Taiwan Church News
March 16 – 22, 2020
How PCT Responds to the Coronavirus Pandemic
Reported by Lin Yi-yin, Lin Wan-ting, Chiu Kuo-rong, Hung Tai-yang and Chang Yuan-jin
Originated at Wuhan, China, an aggressive coronavirus disease outbreak roughly in the end of 2019 is rapidly evolved and finally declared by WHO as a pandemic on March 11, 2020. Up to date, it is estimated that over 1.2 million people have been tested positive across 200 countries, more than 55 thousand people are deceased and the cases is still ascending.
As lots of churches, including both The Life Church and Missions and Grace Assembly of God in Singapore, The Christian Open Door Church in Mulhouse, France, and The Shincheonji Church of Jesus in Korea, are reported to have a serious cluster infections after their routine assembly, many religious communities around the globe are forced to adjust or cancel their scheduled festivals or parades, for example 14 Dioceses of Korean Catholics Church(16 Dioceses in total) halted their Sunday Mass service, Taiwan’s Dajia Matsu Pilgrimage set to be launch in March is hastily cancelled after a grave social pressure and etc.
Facing this unprecedented toxic pandemic, PCT also acts early to urge her local churches and members to proceed infection prevention and hygiene steps through a letter of advise issued by Church and Society Committee on Jan 30. In the letter, except advising PCT local churches and members to comply with the preventive orders issued from Taiwan’s CECC(Central Epidemic Command Center), guidelines for preliminary health-check or quarantine before church service, mask-wearing, hand-washing, church-cleaning and personal hygiene are all suggested with details.
In an official pastoral letter, released on March 5, the PCT General Assembly urges all local churches and members to attend to CECC’s warnings in early March about the infection risks among mass assembly, reiterates the preventive measures suggested by Church and Society Committee issued on Jan 30, calls local churches to adjust or cancel their Sunday service and routine assembly according to their specific demands and finally urges all PCT members to stay-at-home if they have symptoms or just travels back from China.
As a matter of fact, after the news of cluster infections raised from Korea’s Shincheonji Church of Jesus is widely reported across Taiwan, the number of PCT local assembly on Sunday service is evidently decreased, especially in the churches located in urban, commercial or densely populated areas. As these churches are usually without windows and heavily reliant on air-conditioning systems, many PCT churches therefore turn to YouTube, Facebook or meeting app for direct broadcasting Sunday service or routine assembly.
Considering the church assembly is always over hundreds and located within a closed building, hard to open the window and let the fresh air in, Rev Tsai Chen-dao, pastor of Suan-Lien Presbyterian Church, expresses that the elders and deacons all agree to live stream the Sunday service via YouTube from March 15 to May 10 due to safety and health concerns, though he personally would not oppose any assembly in the church when the pandemic begins to be aware by the public.
While following the instructions of assembly hygiene protections – like mask-wearing, hand-washing and social distancing – suggested by the pastoral letter from PCT General Assembly, Rev Wang Chih-zang, pastor of An-Kehn Presbyterian Church of Taipei Presbytery, insisted worship and service should always carry on without any compromise. “For me, worship and service is the most important thing to prove the existence of the church”, says Rev Wang, “the substantial worship and service should never stop, unless the 7/24 convenience store is ordered to lockdown!”
Rev Wang Tsang-seng, pastor of Shin-Fong Presbyterian Church of Tinan Presbytery, explains his church’s response to the pandemic is two-fold: on the one hand, his church starts to live stream the service via internet from the early February; on the other hand, the traditional Sunday service or family congregation also carry on with emphasis on preventive measures and person hygiene, like wearing mask, washing hand and social distancing, before and during the assembly.
To decrease the infection risk, Elder Lee Sih-chan, Chau-Tun Presbyterian Church of Taichung Presbytery, expresses that the invited guests for a thanks-giving service of Chau-Tun Presbyterian Church’s 120th anniversary celebration, set to be held on April 5th, will be reduced from 1,200 to 800. In addition, many innovative protective devices and hygiene methods, including medical rubber gloves, transparent protecting masks, cleansing alcoholics and non-contact donation practice, will be implemented during this mass assembly. Rev Huang Seng-fu, pastor of Chau-Tun Presbyterian Church, says that it’s the right time for the church all to give thanks-giving, start to learn the words from Jesus and showcase the influence as the disciples, because the pandemic forces us to reflect a brand new meaning of our Christian faith.
As to the small or aboriginal churches at far-distant villages on the mountains or along the beaches, most of their adaptions to this pandemic would stick to the guidance, suggested by CECC or PCT General Assembly, during the assembly. Applying the IT technology used by the urban churches, according to Rev Paqerilas, pastor of Kazangiljan Presbyterian Church of Payuan Presbytery, would become a burden, either technically or financially, to the far-distant churches where most their youth versed in IT devices earn their livings in the cities. However, if any congregation member tests positive against this coronavirus pandemic, the Sunday service would stop and change into small groups assembly, Rev Paqerilas says.
Translated by Peter Wolfe