Author: Elaine Stanovsky

Question: Can we meet outdoors on Easter?

The following question was posed this week to Bishop Stanovsky by a pastor serving in the Greater Northwest Area. It has been edited lightly for clarity.


QUESTION

Bishop, I heard Governor Cuomo’s address this morning and one of the things he noted is that the blanket action to close everything needs to be made with the added information they have gained. He said now strategic decision making needs to be brought to bear so that portions of the population that need to stay home should and others could be allowed to go to work and start the economy slowly and thoughtfully. There are populations that need to stay home and some don’t if they follow the strict CDC protocols.

I hope in making your decision about church closures, you will consider these differences in the populations and areas most affected and those which are not. For instance, before the church closures, we had urged people in high-risk populations to stay home and use precautions. Those who were not, if they felt they were safe, could come to worship where we practiced strict sanitary protocols and spatial distancing.

One of our members recently offered to use his outdoor stage and field for an open-air Easter Celebration and place chairs safely apart if we want to use it instead of the sanctuary. His offer is gracious and he is thinking of how to have an Easter Celebration safely.

This is the time of strategic decision making I think Governor Cuomo was referring to. Just my thoughts as you make your decision. I am praying for you as always.

Pastor

ANSWER

A week ago, I was imagining the faithful scattered sparsely on hillsides shouting Alleluia on Easter Sunday.  The person who has offered an outdoor space is thinking creatively and generously.  However, this is not the year.

The states of Oregon, Washington, and Idaho have all issued Stay at Home orders that do not permit gatherings of any size, even if social distances are kept. An outdoor gathering for Easter worship in any of these three states is not allowed under orders in effect and put public health at risk. As I prayerfully gather and weigh all the evidence and listen to the orders of our public officials, I am moved by conscience and obedience to the law of the states and the law of love to insist that United Methodists postpone from gathering until the danger is past and restrictions lifted. 

My directive applies to all four states in the Greater Northwest out of an abundance of caution and concern for public health. 

Bishop Elaine

Related Information

AlaskaHealth Mandates
IdahoOrder to Self-Isolate
OregonOrder to Stay Homes, Save Lives
WashingtonProclamation to Stay Home – Stay Healthy

Aviso #3 de parte de nuestra Obispa acerca del COVID-19, 24 de Marzo de 2020

“Maestro”, dijo, “¿qué debo hacer para heredar la vida eterna?” Él respondió: “Amarás al Señor tu Dios con todo tu corazón, y con toda tu alma, y con todas tus fuerzas, y con toda tu mente; y a tu prójimo como a ti mismo “.

Lucas 10:25b, 27


En medio de una crisis más allá de nuestra imaginación, es bueno volver a lo básico:

Ama a Dios | Ama a tu prójimo | Tu vivirás

Jesús no dice que si haces esto no obtendrás el “Coronavirus” o que si lo obtienes no morirás. Jesús dice que, pase lo que pase, si vives tu vida amando a Dios y a tu prójimo, experimentarás la bendición de vivir la vida en toda su plenitud. Esta es mi oración para todos los que tratamos de seguir los pasos de Jesús.

AMANDO A DIOS MIENTRAS PROTEGEMOS LA SALUD PÚBLICA

Suspensión de la adoración en persona y otras reuniones hasta el mes de abril
Como su obispa, estoy encargada de dirigir y supervisar los asuntos espirituales y temporales de la Iglesia Metodista Unida. Por el amor de Dios y de nuestros vecinos en todos los lugares, hoy dirijo la suspensión continua de la adoración en persona hasta el 30 de abril de 2020. Este comunicado es vigente para todas las Iglesias Metodistas Unidas en los estados de Alaska, Idaho, Oregón, Washington y en cualquier parte del área Episcopal del Gran Noroeste en donde sirve un clérigo Metodista bajo mi supervisión. Esta suspensión de adoración en persona incluye el Domingo de Ramos, Semana Santa y Pascua de Resurrección. Esto aplica tanto a la adoración interior y exterior, bodas, funerales y cualquier reunión durante los días de la semana. Por favor, continúe dirigiendo la adoración, estudio de la Biblia, grupos de oración y grupos de compañerismo si puede hacerlo virtualmente (en línea).

