A Message from Bishop Stanovsky on Juneteenth 2020

24 February, 1791

Balam. England

Dear Sir:

Unless the divine power has raised you up to be as “Athanasius against the world,” I see not how you can go through your glorious enterprise in opposing that execrable villainy, which is the scandal of religion, of England, and of human nature. Unless God has raised you up for this very thing, you will be worn out by the opposition of men and devils. But if God be for you, who can be against you? Are all of them stronger than God? O be not weary of well-doing! Go on, in the name of God and in the power of His might, till even American slavery (the vilest that ever saw the sun) shall vanish away before it.

Reading this morning a tract wrote by a poor African, I was particularly struck by the circumstance, that a man who has a black skin being wronged or outraged by a white man, can have no redress; it being a LAW in all of our Colonies that the OATH of a black man against a white goes for nothing. What villainy is this!

That He who has guided you from youth up may continue to strengthen you in this and all things is the prayer of, dear sir,

Your affectionate servant,

John Wesley[i]                        

Juneteenth, 2020

To the People Called Methodist,

BLACK LIVES MATTER
BLACK VOTING RIGHTS MATTER
BLACK VOICES MATTER

Since George Floyd died beneath the crushing knee of a police officer, the cry for justice has been heard around the world, with new urgency. The cry and demand for racial justice can be found in the very origins of the Methodist movement, in John Wesley’s letter encouraging William Wilberforce to persevere in the seemingly hopeless battle against the “execrable villainy” of racial injustice embedded in the law and practice, trusting that, “if God be for you, who can be against you?”

Nearly 230 years later, this villainy has not been rooted out, but embedded in systems that we mask with words. A new generation of activists for the just treatment of Black people joins generations who have fought for decades and centuries to put right what is so very wrong and corrosive of the principle that all are created equal. The struggle is long and hard, and many people who benefit from the injustice work to perpetuate the unequal, cruel and even lethal treatment of Black Americans.

Today is celebrated as Juneteenth, remembered as the day emancipation of slaves was announced to the last state in the United States on June 19, 1865, following the Civil War. I pray that God continues in the midst of the struggle, with people in police departments, courtrooms, on the streets, in worship, attending funerals, behind prison bars. I pray that God is using the people called “Methodist” in our day to continue the struggle. 

May all who see the injustice, say what we see, share what we see and never “never be worn out by the opposition of men and devils” who stand against justice. God is with all who stand and speak and work for racial justice.

Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather be healed.

                                                      Hebrews 12:12

But let justice roll down like waters,
    and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.

Amos 5: 24

Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky


[i]  John Wesley’s last letter before his death, sent to William Wilberforce, quoted in https://christianhistoryinstitute.org/magazine/article/wesley-to-wilberforce/

Aviso #7, de parte de nuestra Obispo en relación con el COVID-19, 16 de Junio de 2020

Estimados líderes pastorales del Gran Área Noroeste de la IMU, 

Ha sido una bendición ver a las iglesias del Gran Noroeste responder al COVID-19 con gran precaución, compasión y creatividad. No ha sido fácil suspender la adoración en persona durante tres meses, pero has estado a la altura de las circunstancias y has ejercido una gran precaución por la salud y el bienestar de tus vecinos. Muchos de ustedes han desarrollado la capacidad de ofrecer adoración en línea. Otros envían boletines impresos y sermones cada semana. Has encontrado formas de ofrecer compasión distribuyendo tarjetas de regalo, haciendo máscaras faciales, ofreciendo cajas de comida, celebraciones de cumpleaños y ceremonias de graduaciones en autos. Su creatividad ha dado lugar a círculos de oración, grupos de estudio y reuniones de niños virtuales. Has dirigido con abundante gracia a través de un tiempo muy difícil y limitado. 

Aún así, no es posible reunirse para la adoración en línea en todos los lugares donde se encuentran nuestras iglesias. Y no es posible organizar campamentos de verano de forma segura. Es desgarrador no poder sostener la mano de un ser querido moribundo o reunirse y honrar a los que han fallecido en un servicio memorial. 

Como su obispo, he luchado toda la semana pasada en saber cuál es la mejor manera de dirigir, atender las necesidades de tantas iglesias y comunidades a las que ustedes sirven, enfrentando circunstancias tan variadas. La “curva” de los nuevos casos de COVID-19 se ha incrementado desde que las restricciones fueron flexibilizadas en relación con la interacción social en la mayoría de los estados en el mes de mayo y después del fin de semana del “Memorial Day”. Se desconocen los impactos que tendrán las grandes protestas públicas por la justicia racial desde la muerte de George Floyd el 25 de mayo. Los profesionales de la salud están muy preocupados de que podamos estar viendo el comienzo de otro pico que podría amenazar con colapsar a los sistemas de atención médica. 

A pesar de las serias reservas, efectivo de inmediato, estoy flexibilizando las restricciones sobre el culto en persona y el cierre de edificios que permiten la transición de la Fase 1 a la Fase 2 de “Re-imaginando nuestra vida juntos”. Esto significa que SI …

  1. los planes de reapertura de una iglesia han sido aprobados por su superintendente de distrito (o, en el caso de otro entorno ministerial, por su director de ministerios conexiónales), y
  2. el plan es consistente con la guía de salud pública local y estatal,

ENTONCES … la iglesia puede implementar su plan para entrar en la Fase 2.

Además, en respuesta a las solicitudes de aclaración, las siguientes enmiendas e interpretaciones están vigentes durante las Fases 1 y 2:

  1. Para la protección contra COVID-19, se recomienda que los adultos vulnerables y las personas con condiciones de salud previas no se reúnan con otros en las instalaciones de la iglesia o para actividades de la iglesia. Sin embargo, respetando el derecho de los adultos a elegir el nivel de riesgo que aceptarán, ningún adulto puede ser excluido de las actividades de la iglesia debido a su edad o condiciones de salud que pueden hacerlos vulnerables a la enfermedad. Las iglesias deben tener un proceso establecido para que las personas sean conscientes de que ingresar al edificio y participar en las funciones de la iglesia puede exponerlos al COVID-19. Una vez conscientes, no deben excluirse únicamente por su protección.
  2. Las personas pueden ser excluidas de ingresar a las instalaciones de la iglesia o participar en actividades de la iglesia si hay razones para sospechar que pueden estar infectadas con el virus y estarían poniendo en riesgo a otros por su presencia, o si se niegan a cumplir con los protocolos de higiene y distanciamiento especificados en el plan de re-apertura de la iglesia. El distanciamiento social y el uso de una cubierta facial no son protección suficiente para permitir la participación de una persona que haya dado positivo, haya estado expuesta o muestre síntomas del virus.
  3. Estas pautas no pretenden evitar que se ofrezcan servicios esenciales en el edificio de la Iglesia con la condición de que se observen los protocolos de distanciamiento e higiene.     

Siguiendo caso por caso, los superintendentes de distrito pueden aprobar los planes de la iglesia local para la Fase 2 que incluyen lo siguiente:

  1. Adoración desde los automóviles, sin acceso al edificio de la iglesia.
  2. Adoración al aire libre, sin acceso al edificio de la iglesia.
  3. Grabaciones musicales individuales para la adoración en línea, incluyendo canto e instrumentos de viento, en el santuario de la iglesia siguiendo las medidas de precaución.

A medida que las congregaciones vuelven a imaginar la vida en común juntos y consideran cómo y cuándo reabrir, cada congregación todo líder metodista unido debe considerar las tendencias alarmantes y el grave daño potencial de abrir demasiado pronto o sin una preparación adecuada. Mientras reflexiona con otros líderes de su iglesia, tome una visión amplia y de largo alcance del impacto de sus decisiones y acciones.

