These are confusing, uncertain times. Our Episcopal Area is still responding to devastating tornado damage and now we are advised to beware of our potential role in spreading a deadly disease.
After consulting with a number of leaders across the Area, I am convinced the faith community has a very important role to play in slowing the speed of COVID-19 disease transmission.
We must be proactive rather than reactive. Our action could avoid potentially disastrous consequences for our communities.
Therefore, I am advising our churches to consider suspending worship and other large gatherings for at least two weeks in order to slow the rate of transmission of the COVID-19 virus, also known as the coronavirus, and to support the work of our medical community.
I ask that our churches find other ways to practice and sustain our faith. Our witness and our example may save many lives, especially the lives of those at risk in our own congregations.
Social distancing may seem to be an unnecessary reaction to those of you who are not sick, but medical professionals are telling us that if we wait until the need is obvious – it will be too late.
If we use social distancing now, patients will arrive at hospitals at a much slower rate, and lifesaving treatment for the critically ill will remain available.
Given that so many depend on our church ministries, we hope you will be mindful of the need to continue to support these ministries. Our contexts differ across our Episcopal Area. Please use your best judgment in continuing your outreach. Be wise and use precautions recommended by the CDC.
We want to continue to love people well, but we also need to take care to do no harm.
My former bishop, Hope Morgan Ward framed it well. She wrote: “Your prayers, presence (in spirit), gifts (including financial support), service, and witness are still important and needed to sustain and strengthen our ongoing mission.”
We encourage congregations to continue to support local church ministry by using online giving or by simply putting a check in the mail and sending it to their church.
Many of our congregations will be offering online worship opportunities. If your church does not offer this, our conference website will provide a selection of avenues to participate in worship. Please encourage those in your community to take advantage of this United Methodist connection.
Our Wesleyan roots have always included the concern for those most vulnerable. The people called Methodist established some of the first hospitals in this country. Now is an especially important time to live out our calling to love one another and to take care of those around us.