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New York City Church Fights Fears Over The Coronavirus

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

A church in New York City is fighting fears about the new coronavirus. There are no known cases of the virus in the city, but people at the New York Chinese Alliance Church are worried.

STEPHEN KO: Our church is located in close proximity to New York University, so we have a large population of students from China. And many of their families have been stricken with the coronavirus.

NOEL KING, HOST:

That is Pastor Stephen Ko. He's been getting a lot of questions not just from parishioners but from other pastors, too.

KO: There was even concern that we should either change or cancel the way we do Communion on Sundays.

KING: Why all the questions? Well, Pastor Ko is uniquely qualified to offer both spiritual and medical expertise. He's a doctor who used to be an infectious disease expert for the Centers for Disease Control.

MARTIN: Pastor Ko recently wrote an article for the magazine Christianity Today, and he argued that now is the time for people to come together.

KO: We really have a calling as pastors to care for the vulnerable and also combat stigma and xenophobia. The worst thing we can do now is close our doors to a community that is hurting, that is suffering and is in pain from a crisis that is not only mental, physical but also financial.

KING: And so over the weekend, Pastor Ko's congregation directly confronted their fears of the virus. They sang together, and they listened to a sermon just like any other Sunday.

KO: What we are doing is opening our doors and inviting them into a safe place where they can fellowship and share and pray together.

KING: Pastor Ko says his job now is not only caring for bodies, it's about uniting souls. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.