La investigación en ciencias sociales y ciencias de la salud es motivo para tener precaución.  Veintiún estados, incluyendo los estados de Alaska, Oregón y Washington en el Gran Área Noroeste, están experimentando un aumento en los casos desde la apertura y como consecuencia de la socialización durante el fin de semana del “Memorial Day”.  Aún se desconoce el impacto que las grandes protestas públicas por la justicia racial van a tener en la propagación del virus.  

Las prácticas de prueba y el rastreo de los casos son inconsistentes en nuestra área e insuficientes en algunas áreas. La capacidad de atención médica esta distribuida de manera desigual en toda el área y está en peligro de verse abrumada si COVID-19 vuelve a resurgir. 

Las personas que prestan servicios esenciales, las personas de color y las personas pobres son desproporcionadamente vulnerables a contraer la enfermedad, de tener una atención médica no adecuada y a tensiones económicas que esto provoca. Las decisiones de aceptar los riesgos que conlleva la reapertura con la esperanza de cosechar los beneficios de una mayor libertad individual, interacción social y recuperación económica tienen el efecto de privilegiar a los mas privilegiados y hacer que los mas vulnerables sean los mas perjudicados.

Las expresiones de urgencia para reabrir provienen de varios motivos. Algunos están preocupados por el presupuesto de la iglesia.  Algunos están preocupados por la economía. Algunos sobre la pérdida de miembros por una iglesia vecina que ha abierto para la adoración. Todos reconocen la necesidad emocional, mental y espiritual de la interacción humana, y lo ven como la misión de la Iglesia de reunir personas para apoyo, oración, aliento y consuelo. Algunos escuchan el llamado al testimonio profético, la acción en la Iglesia, y sienten que este momento de la historia nos obliga a reunirnos, organizarnos y salir a las calles para abogar por la justicia y la misericordia racial.  Los cristianos enfrentamos dilemas morales bien extraordinarios en este tiempo tan complejo.

La salud física y la salud económica son intereses mutuamente dependientes.  La salud no es simplemente un valor progresivo.  La estabilidad económica no es simplemente un valor conservador. Si la pandemia continúa extendiéndose, la economía no se recuperará.  Si ponemos en marcha la economía alentando a las empresas a abrir y a las personas a regresar al trabajo antes de que sea seguro, esto aumentará el número de casos de muertes, y nuevamente la economía sufrirá.   

Ninguna iglesia debería alinearse simplemente con un lado u otro de la actual división política en Estados Unidos. Los cristianos deberían estar dispuestos a ser capaces de sacrificarse ahora por tener un resultado a largo plazo que beneficiara a toda la familia humana.  No solo mi familia, mi congregación, mi ciudad, mi condado, mi estado, las personas que se ven, piensan o votan como yo. Amar al prójimo como a uno mismo significa, actuar ahora de una manera que intentamos dirigirnos a la meta de una espiritualidad completa y proclamamos la sanidad de la casa de Dios.

Algunos de ustedes se preguntan acerca de la adoración al aire libre con cubiertas faciales y distanciamiento social. ¿Qué dilemas morales podría presentar la adoración al aire libre?  ¿Cómo evalúa la bendición de reunirse como comunidad de fe contra el posible daño de la exposición a la enfermedad? ¿Qué motiva el deseo urgente de reunirse nuevamente? ¿Es para atender las necesidades de las personas en la iglesia? ¿También sirve al público en general?  ¿Qué mensaje se envía si la gente ve la iglesia reunida al aire libre? ¿Tal reunión alentaría a las personas a continuar limitando sus interacciones sociales, o podría dar la impresión de que el peligro ya pasó?

“Re-imaginar la vida juntos” alienta a cada congregación a dejar a un lado algunas costumbres y tradiciones que han servido durante una temporada, y a descubrir y experimentar nuevas y diferentes formas de vida congregacional. El impulso urgente de reunirse nuevamente, darse la mano, abrazarse, cantar juntos, partir el pan juntos en la mesa de la comunión o en la mesa de la comida, surge de un anhelo de volver a los hábitos que nos hacen sentir cómodos, pero quizás a costa de la seguridad de otros. ¿Podríamos pensar en COVID-19 como una temporada de estar en “ayuno” de formas y hábitos familiares de la iglesia? ¿Podría ser este el momento en el que revisamos los “armarios” de nuestra iglesia para ver qué sigue encajando o trabajando, qué se ve bien y qué está desactualizado, en mal estado o simplemente ya no encaja? 

Sé que liderar una congregación es un desafío durante un momento de tales amenazas a la salud y la interrupción de las rutinas normales. Sé que hacer las adaptaciones necesarias para llevar a cabo las funciones básicas del ministerio es estresante y requiere aprender formas completamente nuevas de relacionarse. 

Mis primeros videos de “selfies” en la temporada de COVID-19 fueron grabados en mi teléfono, sostenido en un estante por hilo y una banda elástica. Con paciencia y buen humor (tienes que reírte o seguramente llorarás) he aprendido relajadamente, y dejo que lo que soy capaz de producir sea lo suficientemente bueno . 

Recuerdo las supuestas últimas palabras de John Wesley: “ 

“Lo mejor de todo es que Dios está con nosotros” en la risa, la frustración, las lágrimas y los preciosos momentos de santidad. 

Oro para que puedan tener el poder de comprender, junto con todos los santos, cuán ancho y largo, alto y profundo es el amor de Cristo; en fin, que conozcan ese amor que sobrepasa nuestro conocimiento, para que sean llenos de la plenitud de Dios.

Efesios 3:18-19

Obispa Elaine JW Stanovsky
Area Episcopal del Gran Noroeste


Translated and adapted by Rev. Cruz Edwin Santos, Director of Hispanic /Latinx Ministries

Traducido y adaptado por el Rev. Cruz Edwin Santos, Director de Ministerios Hispanos/Latin@s


COVID-19 Statistical Reports

Bishop’s COVID-19 Notice #7, June 16, 2020

Bishop’s COVID-19 Notice #7, June 16, 2020

Dear pastoral leaders of the Greater Northwest Area of The UMC,

It has been a delight to see churches across the Greater Northwest Area respond to COVID-19 with great caution, compassion and creativity. It hasn’t been easy to suspend in-person worship for three months, but you have risen to the occasion and exercised great caution for the health and well-being of your neighbors. Many of you have developed the ability to offer online worship. Others send printed bulletins and sermons out each week. You’ve found ways to offer compassion by distributing gift cards, making face masks, offering curbside food boxes, and drive-by birthday and commencement celebrations. Your creativity has given rise to online prayer circles, study groups and kid’s gatherings. You have led with abundant grace through a very difficult and constrained time.

Still, it’s not possible to gather for online worship in all the places our churches are located. And it’s not possible to host summer sleep-over camps safely. It’s heartbreaking not to be able to hold the hand of a dying loved one or to gather and honor the dead at a memorial service.

As your bishop I’ve struggled this past week to know how best to lead and tend to the needs of so many churches and the communities they serve, facing such varied circumstances. The “curve” of new COVID-19 cases has turned upward since the loosening of restrictions on social movement across most states in May and following Memorial Day weekend. Impacts of the large public protests for racial justice since George Floyd’s death on May 25 are unknown. Health care professionals are very concerned that we may be seeing the beginning of another spike that could threaten to overwhelm health care systems.

Despite serious reservations, effective immediately, I am loosening restrictions on in-person worship and building closures that allow transition from Phase 1 to Phase 2 of Reimagining Life Together. This means that IF

  1. a church’s plans for reopening have been approved by their district superintendent (or, in the case of another ministry setting, by their director of connectional ministries), and
  2. the plan is consistent with state and local public health guidance,

THEN… the church may implement its plan to enter Phase 2.

