the age of 60.

FACT:  it is estimated that 52% of American adults are overweight or obese, approximately 30% have hypertension, 8% have asthma, 5% have COPD/emphysema, and approximately 3% of Americans documented compromised immune systems secondary to one condition or another.  There’s no reason to think that the United States Christian church population, or any other church congregation for that matter, somehow has a different distribution of these pathology’s.  These above-mentioned conditions are all considered high-risk conditions with respect to COVID-19 and the increased likelihood of developing complications such as pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome and acute respiratory distress syndrome— the three conditions that contribute to over 90% of the ICU admissions, ventilator dependence and deaths due to COVID-19.

FACT:  The above-numbers suggest that Christian church congregations have a considerable number of COVID-19 at-risk/vulnerable individuals with in the congregational cluster that gathers together.

FACT:  over 75% of Christian churches with at least 50 members utilize web-based technology either in the form of a website, mobile app, or social media platform.

FACT:  in Pennsylvania, where I both practice and Pastor, the governor has identified organized churches as “essential businesses“ and has left the decision regarding staying open up to church leaders.

WHAT IT MEANS:  When churches continue to encourage gathering-together, they are creating “clusters“ of people, many of whom are of “pre-symptomatic positives“ and many of whom are considered high risk or vulnerable.  The church has unwittingly become a venue that represents a perfect storm for transmission. This would be less problematic if a congregation, after gathering together, stayed sequestered together for the duration of this pandemic and did not disperse back into the community.

The problem arises when the gathering of people “un-clusters“ and scatters back into the community... with upwards of 12% now scattering either already positive but pre-symptomatic or newly infected and soon-to-be pre-symptomatically positive.  People will leave church and go to the grocery store, the gas station, even visit others in the name of fellowship; unknowingly transmitting this virus to a multitude of others. Even those who go straight home after Church could then infect their own household, and those who go to work on Monday will then take “Corona” with them into their workspaces.

Any church that continues to keep its doors open for social gathering, in the name of faith, is therefore contributing to the ongoing public health crisis associated with COVID-19/SARS-COV-2, and most importantly placing the general population at risk.

As a physician I would contend that this enables the persistence of a public health crisis.

As a pastor, in my opinion, meeting despite the clear evidence that gathering is a public health danger, is inconsistent with how our logical and pragmatic God operates. I do not believe He would want His children placing others at risk after providing them with “counsel” with which He expects them to use “sound judgment“ (Prov 8:14)

The global data is clear that a growing percentage of individuals are now being identified as having been “pre-symptomatic“ meaning they are positive cases, for somewhere between 2-7 days before they begin to manifest symptoms.  Many of these patients Will never be tested, even if they begin to develop symptoms.

These individuals also had very high viral loads, meaning that they were shedding (and therefore capable ofspreading) the virus to countless people unknowingly during that timeframe.  Introduce those individuals into “clusters“ of people in a worship service is a recipe for disaster, Producing a ripple effect that extends well beyond the doors of the church building.

Just in the last week, there have been two identified pastors who have died and in each case there were multiple identified additional positive cases within the “congregational cluster“— at least two of those patients have also subsequently died.

Countries that either have a firm grasp on reducing spread or have learned through mistakes what it takes to reduce the spread, noted to key elements… One which is beyond our control and the other which is almost completely within our control.

Successful countries coordinated a centrally–focused approach to management and standard care guidelines that were driven by vetted, competent and credentialed clinical and public health leaders and not untrained politicians Who are “playing doctor or scientist”.

Successful countries also essentially are treating everyone as though they are COVID + but Presymptomatic… In other words the mindset is that everyone ASSUMED to be infected and therefore everyone should be separated and quarantined.

This seemingly subtle shift in the narrative may alter how this pandemic resonates in the minds of people.

If I am simply being challenged to do my part to both prevent getting infected and perhaps transmitting the virus, my decision making and responses are likely different than they would be if I am being driven by the mindset that I am already infected, but just not yet symptomatic. My motivation then becomes driven by a desire to do my part to NOT INFECT OTHERS.

