Saturday, March 14, 2020

GTAMs Response to Novel Coronavirus & COVID-19

As the World comes to grips with the onset of the Novel Coronavirus and the resulting COVID-19, I believe it is important that you hear from your Pastoral leadership to help guide us as a congregation through this time. Of utmost importance is that we avoid fear along with the panic and hysteria that it produces. The Word is replete with encouragement and admonition that we do not live under the umbrella of fear, terror or dread. Psalms 46:1 is a reminder that God is a very present help in times of trouble! Selah.

We should take steps to be informed and make prudent decisions based on this knowledge. In keeping with our E3 approach to Ministry, I will use this writing as an opportunity to Educate, Engage and Empower the Church to Live Life Well under the present circumstances.


There are many credible informational resources available to inform us about the Novel Coronavirus and COVID-19 including the international World Health Organization (WHO) and United States Center for Disease Control (CDC). Additionally, State, County and other local health organizations have been providing guidance on local and regional implications of the virus. Your Doctor or insurance provider are excellent resources for personal health advice. As with most things, caution and discretion should be used before embracing information obtained through Social Media and non-credible internet and media sources.

The virus causing this issue is the Novel Coronavirus. It is Novel because it is a new strain of the virus. So, while there have been other forms of the Coronavirus such as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), this particular strain is evidently new in human populations. The WHO name designation for COVID-19 refers to COVI for the acronym of coronavirus, D for the word disease, and 19 for the year of the outbreak.

Because this is a new strain of the virus and resulting disease, there are no known vaccinations or immunizations available. Most indications are that it could be 12-18 months before a vaccination is developed, approved and widely available. There also hasn’t been an opportunity for our bodies to develop a natural immunity to fight off the disease.

Initial indications are that COVID-19 seems to be more contagious than other viruses and as such can spread more quickly. It spreads through close contact with someone who has been infected with the virus. (Note – there are no indications, that I am aware of, that would indicate this is an airborne disease) The incubation period for Coronavirus is believed to be 1 – 14 days. This means that someone can have the disease and not show any symptoms for up to 2-weeks, though typically symptoms emerge in 5 – 10 days after exposure to the virus.

An Outbreak is the sudden rise in the number of cases of a disease in a particular area. An Epidemic is the spread of a disease over a larger geographic area or region. A Pandemic is the global spread of the disease over many countries. The WHO declared COVID-19 a global Pandemic on March 11th after the number of cases exceeded 100,000 and was found in over 100 Countries worldwide.

In spite of how contagious this virus appears to be, reports are that in most cases (80 – 90%) the resulting symptoms are mild to moderate. It is estimated that up to 20% may have the virus and be asymptomatic, meaning that though they are carrying the virus they never display any symptoms. To keep things in perspective, without diminishing the importance of this Pandemic, there are slightly more than 327 Million people living in the US and under 2500 cases reported to date. The number of reported cases will likely rise as tests become more readily available, but it is important to keep a proper perspective of the magnitude of this event.

You have likely heard that COVID-19 has a higher mortality rate that the Flu. Reports on this vary depending on timing and source, but conservative early estimates suggest the Flu kills approximately 0.1% of those infected by it while COVID-19 kills around 1%. This would make the mortality rate for COVID-19 approximately 10 times more lethal than the Flu. The vast majority of those who have succumb to COVID-19 are the elderly (defined as above the age of 60) and those with underlying medical conditions, especially conditions that impact or compromise the immune and respiratory systems. So while the number of cases relative to the size of the population is small, the consequences of its spread can be significant, hence all of the concern and measures to constrain its dispersion.

You have likely also heard the term Social Distancing in recent days and may be wondering what that means, how does it work and what does it mean for you and the Church. In an effort to contain and slow down the spread of the Coronavirus, Governments across the globe have imposed Social Distancing measures. Because the virus spreads through close personal contact, defined as 6 feet or less, Social Distancing looks to minimize the opportunity for large groups of people to be in close proximity to one another.

The most extreme form of Social Distancing, a national Quarantine, has been deployed in Italy which has the second highest reported cases of COVID-19 only behind China, which is where the disease seems to have originated. Other more measured, but still severe Social Distancing measures, include cancelling events with large crowds such as major sporting events, the likes of which we saw in every active major US sport as of earlier this week, cancelling school, etc. Other more modest Social Distancing measures include employees working from home where possible, not shaking hands, etc.


Epidemiologist (Medical experts in the field of disease & outbreaks) and Government officials responsible for public health and safety have several recommendations and steps they recommend to both protect yourself and slow down the spread of COVID-19, the most basic of which is exercise good personal hygiene with frequent and thorough hand washing (20 seconds or longer).