In addition, in response to requests for clarification, the following amendments and interpretations are in effect during Phases 1 and 2:

  1. For protection against COVID-19, vulnerable adults and persons with underlying health conditions are discouraged from gathering with others in church facilities or for church activities. However, respecting the right of adults to choose the level of risk they will accept, no adult may be excluded from church activities due to age or health conditions that may make them vulnerable to the disease. Churches should have a process in place to make individuals aware that entering the building and participating in church functions may expose them to COVID-19. Once aware, they should not be excluded solely for their protection.
  2. Individuals may be excluded from entering church facilities or participating in church activities if there is reason to suspect they may be infected with the virus and would be putting others at risk by their presence, or if they refuse to abide by the hygiene and distancing protocols specified in the church’s Reimagining plan. Social distancing and wearing a face covering are not sufficient protection to allow participation of a person who has tested positive, has been exposed or shows symptoms of the virus.
  3. These guidelines are not intended to prevent essential services from being offered in the Church building on the condition that distancing and hygiene protocols are observed. 

On a case-by-case basis, district superintendents may approve local church plans for Phase 2 that include the following:

  1. Drive-in worship, no access to the church building.
  2. Outdoor worship, no access to the church building.
  3. Recording solo music performance for online worship, including singing and wind instruments, in the church sanctuary with precautionary measures.

As congregations Reimagine Life Together, and consider how and when to reopen, every United Methodist congregation and leader should consider alarming trends and the serious potential harm of opening too soon, or without adequate preparation. As you reflect with other leaders in your church, take the long and wide view of the impact of your decisions and action.

Social science and health science research give ample cause for caution. Twenty-one states, including Alaska, Oregon and Washington states in the Greater Northwest Area, are experiencing an increase in cases since opening up and increased socialization over Memorial Day weekend. As yet unknown is the impact that large public protests for racial justice may have on the spread of the virus. Practices of testing and case tracing are inconsistent across our area, and insufficient in some areas. Health care capacity is unevenly distributed across the area, and in danger of being overwhelmed if COVID-19 rebounds.

People providing essential services, People of Color and poor people are disproportionately vulnerable to contracting the disease, to inadequate health care and to economic strains. Decisions to accept the risks that come with reopening in hopes of reaping the benefits of increased individual freedom, social interaction and economic recovery have the effect of privileging the privileged and render the vulnerable expendable.

Expressions of urgency to reopen come from various motives. Some are concerned about the church budget. Some are worried about the economy. Some about losing members to a church down the street that has opened for worship. All recognize the emotional, mental and spiritual necessity of human interaction, and see it as the mission of the Church to gather people for support, prayer, encouragement and comfort. Some hear the call to prophetic witness and action in Church, and feel this moment in history compels us to meet, organize and take to the streets to advocate for racial justice and mercy. Christians face extraordinary moral dilemmas in this complex time.

Physical health and economic health are mutually dependent interests. Health is not simply a progressive value. Economic stability is not simply a conservative value. If the pandemic continues to spread, the economy will not recover. If we jump-start the economy by encouraging businesses to open and people to return to work before it is safe, the number of cases and deaths will increase, and again the economy will suffer. No church should simply align with one side or the other of the present political divide in America. Christians should be willing and able to sacrifice now for the long-term outcome that benefits the whole human family. Not just my family, my congregation, my town, my county, my state, people who look or think or vote like me. Loving neighbor as self means acting now in ways that we intend to lead to the long term goal of wholeness and healing in the household of God.

Some of you wonder about outdoor worship with face coverings and social distancing? What moral dilemmas might outdoor worship present? How do you weigh the blessing of gathering as a community of faith against the possible harm of exposure to the disease? What motivates the urgent desire to gather again? Is it to serve the needs of people in the church? Does it also serve the general public? What message does it send if people see the church gathered outdoors? Would such a gathering encourage people to continue to limit their social interactions, or might it give the impression that the danger is past?

Reimagining encourages each congregation to let go of some customs and traditions that have served for a season, and to discover and experiment with new, different forms of congregational life. The urgent push to gather again, shake hands and hug, to sing together, to break bread together at the communion table or the potluck table grows out of a yearning to return to habits that make us comfortable, but perhaps at the cost of safety. Could we think of COVID-19 as a season of “fasting” from familiar forms and habits of church? Could this be a time when we go through our church “closets” to see what still fits, and what looks great, and what is outdated, shabby, or just plain doesn’t fit anymore?

I know that leading a congregation is a challenge during a time of such health threats and disruption of normal routines. I know that making the adaptations necessary to carry on basic ministry functions is stressful and requires learning whole new ways of being in relationship. My own first selfie videos in the season of COVID-19 were taped on my phone, held in place on a step stool by two spools of thread and a rubber band. With patience and good humor (you have to laugh or you’ll surely cry) I’ve learned and relaxed, and let what I am able to produce be good enough. I am reminded of John Wesley’s purported last words, “The best thing of all is God is with us” in the laughter, frustration, tears, and precious moments of holiness.

I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. – Ephesians 3:18-19

Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky
Greater NW Episcopal Area


COVID-19 Statistical Reports

Greater Northwest COVID-19 Timeline

March 5, 2020 (Link)
Church can put people at risk. Be cautious. Follow expert advice.

March 13, 2020 (Link
Hygiene, social distance, stay home if ill, suspend worship.
Resist harassment of persons of Asian descent.
Suspend in-person worship and gatherings of more than 10 people.

March 19, 2020 (Link)
General Conference postponed.
Discontinue serving Communion

March 24, 2020 (Link)
Close church facilities.
Care for vulnerable people.
Pre-recorded Easter Worship
Weekly webinars

April 2, 2020 (Video)
Bishop discusses online Communion

April 23, 2020 (Link)
Support your local church financially
Give to the Fund for families to serve vulnerable people
Pass along your stimulus check

April 24, 2020 (Link)
Extend building closures and suspended in-person 
 
May 13, 2020 (Link)
Wear face coverings
Cautionary stories of virus spread at choir and church events
Churches should prepare now to re-open

May 13, 2020 (Video)
Bishop discusses her decision-making process and responsibility

May 20, 2020 (Link)
Reimagining Life Together: 
requirements for reopening and gathering
4-Phase plan to reopen 
3 conditions for advancing to the next phase:

  1. Bishop relaxes restrictions 

  2. State and local public health guidance permits activities in the next phase 

  3. Local ministry plan for reopening approved District Superintendent or Director of Connectional Ministries

Approaching Pentecost with heavy hearts

United Methodists of the Greater Northwest,

My heart is heavy with the weight of another killing of an unarmed Black man at the hands of a white policeman. At Pentecost, the Holy Spirit gave humanity a miracle as the Church was born: the ability to understand each other, even though they came from different cultures and spoke different languages.

This Sunday, please join me in praying for George Floyd, whose breath was stolen from him, and for his family as they mourn. Pray that God’s Holy Spirit will give us, in our time, the gifts of understanding, respect, and peace among the peoples of this nation, blessedly diverse in race, culture, and language.

Below, find the pastoral statement by Bruce Ough, bishop of the Minnesota and Dakotas Annual Conferences. 

Please also join me next Wednesday for a webinar at our usual time (8 am AKDT, 9 am PDT, 10 am MDT) titled “Confronting the Sin of Racism.”

While this is a shift from our planned topic, I hope you will join me in this important conversation. If you have already registered for next week’s webinar, the link from your confirmation email will still be valid.

Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky

——–

Bishop Bruce R. Ough issued the following statement following the death of George Floyd. Floyd, a Black man, died May 25 in the custody of Minneapolis police after an officer was shown pinning him down while he struggled to breathe. 