El virus se está propagando en todos los estados del país en un círculo vicioso e invisible. Cuando una persona se infecta, los síntomas no aparecen hasta por dos semanas. Si no siguen las pautas de higiene y distanciamiento social, expondrán a otros, que no mostrarán síntomas durante dos semanas, mientras que a su vez, estos expondrán a otros. Para detener la propagación del virus y evitar que los sistemas de atención médica se vean abrumados, cada uno de nosotros debe tomar precauciones para protegernos a nosotros mismos y a los demás como si estuviéramos portando el virus y como si las personas que nos rodean estén infectadas. Así es como nos amamos a nosotros mismos y a nuestros vecinos por ahora, sin importar dónde usted viva o si usted conoce a alguien que haya sido diagnosticado con el “Coronavirus”.

Semana Santa y Pascua de Resurrección
Para las iglesias que no pueden o deciden no dirigir la adoración de forma virtual, estoy trabajando con un equipo para producir un video que servirá de recurso para la adoración del Domingo de Pascua, el cual las iglesias locales podrán tener acceso en cualquier momento y en cualquier lugar si tienen servicio de “Internet”. Este recurso incluirá una variedad de voces, rostros y paisajes de varios lugares y personas del área noroeste. Motivamos a los grupos a organizar fiestas usando el “Facebook” para compartir la Pascua juntos / separados.

Comunión
Los obispos de la Jurisdicción occidental estarán emitiendo una carta sobre la celebración en línea, de la Sagrada Comunión para ser usada cuando no nos estamos “congregando en persona” para la adoración. Esta guía estará disponible mañana. ACTUALIZACIÓN – Lea la carta aquí.

Cierre de todas las facilidades de la Iglesia, excepto los servicios esenciales.
Todos los edificios de la Iglesia Metodista Unida y otras facilidades se cerrarán, a partir del 28 de marzo con referencia a todos los servicios, excepto los esenciales, y únicamente en la medida en que lo permitan las restricciones o consejos de los gobiernos estatales y locales. Estas prácticas de limpieza e higiene de protección son obligatorias para todos los servicios esenciales que se lleven a cabo en las facilidades de la Iglesia Metodista Unida:

  1. Limpie y desinfecte el edificio antes y después de cada uso.
  2. Distancia social de 6 pies entre los participantes.
  3. Lavarse las manos con agua y jabón o usar desinfectante para las manos.
  4. Toser y estornudar en pañuelos desechables y depositarlos en recipientes cerrados.

AMANDO A NUESTROS VECINOS

Dios ama a los fieles, para que los fieles puedan amar a los hijos de Dios mas vulnerables. Esta pandemia está poniendo a muchas personas en grave riesgo de enfermedad, aislamiento, hambre, desempleo, enfermedad mental. Proteger a las personas del virus es solo el comienzo. Nuestro llamado es para dar nuestras vidas en la formación de relaciones con personas pobres, sin hogar, marginadas, desempleadas, maltratadas, despreciadas y olvidadas. En cada lugar, le desafío a que piensen creativamente acerca de cómo su iglesia puede escuchar el lamento de los necesitados y puedan responder de maneras que ofrezcan dignidad, autodeterminación y esperanza. Pueden responder con tarjetas de regalo para supermercados, bancos de comida, tener voluntarios que hagan las compras y entreguen los alimentos a personas con condiciones vulnerables, hacer llamadas telefónicas, tener artículos de higiene para personas sin hogar. Si le preguntas a la gente de tu comunidad qué necesitan, ellos te lo dirán.

COMPARTIENDO LA CARGA EN CONEXIÓN

Sabemos que esta crisis creará dificultades para las iglesias locales. Los presupuestos de la iglesia se verán afectados a medida que las personas sean despedidas de sus trabajos, luchen por comprar alimentos y pagar el alquiler, y a la misma vez vean cómo se desploman sus ahorros para la jubilación. Los líderes de su conferencia planean reducir los ingresos en las iglesias locales y en el nivel de la conferencia. Mis prioridades, mientras hacemos ajustes son:

  1. Encontrar maneras de aliviar la carga sobre las iglesias locales,
  2. Protegiendo la seguridad de ingresos para el clero y el personal en nuestras iglesias y conferencias,
  3. Re-dirigir recursos para aliviar la tensión financiera entre los más vulnerables.

Reconocemos que los fondos ahorrados para un momento de necesidad son necesarios ahora. Esté atento a los planes concretos.