GTAM has proactively taken certain measures to maintain a healthy physical environment in which to worship. Some measures already in place include:

·        Hand Sanitizing dispensers in all public spaces including at the main entrance, both Men & Women’s restrooms, all Kingdom Kidz classrooms and the Live Life Well Multi-Purpose room

·        Touch free soap and paper towel dispensers in both Men & Women’s restrooms

·        Training and protocols for Kingdom Kidz volunteers on how to handle children that may have an illness

·        Guidance provided to our staff and volunteers to stay home if not feeling well

·        Cleaning guidelines for the Church facility before and after services
One of the guidelines offered by Epidemiologist to contain the potential spread of the virus is to limit close contact with others. Given the size of our facilities and current attendance levels, there is plenty of space for congregants to spread out across the sanctuary.

GTAM is known for how we unconditionally love people wherever life finds them to where God wants them to be. This love is frequently expressed through gestures of warmth and compassion such as hugs and handshakes. While many may be comfortable continuing with this practice in the current climate, many are not for a variety of reasons. Our consideration should be towards those who may be uncomfortable and not impose upon them, even with our best intentions, something that may create unease. If someone expresses uneasiness about a handshake or hug, we should respect and honor that without judgment or making them feel awkward. We can continue to be friendly, kind, warm and supportive in other ways.

As the Pastor of GTAM, under these circumstances, I believe it is important that I model the behavior that is expected. Historically, I have been comfortable initiating gestures of love towards individuals we meet in the Ministry. Until we are beyond this season of high sensitivity over concerns with the virus, I will respond to what I am presented. If someone wants a hug, I will respond with a hug. If someone extends a hand, I will respond with a handshake. If I do not get an indication that physical contact in these forms is welcomed, I will respond as I normally do with a bright smile and life giving words in the absence of any physical contact. Our love will not be diminished in any way, even if how that love is expressed changes!


On Wednesday of this week, March 11th, as a Social Distancing measure, the Governor of our state imposed a ban on all public gatherings greater than 250 people, including religious gatherings. Currently, regular Sunday service attendance at GTAM does not meet this threshold and so we are not restricted by this Social Distancing measure and will continue to conduct our services and Live Life Well forums as scheduled.

However, we do have events scheduled over the next 3-months where attendance levels may reach or exceed this threshold including the Who’s That Lady (WTL) Walk-A-Thon scheduled for March 21st, Easter service on April 12th and the WTL Annual Conference May 29th – 31st. Given how fluid this situation is, how quickly things change and new information is becoming available, we will make a determination on how we will address these events as the dates draw closer. We have decided to reschedule the Get Plugged In Fair that was scheduled for after service tomorrow to a date TBD.

GTAM is a diverse worship community! We are socio-economically diverse, multi-cultural, multi-ethnic and a multi-generational body. We have a Christian responsibility to look out for our neighbor as we would ourselves and to protect the most vulnerable among us. We strongly recommend that individuals from our fellowship that are at high risk of exposure or whose exposure to this virus poses an exponential risk of severe adverse outcomes utilize their best judgment and consult with their medical providers to determine their best course of action. GTAM will be here for you both now and into the future!

The E3 approach to Ministry is intended to empower informed decisions that position us to Live Life Well and to give us more control over our GTAM experience. For those that determine it is best to not attend services, we are working on ways to deliver the service experience to you in the most effective ways available to us. Because of limited internet service to our current facilities, live broadcast of the service through our LiveStream account is currently unavailable. However, we are exploring ways to capture the services and then publish them shortly after service concludes. I will share more on this as we learn and develop the capabilities to do so. Alternatively, you can watch the services live through the GTAM Facebook live broadcast, Sis. Shantail Miller’s Facebook live broadcast or others in your GTAM network that frequently broadcast the services live from their personal Facebook accounts.

Lastly, you can continue to extend your financial support to the Ministry through a couple of remote giving options:

1.       Online giving through our website (

2.       Utilizing your banks pay system to send contributions automatically to the church

               Grace & Truth Apostolic Ministries
               9425 S. 248th Street
               Kent, WA 98030

In conclusion, it is important the we make informed decisions and that while we are prudent, we are not paranoid and that while we are prepared, we do not panic! “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” II Timothy 1:7

It is important that while we are under these protective measures, that we do what is reasonable to continue on with our lives. I also encourage you to keep in mind, many of the measures in place to contain the spread of this virus are temporary and do not reflect a permanent state of things. We should not expect a permanent lifestyle of distancing from one another. God created us to be social and we should resist the temptation to make Social Distancing a permanent component of our lives.

I look forward to seeing those of you who decide to join us in prayer, praise and worship tomorrow. We will continue our Ministry series “Word Up” demonstrating the value, integrity and infallibility of God’s word! For those unable to join us, please stay connected through your Huddle Up groups and watching the services where you can. My prayers are with all of us and my faith in God that we will emerge favorably through this remains unshaken. All the best…

Michael H. Miller, Sr. Pastor