There is more than one pandemic ravaging Minnesota and our country at this time. In addition to fighting COVID-19, we are besieged by a pandemic of racism, white supremacy, and white on black or brown violence. The tragic, racially charged, and unnecessary death of George Floyd at the hands of four Minneapolis police officers is only the latest flare-up of this pandemic—and Mr. Floyd is only the latest victim. The list of Black lives who have been needlessly killed grows each day. The pervasive culture of racism and white supremacy, increasingly incited by political rhetoric, grows each day. The fear among parents of Black children grows each day. The flaunting of our laws against racial profiling and discrimination grows each day.

I applaud Mayor Jacob Frey and Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo for acting decisively and quickly to fire the police officers. I am grateful the FBI is launching a civil rights investigation. I join with many others in demanding that justice prevail in this situation. I am praying for the Floyd family and the police officers and their families.

Now, it is our responsibility as persons of faith, and particularly as followers of Jesus in the Methodist tradition, to address this pervasive pandemic of racism. We are compelled to address this pandemic with the same intensity and intentionality with which we are addressing COVID-19.

We begin by acknowledging that racism is sin and antithetical to the gospel. We confess and denounce our own complicity. We take a stand against any and all expressions of racism and white supremacy, beginning with the racial, cultural, and class disparities in our state and country that are highlighted by the coronavirus pandemic. We sound the clarion call for the eradication of racism. We challenge governmental leaders who fan the flames of racial division for political gain. We examine our own attitudes and actions; all change begins with transformed hearts continually yielding to the righteousness and love of God.

Let us not turn away or ignore the disease that has been tearing our country apart and destroying lives for centuries. This disease—the sin of racism and white supremacy—denies the teachings of Jesus and our common, created humanity. Let us renew our efforts to eradicate the disease that truly threatens our ideals and the lives, livelihoods, and dignity of so many of our neighbors.

I urge you to join me in continuing to pray for the Floyd family as well as the many families whose lives were tragically altered or whose fears have been heightened as a result of this inexcusable tragedy. May God’s grace, peace, justice, and vision of the Beloved Community overpower the forces of evil and death.

Bishop Bruce R. Ough
Resident Bishop, Dakotas-Minnesota Area
The United Methodist Church

Aviso #6, de parte de nuestra Obispa en relación con el COVID-19, 13 de mayo del 2020

Aviso #6, de parte de nuestra Obispa en relación con el COVID-19, 13 de mayo del 2020

EXTENSION DE SUSPENSIÓN DE ADORACIÓN Y CIERRE DE EDIFICIOS HASTA JUNIO 15, 2020

Como obispa del Área del Gran Noroeste de la Iglesia Metodista Unida, estoy extendiendo la suspensión del culto en persona en nuestras Iglesias y otros ministerios, y el cierre de las facilidades de la iglesia y servicios esenciales en las conferencias de Alaska, Oregón, Idaho y el Pacífico Noroeste hasta el 15 de junio de 2020. En este principio del proceso de reapertura por fases, los datos sobre la propagación del virus son inconsistentes e inconclusos. Esta fecha permite dos períodos más de 14 días durante los cuales podremos evaluar si los casos de COVID-19 están disminuyendo o aumentando. Nuestras iglesias estarán a la vanguardia de la protección de la salud pública, pero no estarán a la vanguardia de la reapertura a riesgo de aumentar la exposición, las infecciones y las muertes.

¿Qué hemos aprendido hasta ahora de la pandemia?

COVID-19 es oportunista. Busca oportunidades para saltar especies, para propagarse de una persona a otra.

Algunos entornos proporcionan excelentes condiciones para que el virus se propague. Piense en cruceros, prisiones, campamentos de trabajo para migrantes, hogares de ancianos, un portaaviones, refugios para personas sin hogar, subterráneos, plantas empacadoras de carne. Estos fueron algunos de los lugares de reproducción de esta enfermedad mortal. Y algunos de los primeros puntos críticos para la propagación de la enfermedad fueron las reuniones de adoración de comunidades religiosas.

El comportamiento humano puede reducir las posibilidades de propagación de este virus. En muchos lugares, la cooperación pública con directrices gubernamentales extremas han “aplanado la curva”, reduciendo la tasa de nuevas infecciones por COVID-19, las muertes, la necesidad de mayor equipo y suministros de emergencias.
Estas son buenas noticias.

Al mismo tiempo, el comportamiento humano también puede crear nuevas oportunidades para este virus mortal. A muchos expertos en enfermedades infecciosas les preocupa que pueda ser demasiado pronto para relajar las restricciones a la reunión social, las disciplinas de distanciamiento social, lavado de manos y uso de máscaras faciales en público. Anticipan que a medida que las personas comiencen a interactuar en grupos nuevamente, en contacto cercano entre sí y en espacios cerrados, la propagación del virus puede aumentar nuevamente. A medida que las personas vuelven a sus prácticas normales, advierten estos profesionales de la salud, que no podemos estar seguros de que el virus no resurja nuevamente.

Cómo se ve el amor cristiano en una pandemia

En esto hemos conocido el amor, en que él (Jesús)puso su vida por nosotros; también
nosotros debemos poner nuestras vidas por los hermanos.
1 Juan 3:16

Los seguidores de Jesús tienen un alto llamado a no hacer daño, a amar a nuestro prójimo como a nosotros mismos, y un deber sacrificial de vivir el uno para el otro.

Es un acto de supremacía del amor considerar el bienestar de los demás igual que el nuestro y vivir por el bien de los demás, incluso prefiriendo esto ante nuestro propio bien. Aprendimos este de Jesús, el cual por el gozo puesto delante de él sufrió la cruz,” (Hebreos 12:2b). Podemos aceptar este alto llamado, porque Jesús nos precedió, viviendo una vida de amor que se entrega, incluso a costa de su vida. En la resurrección de Jesús de entre los muertos, Dios nos revela más allá de toda sombra de duda que la vida dada a otros en amor nunca muere.

En esta crisis de salud, como en la mayoría de las crisis de cualquier tipo, las personas más vulnerables a la enfermedad son las personas que ya viven al margen de la sociedad con recursos limitados, personales, financieros y sociales, o que viven con desafíos físicos, mentales o emocionales. En particular, sabemos que las personas de color, especialmente los afroamericanos y las personas hispanas / latinas, corren un riesgo desproporcionado de contraer y morir por el virus.

La única forma en que puedo entender mi llamado cristiano frente a este virus poderoso y sigiloso (silencioso) es hacer lo que yo pueda para evitar que se propague, especialmente a aquellos que están en mayor riesgo. Y el costo para mí es pequeño, realmente:

  • quédarme en casa
  • lavar mis manos
  • cubrir mi nariz y boca
  • no doy la mano para saludar
  • dar lo que pueda para aliviar el sufrimiento de los demás
  • pido a las personas e iglesias que cuiden, que tomen precauciones razonables para evitar que alguien se enferme en un evento de la iglesia o en una de nuestras instalaciones de la iglesia.

Espero y oro para que busque en sus propios corazones y se pregunte: ¿Qué haría Jesús? Y asuma estos pequeños sacrificios por la salud de toda la comunidad, toda la familia humana.

‘Haría cualquier cosa por un cambio’

Una historia que nos advierte acerca de reunirse demasiado pronto para la adoración proviene de “Living Spirit United Church en Calgary”, Alberta, Canadá.

Haga clic aquí para leer

Mientras ejercen precaución, las iglesias deben prepararse para reabrir

Muchas personas están ansiosas por regresar a los edificios de nuestra iglesia y a los patrones de adoración, discipulado y servicio que conocemos y amamos. Mientras esperamos la nueva apertura de nuestras iglesias, podemos prepararnos ahora.
La apertura de iglesias, como la apertura de nuestras comunidades será con precaución y gradual. Pronto, proporcionaremos un resumen de las fases que esperamos que sigan para reabrir sus congregaciones. No hay una línea de tiempo definido, ya que no podemos saber ahora cómo progresará la enfermedad.