If your church is continuing to hold on-campus events, this should stop, particularly as we move into the busiest part of the Christian church calendar where even non-regular worshipers are coming to churches all over the world.

For any particular topic, people tend pick and choose scripture to suit their opinion and position, so I would simply urge individuals to seek sound counsel & wisdom; to use common sense and to defer to the available information that comes from credible and reliable clinical and public health resources.

If your church leaders are clinicians and public health officials, then your church is likely already closed.

If your church leaders are not clinicians or public health officials, and your church is open, ask yourself if you would rely on your church leaders to fix your toilet or your house wiring, if they were not trained as a plumber or electrician.  Most of us would defer any recommendations in these trade crafts to the experts. Furthermore most church leaders would recognize that these were not areas of expertise and direct you to experts to get your issue resolved and your questions answered.

Yet, in this case, we use words like anointing, discernment, etc. to justify church leaders making decisions that are way out of their “lane” or area of training or expertise.

I am not posting this to achieve consensus or to indict my Brothers and sisters in Christ.

I am posting as a frontlines clinical expert who is ‘living-out’ this pandemic from a very unique and deeply embedded perspective.

Clusters kill people and wherever clusters can be eliminated, I believe that God expects us to be agents and examples of how the disconnect between faith and evidence-based medicine & science can be bridged without compromising either.

If a church is completely dependent upon “the gathering“, then it is not meeting God’s definition of church, religion or what the Bible refers to as the “work of God“.

And the ‘work of God is this; is to believe in the one whom He sent’— in other words our full-time “job“ as Christians is to believe.

The discomfort that a lack of gathering generates in the hearts and minds of church leaders should not be the motivating factor in such a critical decision that impacts so many people— many of whom may never even step foot into a church sanctuary.

If your church is remaining open, I would encourage you to make an evidence-based rather than an emotion-driven response and stay home. 

Staying home is neither an indictment of your commitment to God nor is it evidence of flawed or failing faith. 

You can stay home and stay connected to your church, your faith and your God.

You can still stay home and continue to pray, praise, worship, study and honor God and all of His awesomeness.

More importantly, you can stay home and stay safe and become an integral component of flattening the curve and shortening the duration of this pandemic.

This is not your time to be a martyr, but it is your time to demonstrate that your logical and awesome Father would not want you to knowingly put yourself in harms way when there are other alternatives that you can use to maintain your connection with Him!

Be well... on purpose!

  

For more information on Covid-19, click here.

 

       

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Acts 2: 1-4

" When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak on other tongues as the Spirit enabled them."

Welcome to Bidwell Church!It is our joy to welcome you as part of our family in Christ at Bidwell Church.  Our mission is to help this world to realize the love and grace of our Lord Jesus Christ; to always proclaim the “Good News” of a living and forgiving Savior; to offer a nurturing and supportive ministry to those in need; to encourage each member to discover and apply their God-given gifts for the benefit of Christ’s Church; and to enjoy the fellowship of one another through united worship.  Our vision is to reach those who would otherwise be left behind. 

Our hearts and our doors are open to receive you.  Feel free to join us for worship service, bible study or any of our community and church events.  We are ready to meet you, greet you, worship and pray with you. 

Yours in Christ,
Rev. Dr. B. De Neice Welch
Senior Pastor  

 

wgbnradioListen to Rev. Dr. B. DeNeice Welch on WGBN 1360 AM Radio

Sunday mornings     10-10:30am

 

 

 

  

  

Weekly Schedule
Sunday
  11:00 a.m.  Worship Service
  10:00 a.m.  Bible Study
   (classes for men, women, youth)    Monday
  7:00 p.m.  Bible Study
Contact Information
  Bidwell Presbyterian Church          
  1025 Liverpool Street
  Pittsburgh, PA 15233
  Phone:  412-231-4663
  Rev. Dr. B. De Neice Welch, Pastor

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