HAGAMOS UNA FECHA PERMANENTE …

Todos los miércoles por la mañana durante el mes de abril, el clero y los miembros laicos de la Conferencia Anual podrán unirse a un seminario web de Zoom conmigo y otros líderes de la conferencia a las 9:00 a.m. PDT (10 a.m. MDT, 8 a.m. AKDT). Si desea ser parte de estas reuniones, marque en su calendario para estar presente a esta hora todos los miércoles y esté atento a los enlaces.

Que Dios te bendiga y cuide de ti;
Que DIOS sea bondadoso contigo y te de Su gracia;
Que Dios te mire con favor y te dé paz.

Obispa Elaine JW Stanovsky

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

Respuestas de nuestras Iglesias Locales al COVID-19

El pan de Dios es el que baja del cielo y da vida al mundo. John 6:33


Amigos y Colegas en Cristo, la gracia y la paz estén con ustedes mientras navegamos por las aguas inciertas y desconocidas del COVID-19 que cambian nuestras vidas.

USTEDES HAN SIDO INCREIBLES! Mientras navegaba por una variedad de experiencias de adoración en línea estos dos últimos domingos, observe personas cantando, orando y predicando con todo el corazón. Mi profundo agradecimiento a cada uno de ustedes que están intentando algo nuevo en respuesta a las circunstancias nuevas y desafiantes que vivimos.

Al mismo tiempo, sabemos que esto no va a funcionar para todas las personas ni para todos los lugares. No hay nada de malo si su iglesia decide enviar boletines y sermones impresos o si se une a otra iglesia para su culto en línea. Si intenta algo y no funciona, solicite ayuda o pruebe algo diferente. No hay una sola respuesta correcta para todas las circunstancias y capacidades de nuestras iglesias. Los líderes que se adaptan y no siguen a la multitud, usan los recursos que tienen (o pueden obtener) para atender las circunstancias que enfrentan.

Tu tienes muchas preguntas sin respuesta

Pascua de Resurrección. Usted quiere saber acerca de las celebraciones de Semana Santa y Pascua de Resurrección.  Les prometo que antes del martes 24 de marzo les informare si extenderé, enmendaré o levantaré la suspensión de la adoración en persona en nuestras iglesias. Cumpliré esa promesa.  Yo esperaba tener una decisión hoy, pero luego de consultar con otros líderes de la conferencia y asesores de la respuesta a esta crisis, voy a esperar para tomar una decisión final. Es probable que extienda la suspensión de la adoración hasta la Pascua de Resurrección, el 12 de abril de 2020 y tal vez más allá, así que prepárense para esta posibilidad. Estamos planeando ofrecer una alternativa en línea para la adoración local durante la Pascua de Resurrección en caso de que la adoración en persona continúe suspendida.

Conferencia general. Conferencias Anuales. Conferencia Jurisdiccional.

Ayer supimos que la Conferencia General de mayo se pospondrá. Los líderes del área del Gran Noroeste y la Jurisdicción Occidental están monitoreando de cerca las recomendaciones de las agencias de salud pública, ya que el bienestar de todos los participantes es nuestra mayor preocupación. Les informaré tan pronto se tomen decisiones acerca de la Conferencias Anual y Conferencia Jurisdiccional.

Finanzas. Sabemos que estamos en medio de un dramático descenso económico. No sabemos cuánto durará ni qué tan profundo será. Sabemos que ya algunos están experimentando pérdida de empleo e ingresos. También sabemos que algunas iglesias locales ya están experimentando ingresos bien reducidos. Los líderes de la conferencia ya están explorando formas en que podemos aliviar la presión sobre las iglesias locales, y formas en que podemos mantener las funciones esenciales de la conferencia durante este tiempo de escasez.

Trabajo con el Espíritu y el Alma: Cuidar nuestras relaciones personales, nuestro espíritu así también como nuestros cuerpos.

Sabemos que los seres humanos somos vulnerables a la inseguridad y al aislamiento, de la misma manera que somos vulnerables a este virus.  Comparto con ustedes sus inquietudes acerca de cuán dañino puede ser el miedo, la escasez y el aislamiento al momento de tratar de mantener un equilibrio entre 1) proteger y preservar la salud física y 2) la preocupación por la salud espiritual y el como fomentar el nutrir nuestras relaciones personales. En el mejor de los casos, vemos, atendemos e invitamos a la integridad de las personas a las que servimos para que estén presentes en la adoración, en la oración, en la vida de la Iglesia. Pero también sabemos que no estamos realmente completos por teléfono, ni en línea, ni con 6 pies de separación.