Cada iglesia debe ser tan disciplinada y compasiva acerca de la reapertura como lo ha sido durante la adaptación de estar cerrada. Debes pensar tan cuidadosamente sobre tus vecinos y las necesidades de las personas fuera de la iglesia como lo haces también sobre nosotros mismos. El amor nunca termina.

A fines de la próxima semana, se compartirán descripciones detalladas de lo que se requiere y lo que se permite para cada fase. Cada iglesia desarrollará un plan para reabrir que se ajuste a las fases descritas. Deberá compartir su plan de reapertura con el superintendente de su distrito para que su iglesia pase de una fase a la siguiente. Por ahora, puede comenzar a pensar en quién debería ser parte del grupo de planificación, ¿qué desafíos especiales para el distanciamiento social presenta su edificio de la iglesia y qué grupos usan el edificio de la iglesia para el que necesita planificar? Deberá comenzar su reunión de planificación por medios electrónicos.

¿Qué funciona para todos? ¿Zoom? ¿Correo electrónico grupal? ¿Llamadas telefónicas de conferencia? Facetime? Puede comenzar temprano para establecer los medios por los cuales se reunirán y trabajarán juntos.

La reapertura no debería ser un ejercicio para volver a ser las cosas como solían hacerlas. Esto debe planificarse y llevarse a cabo como un proceso creativo e intencional. Al igual que con cualquier dislocación, esta pandemia presenta a cada iglesia la oportunidad de evaluar cómo estaban las cosas, y tomar decisiones sobre a qué practicas podemos regresar o qué dejar atrás.

Fuerza para la larga carrera

Te envié mi primer mensaje sobre COVID-19 el 5 de marzo. Entonces no sabía que necesitaría numerar estos mensajes. Diez semanas después, este es el Aviso # 6 de COVID-19. El comienzo de una crisis llega con un torrente de ansiedad y energía. Todos abandonamos lo que estábamos haciendo y dirigimos la atención al presente, apremiando la necesidad del momento. Después de estas largas semanas con todos los ajustes de escuelas canceladas, el trabajo desde el hogar, los edificios cerrados, la adoración en persona suspendida, ninguna visita al hospital, todo nos ha pasado factura.

Estoy agradecida con cada uno de ustedes que se ha enfrentado al desafío y, al mismo tiempo, estoy consciente de que todos sentimos la tensión a veces e incluso podemos colapsar bajo la carga. Ya no es una practica (Fogueo). Nosotros/as estamos en un maratón. Necesitamos establecer un ritmo que podamos mantener.
Necesitamos hacer tiempo para pagar las facturas, lavar la ropa y limpiar los pisos, cortarnos las uñas de los pies.

Eres preciosa/o a la vista de tu Creador. Respira el aliento de la vida. Exhala el cansancio del momento.

Dios limpiará cada lágrima de sus ojos.
La muerte ya no existirá;
el luto, el llanto y el dolor ya no existirán
porque las primeras cosas han pasado …
Mira, estoy haciendo todas las cosas nuevas …
Al sediento le daré agua como regalo del manantial del agua de la vida.
Adaptado de Apocalipsis 21

Obispa Elaine JW Stanovsky

Bishop’s COVID-19 Notice #6, May 13, 2020

Bishop’s COVID-19 Notice #6, May 13, 2020

Worship Suspension and Building Closures Extended through June 15, 2020

As bishop of the Greater Northwest Area of The United Methodist Church, I am extending the suspension of in-person worship in United Methodist Churches and other ministries and the closure of church facilities to all but essential services throughout the Alaska, Oregon-Idaho and Pacific Northwest Conferences through June 15, 2020. This early in the phased reopening process, data on the spread of the virus is inconsistent and inconclusive. This date allows two more 14-day periods during which to assess whether COVID-19 cases are declining or increasing. Our churches will be on the leading edge of protecting public health, but not be on the leading edge of reopening at the risk of increasing exposures, infections and deaths.

What Have We Learned So Far from the Pandemic

COVID-19 is opportunistic. It looks for opportunities to jump species, to spread from one person to another.

Some environments provide excellent conditions for the virus to spread. Think of cruise ships, prisons, migrant work camps, nursing homes, an aircraft carrier, homeless shelters, subways, meat packing plants. These were some of the breeding grounds for this deadly disease. And some of the early hot spots for spread of the disease were gatherings of faith communities for worship.

Human behavior can reduce its chances of spreading. In many places public cooperation with extreme government directives have “flattened the curve,” reducing the rate of new COVID-19 infections, deaths and the need for emergency equipment and supplies. This is good news.

At the same time, human behavior can also create opportunity for this deadly virus. Many infectious disease experts are concerned that it may be too soon to relax the restrictions on social gathering, the disciplines of social distancing, hand washing and wearing face masks in public. They anticipate that as people begin to interact in groups again, in close contact with one another, and in enclosed spaces, the spread of the virus may increase again. As people return to these practices, these health care professionals warn, we cannot be certain that the virus won’t rebound.

What Christian Love Looks Like in a Pandemic

We know love by this, that he [Jesus] laid down his life for us –
And we ought to lay down our lives for one another.
1 John 3:16

Followers of Jesus have a high calling to do no harm, to love our neighbors as ourselves, and a sacrificial duty to live for one another. It is the supreme act of love to consider another’s welfare equal to our own, and to live for the good of others, even in preference to our own good. We learned this from Jesus, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross,” (Hebrews 12:2b). We are able to accept this high calling, because Jesus went before us, living a life of self-giving love, even at the cost of his life. In Jesus’ resurrection from the dead, God reveals to us beyond the shadow of a doubt that life given to others in love never dies.

In this health crisis, as in most crises of any kind, the most vulnerable persons to the disease are persons who already live on the margins of society with limited resources personal, financial and social resources, or who live with physical, mental or emotional challenges. In particular, we know that persons of color, especially African Americans and Hispanic/Latinx persons, are disproportionately at risk of contracting and dying from the virus.

The only way I can understand my Christian calling in the face of this powerful, stealthy virus, is to do what I can to prevent it from spreading, especially to those most at risk. And the cost to me is small, really:

  • stay at home
  • wash my hands
  • cover my nose and mouth
  • don’t shake hands
  • give what I can to relieve the suffering of others
  • ask the people and churches I am assigned to look after, to take reasonable precautions to keep anyone from becoming ill at a church event or in one of our church facilities.

I hope and pray that you will search your own hearts, ask, What Would Jesus Do? And take on these small sacrifices for the health of the whole community, the whole human family.

‘I would do anything for a do-over’

A cautionary tale about gathering too soon for worship, comes from Living Spirit United Church in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

Click Here to Read

While Exercising Caution, Churches Should Prepare to Reopen

Many people are eager to return to our church buildings and to the patterns of worship, discipleship and service we know and love. While we wait in expectation for the new opening of our churches, we can prepare now. The opening of churches, as the opening of our communities will be measured and gradual. Soon, we will provide a summary of the phases we expect reopening to follow. There is no timeline, since we can’t know now how the disease will progress.

Each church should be as disciplined and compassionate about reopening as it has been about how to adjust to being closed. You should think as carefully about your neighbors, and the needs of people outside the church as you do about ourselves. Love never ends.

By the end of next week, detailed descriptions of what is required and what is allowed for each phase will be shared. Every church will develop a plan to reopen that conforms to the Phases outlined. You will need to share your plan for reopening with your district superintendent for your church to move from one phase to the next. For now, you might begin to think about who should be part of the planning group, what special challenges to social distancing does your church building present, and what groups use the church building that you need to plan for? You will need to begin your planning meeting by electronic means. What works for everyone? Zoom? Group emails? Telephone conference calls? Facetime? You can begin early to set up the means by which you will meet and work together.

