United Church of Christ

Indy hospital chaplains appeal to congregations to continue virtual worship

Two United Church of Christ chaplains serving hospitals in Indianapolis have sent a video message to churches through their Conference Minister, urging congregations to continue worshipping virtually, no matter what the state and federal governments say.

The Rev. Wanda J. Washington and the Rev. Kelly Mathis, hospital chaplains and members of St. John’s UCC in Indianapolis, took the initiative to create a video to talk about when the right time would be to go back to church.

Washington said, while there is excitement around the opportunity to be able to gather together in churches again, “It’s better to be safe than sorry.”

Mathis, who works in an intensive care unit that solely serves patients with COVID-19, shared heartfelt information about what she has seen and done as she ministered to the sick and dying. “It’s hard. It’s really hard here. I am going to ask you to help us, not make it harder. I don’t want you to be in a situation where I am the one who is trying to help your family talk to you for the last time over an iPhone.” 

The two ministers recorded their appeal and sent it to the Rev. Chad Abbott, Conference Minister of the Indiana-Kentucky Conference UCC, after he told them that he would soon have to make a determination about what to advise area churches about returning to in-person worship. 

“Kelly and Wanda were wonderful to offer to help us with this video,” he said, noting that the chaplains decided to do this because of the difficult decisions pastors are facing, with so many unanswered questions about COVID-19. 

“As the United Church of Christ, we desire not to ever put our members in harm’s way. It is better to err on the side of caution,” Washington said.

Abbott said that the Conference has regularly been checking in with the 23 UCC chaplains serving in hospital, university and health care settings in Kentucky and Indiana, offering pastoral care. “They are working amidst all this anxiousness and anxiety, and we them to know they are seen and that they are not alone.” He said the Conference has sent each of them a survey to find out how they are doing and to offer them and their family a meal from a restaurant of their choosing, just to say thank you. Their response has been gratifying. 

“It is remarkable to see the resiliency and strength of our chaplains through this time and it is with joy that we celebrate their courage and ministry,” he said, noting that all the Conference chaplains embrace their call to serve, even during this difficult period. He hopes their message will be heard.

“Please just be patient, stay at home for a little while longer,” said Mathis. “Know that the Spirit transcends space and time. We don’t have to be all together in one place at one time to worship God and to be in community. The Holy Spirit makes that connection for us.


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