Reopening shouldn’t be an exercise in returning to the way things used to be. It should be planned and undertaken as a creative, intentional process. As with any dislocation, this pandemic presents each church with the opportunity to evaluate how things were, and to make choices about what to return to, and what to leave behind.

Strength for the Long Run

I sent you my first message about COVID-19 on March 5. I didn’t know then that I would need to number these messages. Ten weeks later, this is COVID-19 Notice #6. The beginning of a crisis comes with a rush of anxiety and energy. We all drop what we were doing and turn attention to the present, pressing need of the moment. These long weeks later, with all the adjustments to cancelled school, work from home, closed buildings, suspended in-person worship, no hospital visitation have taken their toll.

I am grateful to each of you who has risen to the challenge and at the same time I am mindful that we all feel the strain at times and may even crumple under the burden. It’s no longer a sprint. We are in a marathon. We need to set a pace we can maintain. We need to make time to pay the bills, do the laundry and vacuum the floors, cut our toenails.

You are precious in the sight of your Creator. Breathe in the breath of life. Breathe out the weariness of the moment.

God will wipe every tear from their eyes.
Death will be no more;
mourning and crying and pain will be no more,
for the first things have passed away….
See, I am making all things new….
To the thirsty I will give water as a gift from the spring of the water of life.
Adapted from Revelation 21

Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky

Aviso #5, de parte de nuestra Obispa en relación con el COVID-19, 24 de abril de 2020

Clero Metodista Unido y Laicos del Gran Noroeste,

“Gracias a la entrañable misericordia de nuestro Dios. Así nos visitará desde el cielo el sol naciente para dar luz a los que viven en tinieblas, en la más terrible oscuridad, para guiar nuestros pasos por la senda de la paz. Lucas 1:78-79

EXTENSION DE SUSPENSIÓN DE ADORACIÓN Y CIERRE DE EDIFICIOS
Como obispa del Área del Gran Noroeste de la Iglesia Metodista Unida, estoy extendiendo la suspensión del culto en persona en nuestras Iglesias y otros ministerios, y el cierre de las facilidades de la iglesia y servicios esenciales en las conferencias de Alaska, Oregón, Idaho y el Pacífico Noroeste hasta el 30 de mayo de 2020, o hasta cuando al menos el gobierno estatal y los funcionarios de salud levanten las restricciones basadas en sus criterios publicados para la reapertura. Esta fecha puede reconsiderarse a medida que cambian las circunstancias.

¿Cómo llegué a esta decisión y qué significa?

24 DE MARZO: Suspensión del culto en persona y cierre de edificios.

El 24 de marzo ordené que el culto en persona y otras reuniones se pospusieran en las Iglesias Metodistas Unidas y otros ministerios hasta el 30 de abril de 2020.

Al mismo tiempo, ordené que se cerraran todas las instalaciones de la Iglesia, excepto los servicios esenciales. Estas acciones se tomaron para proteger la salud de las personas vulnerables, para frenar la propagación de la enfermedad y para evitar que los sistemas de atención médica colapsaran debido al aumento repentino de casos que necesitarían camas y equipos de hospital.

¡Ayudaste a mantener a la gente SALUDABLE!

¡Lo hiciste! Hiciste ajustes y encontraste maneras de ser iglesia sin reunirte para adorar. Tus acciones y el cumplimiento por parte de la población general de las órdenes de los gobernadores parecen haber frenado la propagación, aplanado la curva de la crisis y evitado una crisis en nuestros sistemas de atención médica.

Doy gracias a Dios por las increíbles formas en que has contribuido a estos resultados. Al mismo tiempo, sufrimos por las personas que contrajeron COVID-19, algunas de las cuales fueron hospitalizadas e incluso murieron. Y seguimos manteniendo en nuestros corazones y oraciones a todos los que están en riesgo de contraer esta enfermedad por que prestan servicios esenciales, o tienen condiciones de salud comprometedoras, o quienes, debido a las desigualdades sistémicas en nuestra sociedad, viven con poca o ninguna red de seguridad social.

PASCUA DE RESURECCION: Celebraste la resurrección en la sombra de la muerte. ¡Aleluya!

Encontraste formas de superar todo tipo de obstáculos para celebrar la Pascua. Ustedes clérigos y líderes laicos han demostrado un espíritu aventurero, ya que aprendieron a cuidarse unos a otros, a rendir culto y apoyar a las personas vulnerables en sus vecindarios, mientras mantenían la distancia física y suspendían todas las reuniones. Cristo el Señor resucitó esta Pascua, con gritos de Hosanna!, con oraciones por fortaleza y sanidad, y con actos de generosidad. Muy bien hecho, amados y fieles servidores.

MAYO 1

Ahora nos estamos acercando al final de las instrucciones que les di el 24 de marzo y muchos de ustedes están ansiosos por saber si las restricciones se levantarán o se extenderán. Estoy monitoreando muy de cerca toda la orientación y dirección para así poder levantar las restricciones en cada uno de nuestros cuatro estados del Gran Noroeste, así como también revisando los informes diarios de nuevos casos, muertes y la capacidad del sistema de salud. Como saben, la enfermedad se ha desarrollado a diferentes velocidades en toda el área. Y los climas culturales y políticos en nuestra región son variados, lo que lleva a diferentes evaluaciones de los riesgos involucrados. Me encuentro liderando en medio de la continua incertidumbre y controversia sobre cual es el mejor curso de acción. Tres prioridades basadas en valores informan mi liderazgo como su obispa.

  1. No haga daño: Proteja la salud publica
  2. Haz el bien: Comparta la carga financiera con las personas más vulnerables y con los mas impactados económicamente.
  3. Manténgase en el amor de Dios: Promueva los ministerios que vivifican la Iglesia.

HAZ EL BIEN. Protege la salud pública

Siguiendo el liderazgo de cuatro gobernadores muy diferentes, nuestros cuatro estados están resistiendo la pandemia mejor de lo esperado.  Estoy predispuesta a confiar en los gobernadores de cada estado y escuchar a sus asesores de atención médica, que conocen su región, su gente y quieren brindarles una guía prudente al pueblo. Si bien los cuatro gobernadores han establecido sus criterios para levantar las restricciones gradualmente dentro de sus estados, en la actualidad ninguno de estos gobernadores ha tomado medidas específicas para levantar las restricciones que afectarían a nuestras Iglesias. Cuando lo hagan, las iglesias deberán ser muy cautelosas sobre la reapertura y reuniones en nuestras Iglesias, teniendo en cuenta que entre nuestros miembros y amigos hay muchos participantes que corren el riesgo de contraer enfermedades graves debido a COVID-19, debido a la edad o condiciones de salud comprometedoras.

HAZ EL BIEN. Comparta las cargas de las personas más vulnerables

Durante este tiempo que nuestros edificios han estado cerrados y hemos aplazado el culto en persona, espero que cada congregación se haya comprometido con sus vecinos, al asociarse con organizaciones comunitarias que están directamente involucradas con las personas que son más vulnerables a los impactos económicos de la pandemia. Este compromiso con su vecindario será muy importante para su congregación, su contexto y las asociaciones que puede formar durante este tiempo para usted poder servir a las personas más expuestas durante esta crisis. El otro día escuché de una iglesia en un pequeño pueblo que estableció una “cuenta” con el supermercado local para que las personas que necesitaban comida pudieran “comprar” lo que necesitaban y cobrarlo a una cuenta de la iglesia. En este acuerdo todos ganan, las personas obtienen comida, la iglesia sirve a las personas necesitadas, a quienes quizás ni siquiera conocen, y el negocio de la tienda de comestibles recibe apoyo. No existe una receta para este tipo de respuesta innovadora. Todo se basa en relaciones locales que pueden convertirse en redes de cuidado.

MANTÉNGASE EN AMOR DE DIOS. Promueva los ministerios que vivifican la Iglesia. 

Si bien sé que la efectividad del ministerio y la salud de la vida de la congregación se ven afectadas cuando las personas no pueden reunirse para adorar, esta dificultad no nos debe justificar a correr el riesgo de propagar la enfermedad a través de reuniones de la iglesia o exponer a personas mayores con problemas de salud y hasta la posibilidad de muerte al reabrir nuestras reuniones de la iglesia demasiado pronto. Confío y sé que los líderes y las personas en cada iglesia están encontrando formas creativas de continuar cumpliendo la promesa de Dios de vida abundante para todas las personas y toda la creación a pesar de estas circunstancias extremas. Cuando sea el momento adecuado, nos reuniremos nuevamente y reconstruiremos y renovaremos nuestros ministerios.

31 DE MAYO – PENTECOSTÉS

Al entrar en otro mes de algún nivel de separación física, esperamos que podamos reunirnos en nuestras iglesias el 31 de mayo en el día de Pentecostés. Pentecostés se considera el cumpleaños de la Iglesia, cuando personas de muchas naciones se reunieron en Jerusalén para escuchar a Pedro predicar. El libro de los Hechos describe cómo la gente entendió lo que el dijo, a pesar de que hablaban muchos idiomas diferentes. Espero que podamos reunirnos en adoración ese día, o tal vez antes. Mantengamos esto como una fecha en que todos esperamos, para orar y para trabajar. Y si no puede ser el 31 de mayo, si llega antes o después, entonces, nos ajustaremos, tal como lo hemos estado haciendo durante estas semanas. 

No necesito recordarte que Dios está con nosotros y en el trabajo que realizamos. No necesito recordarte que los milagros suceden todos los días, incluso en medio de la enfermedad y la muerte, a medida que las personas de corazones generosos vierten su vida en amor y servicio en donde es necesario.  Somos bendecidos al ser de bendición. Gracias a nuestro Dios, que abre el camino de la vida ante nosotros. 

Que Dios te bendiga y te guarde hoy y en los días venideros.

Obispa Elaine JW Stanovsky

Bishop’s COVID-19 Notice #5.1 – Amended April 27, 2020

Note: Amended text is denoted in Purple in first section. Changes were also made to the section titled “DO NO HARM. Protect Public Health.” Resource links have been added below the signature for further reading.


United Methodist Clergy and Laity of the Greater Northwest Area,

By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us,
to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
guide our feet into the way of peace.    Luke 1:78-79

EXTENSION OF WORSHIP SUSPENSION AND BUILDING CLOSURES
As bishop of the Greater Northwest Area of The United Methodist Church, I am extending the suspension of in-person worship in United Methodist Churches and other ministries and the closure of church facilities to all but essential services throughout the Alaska, Oregon-Idaho and Pacific Northwest Conferences through May 30, 2020, despite the loosening of restrictions in some or all of the states of Alaska, Idaho, Oregon and Washington. This date may be reconsidered as circumstances change.

How did I come to this decision, and what does it mean?

MARCH 24: Suspension of In-Person Worship and Closure of Buildings.
On March 24 I directed that in-person worship and other gatherings be postponed in United Methodist Churches and other ministries through April 30, 2020. At the same time, I directed that all Church facilities were to be closed except for essential services. These actions were taken to protect the health of vulnerable people, to slow the spread of the disease, and to prevent health care systems from becoming overwhelmed by a sudden surge of cases needing hospital beds and equipment.   

You helped keep people HEALTHY!
You did it! You made adjustments and found ways to be church without gathering for in-person worship. Your actions, and the general population’s compliance with the orders of the governors appear to have slowed the spread, flattened the curve of the crisis, and averted a crisis in our health care systems. I thank God for the incredible ways you have contributed to these outcomes. At the same time, we grieve over people who have contracted COVID-19, some of whom have been hospitalized and even died. And we continue to hold in our hearts and prayers all who are at risk for this disease because they render essential services, or have compromising health conditions, or who, because of systemic inequities in our society live with little or no social safety net.

EASTER: You celebrated Resurrection in the Shadow of Death. Alleluia!
You found ways to overcome all kinds of obstacles to celebrating Easter. Your clergy and lay leaders have demonstrated an adventuresome spirit, as you learned how to care for one another, conduct worship and support vulnerable people in your neighborhoods, while maintaining physical distancing and suspending all gatherings. Christ the Lord was Risen again this Easter, with shouts of Alleluia!, prayers for strength and healing, and acts of generosity. Well done, good and faithful servants.   

MAY 1
We are now approaching the end of the directives I gave on March 24 and many of you are eager to know whether the restrictions will be lifted or extended. I am closely monitoring the guidance and criteria for loosening restrictions in each of our four Greater Northwest states, as well as the daily reports of new cases, deaths and health system capacity. As you know, the disease has unfolded at different rates across the area. And the cultural and political climates across our region are varied, leading to different assessments of the risks involved. I find myself leading in the midst of continued uncertainty and significant controversy about the best course of action. Three value-based priorities inform my leadership as your bishop.

  1. Do No Harm: Protect the public health
  2. Do Good: Share the financial burden with persons most vulnerable to economic impacts
  3. Stay in Love with God: Promote the life-giving ministries of the Church

DO NO HARM. Protect Public Health
Following the leadership of four very different governors, our four states are all weathering the pandemic better than expected. All four governors have laid out the criteria that must be met before incremental, phased loosening of restrictions within their states begins. I am pre-disposed to trust the governors of each state to listen to their health care advisors, know their regions and give prudent guidance. At present none of these four governors has reported that the criteria within their state have been met. As Christians and citizens committed to protecting public health, we are responsible both to abide by the guidance of government and health officials, and to assess whether the Church holds itself to a higher standard of caution than the states direct.

First, we need to evaluate whether the governors’ own criteria have been met before loosening restrictions. As of this writing (4/27/2020) Alaska and Idaho have begun to loosen restrictions on gatherings of faith communities. Oregon and Washington have not taken similar actions at this time. Despite the affirmation by governors that testing and case tracking are necessary to protect public health, based upon their own published documents and reports, I cannot verify that each state has the capacity for testing and case tracking necessary to prevent spread of the disease.

Second, if a state meets its own criteria, and loosens restrictions, I will continue to ask whether it is prudent for the Churches to do likewise. Without adequate testing and case tracking, church gatherings may allow the virus to spread unchecked and expose people who are at most risk for severe illness, due to age, access to health care or compromising health conditions.

DO GOOD. Share the Burdens of Most Vulnerable Persons
During this season of closed buildings and postponed in-person worship, I hope that every congregation will re-engage its neighbors, by partnering with community organizations that are directly involved with people who are most vulnerable to the economic impacts of the pandemic. How this neighborhood engagement looks will be specific to your congregation, its context, and the partnerships you are able to form to serve people most at risk during this crisis. I heard the other day of a church in a small town that set up a “tab” with the local grocer so that people who needed food could “shop” for what they needed and charge it to a tab that the Church paid. In this win-win-win arrangement, people get food, the church serves people in need whom they may not even know, and the grocer’s business is supported in the process. There is no recipe for this kind of innovative response. It’s all based on local relationships that can become networks of care.

STAY IN LOVE WITH GOD. Promote the Life-Giving Ministries of the Church.
While I know that the effectiveness of ministry and health of congregational life suffer when people are not able to gather for worship, this hardship does not justify taking the risk of spreading the disease through church gatherings, or exposing older and health-compromised people to infection and possible death by re-opening our church gatherings too soon. I trust and know that the leaders and people in each church are finding creative ways to continue to serve God’s promise of abundant life for all people and the whole creation despite these extreme circumstances. When the time is right, we will gather again and re-build and renew our ministries.

MAY 31 – PENTECOST
As we enter another month of some level of physical separation, let’s hope that we will be able to gather in our churches on Pentecost, May 31. Pentecost is considered the birthday of the Church, when people from many nations gathered in Jerusalem to hear Peter preach. The book of Acts describes how the people understood what he said, even though they spoke many different languages. I hope that we will be able to gather in worship that day – maybe sooner. Let’s hold it as a date to hope for, to pray for, to work for. And if it can’t be May 31 – if it comes sooner, or later – then, we’ll adjust, just as we have been adjusting for these many weeks.    

I don’t need to remind you that God is with us and at work. I don’t need to remind you that miracles happen every day, even in the midst of disease and death, as people of generous hearts pour their lives out in love and service where there is need. We are blessed to be a blessing. Thanks be to God, who opens the way of life before us. 

May God bless you and keep you today and through the days ahead.

Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky

FOR FURTHER READING

ALASKA

IDAHO

OREGON

WASHINGTON

An important update regarding the 2020 GNW Shared Annual Conference Session

April 16, 2020

Lay and clergy members of the Alaska, Oregon-Idaho and Pacific Northwest Annual Conferences,

Beloved in Christ, I am writing in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic to notify you that I have canceled the Shared Annual Conference session scheduled for June 2020 at the Washington State Fair Grounds in Puyallup, Washington. The current global health crisis has required strong action on the part of public officials to protect the public health. We don’t know how long the present restrictions of public gatherings, commerce and travel will continue. In deference to public health considerations, to honor the members of the Conferences who must make hotel and travel plans, and in order to avoid a sudden decision close to the scheduled dates, I have made this decision now. 

Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky

The Greater Northwest is not alone in facing this dilemma. We are living through unprecedented times, requiring adaptations to many of the customs and systems we have known. Alternative plans for the Conference sessions will be developed collaboratively with the cabinets and officers of the Conferences, as well as colleagues across the United States.

Canceling Annual Conference leaves many questions unanswered in the short run that will have to be answered before I can announce alternative plans to conduct the minimal, essential business of the Annual Conferences in a safe and timely manner. Just a few:

  • How will nominations for the next quadrennium be handled?
  • What about the clergy session: retirements, commissioning, and ordinations?
  • Don’t we have to adopt a budget for 2021?
  • Click here to submit your own questions.

I appeal to you for patience and grace as we search for an orderly way to administer the Conferences without compromising the health and safety of our members or the general public. I hope that we will be able to announce the alternative plan to do this very soon.

As we struggle to find our bearings in the turbulence of illness, separation, risk, and economic collapse, I am deeply grateful to each of you for your steadfast faithfulness to God’s promises of abundant life, and for your sacrificial commitment to the Church – your local church home, your neighborhood and the whole global United Methodist family.

Listen, taste and see. God is at work in the turbulence – doing a new thing. Do you not see it?

I wait with longing to be together again. In the meantime, we have challenges to face, work to do, lessons to learn. It’s a great, terrifying time to be alive. May God bless you and keep you until we can meet together.

Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky

Attached: Cancellation of Annual Conference June 2020

Bishop’s COVID-19 Notice #3, March 24, 2020

“Teacher,” he said, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” He answered, “ You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.”

Luke 10:25b, 27


In the midst of a crisis beyond our imagination, it’s good to go back to basics:

Love God  |  Love your neighbor  |  You will live

Jesus doesn’t say that if you do this you will not get the Coronavirus or that if you get it you will not die. Jesus says that, no matter what happens, if you live your life in love with God and neighbor, you will experience the blessing of living life in all its fullness. I pray this for all of us who try to walk in Jesus’ footsteps.

LOVING GOD WHILE PROTECTING PUBLIC HEALTH

Suspension of In-person Worship and Other Gatherings through April
As your bishop, I am charged to lead and oversee the spiritual and temporal affairs of The United Methodist Church. For the love of God and of our neighbors in every place, today I am directing continued suspension of in-person worship through April 30, 2020. This directive is in effect for United Methodist Churches across the states of Alaska, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington and anywhere in the Greater Northwest Area served by United Methodist clergy under my supervision. This suspension of worship includes Palm Sunday, Holy Week and Easter. It applies to both indoor and outdoor worship, weddings and funerals and to all days of the week. Please continue to conduct worship, bible study, prayer groups, and fellowship groups if you can do so remotely.

The virus is spreading in every state in the country in an invisible, vicious cycle. When a person becomes infected, symptoms don’t appear for up to two weeks. If they don’t follow hygiene and social distancing guidelines, they will expose others, who won’t show symptoms for two weeks, while they, in turn, expose others. In order to slow the spread of the virus, and to protect health care systems from being overwhelmed, each of us must take precautions to protect ourselves and others as if we are carrying the virus ourselves and as if the people around us are infected. This is what loving ourselves and our neighbors looks like for the foreseeable future, no matter where you live or whether you know anyone who has been diagnosed with the Coronavirus.

Holy Week and Easter
For churches that are unable or choose not to lead worship remotely, I am working with a team to produce an Easter Sunday worship video resource that can be accessed by local churches at any time and in any place with internet service. It will include a variety of voices, faces, and landscapes from a wide variety of people and places across the greater northwest. We will encourage groups to organize watch parties on Facebook to share Easter together/apart.

Communion
The bishops in the Western Jurisdiction are issuing a letter regarding the online celebration of Holy Communion when we are not “congregating” for worship. This guidance will be available tomorrow. UPDATE – Read the letter here.

Closure of Church facilities to all except essential services
All United Methodist church buildings and other facilities are to be closed, effective March 28 to all but essential services and only to the extent allowed by state and local government restrictions or advice. Protective cleaning and hygiene practices are mandatory for all exempt essential services held in United Methodist facilities:  

  1. Sanitizing cleaning of the building before and after every use
  2. 6 feet social distance among participants 
  3. Hand washing with soap and water or hand sanitizer
  4. Coughing and sneezing into tissues which are discarded into closed containers

LOVING NEIGHBORS

God loves the faithful, so the faithful can love God’s vulnerable children. This pandemic is putting many people at dire risk of disease, isolation, hunger, unemployment, mental illness. Protecting people from the virus is just the beginning. Our calling is to form life-giving relationships with people who are poor, homeless, outcast, unemployed, abused, despised or forgotten. In every place, I challenge you to think creatively about how your church can hear the cries of the needy and respond in ways that offer dignity, self-determination, and hope. Gift cards to grocery stores, drive-through food pantries, volunteers to purchase and deliver food to people with compromising conditions, phone calls, hygiene kits for homeless. If you ask people in your community what they need, they will tell you.

SHARING THE BURDEN IN CONNECTION

We know that this crisis will create hardships for local churches. Church budgets will be strained as people are laid off from their jobs, struggle to buy food and pay rent, and watch their retirement savings plummet. Your conference leaders are planning for reduced income in local churches and at the conference level. My priorities, as we make adjustments are 

  1. Finding ways to lighten the burden on local churches,
  2. Protecting income security for clergy and staff in our churches and conferences,
  3. Re-directing resources to relieve financial strain among the most vulnerable 

We recognize that funds saved for a rainy day, are needed now. Watch for concrete plans.

LET’S MAKE IT A STANDING DATE…

Every Wednesday morning through April, clergy and lay members of the Annual Conference can join a Zoom webinar with me and other conference leaders at 9 am PDT (10 am MDT, 8 am AKDT). If you want to be part of these gatherings, mark your calendar now for this hour every Wednesday and watch for the links.

May God bless you and take care of you;
May the GOD be kind and gracious to you;
May God look on you with favor and give you peace.

Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky

© Copyright 2019, Greater Northwest Episcopal Area. All Rights Reserved.