Pero nos preguntamos; ¿Cómo profundizamos nuestra confianza en Dios, en los demás y cultivamos la interacción humana mientras practicamos distancias seguras entre nosotros? Un pastor cambio la manera de decir  “distancia social” por “distancia física”, enfatizando la importancia de acercarse socialmente, a pesar de la distancia física. Esto un desafío. Pero no es imposible. Sé que estás alcanzando un buen nivel compartiendo ideas creativas: desde la adoración en línea hasta la manera en que compartes las despensas de alimentos y las reuniones de oración para tu comunidad.

¿Qué esperanza nos ofrece Dios?

Su fe en Dios debería ser un recurso para usted en estos tiempos.

El COVID-19 está causando cambios amplios a largo plazo en nuestra vida cotidiana y en toda la raza humana, a nivel mundial. Experimentamos los efectos en nuestra vida diaria: anaqueles en las tiendas vacíos, actividades restringidas y una conciencia inusual de cada estornudo, picor en la garganta y la tos matutina. ¿Cuántos perderán sus trabajos? Casas? Pensiones? ¿Cómo vamos a comer? Nos preocupamos por nuestros padres, abuelos e hijos. Algunas familias viven en un contacto más estrecho de lo habitual y experimentan lo positivo o negativo de una comunidad cercana.

La Biblia reconoce que la vida viene con bendiciones y dificultades. Tiempos de abundancia y tiempos de escasez. Y la Biblia también nos muestra que las malas noticias no son la última palabra. Estamos viviendo en un mundo imperfecto, incierto, peligroso y desconcertante, el mismo mundo que Dios describe en la Biblia.

Como cristianos, tenemos una relación con nuestro Salvador que consuela a los afligidos, rescata a los que perecen, y recibe a los extranjeros. Lo conocemos como un ser humano que vivió en este mundo de miseria, y se desvivió para alcanzar todos los grupos sociales.  Lo conocemos como Dios entre nosotros. Y Jesús nos invita a ser socios de la gracia salvadora de Dios al estar con otros. Jesús conoce nuestra fuerza mejor que nosotros. Escucha la voz del Salvador, que te dice que tu estás viviendo un momento de prueba. Lo puedo ver!. No estoy causando esta enfermedad!. Esto es parte de un mundo imperfecto. Estoy contigo!, llevándote a ser una bendición en este mundo de dolor.

Te estoy pidiendo que no compartas Comunión por un tiempo. Pero no olvides el pan y la copa. La vida de Jesús, dada por ti. El amor derramado por ti. Jesús dice: este soy yo: mi cuerpo, mi sangre. La Copa de Salvación. No necesitas los símbolos para experimentar la presencia real de Dios. Recuerda el amor de Dios por ti. Dios nos pone en este mundo para amarnos unos a otros.

Nada puede separarnos del amor de Dios en Jesucristo. La gracia del Señor Jesucristo, el amor de Dios y la comunión del Espíritu Santo sean con todos ustedes.

Obispa Elaine JW Stanovsky

Bishop’s COVID-19 Notice #2, March 19, 2020

For the bread of God… comes down from heaven and gives life to the world. John 6:33


Friends and Colleagues in Christ, grace and peace be with you as we navigate the life-changing and uncertain waters of COVID-19.

YOU HAVE BEEN AMAZING! As I surfed a variety of online worship experiences these last two Sundays, I saw people singing, praying and preaching their hearts out. My deep gratitude to each of you who is trying something new in response to new and challenging circumstances.

At the same time, we know this isn’t going to work for everyone or every place. There’s nothing wrong if your church decides to send out printed bulletins and sermons or joins another church for its online worship. If you try something and it doesn’t work, ask for help or try something different. There isn’t one right answer for all the circumstances and capacities of our churches. Adaptive leaders don’t follow the crowd, they use the resources they have (or can get) to address the circumstance they face.

You have a lot of Unanswered Questions

Easter. You want to know about Holy Week and Easter observances. I promised I’d let you know by Tuesday, March 24 whether I will extend, amend or lift the suspension of in-person worship in our churches. I will keep that promise. I hoped to have a decision today, but in consultation with other conference leaders and crisis response advisors, I am waiting to make a final decision. It is likely that I will extend the suspension of worship through at least Easter, April 12, 2020 and perhaps beyond, so be prepared for this possibility. We are planning to offer an online alternative to local worship on Easter in case in-person worship continues to be suspended.

General Conference. Annual Conferences. Jurisdictional Conference.

We learned yesterday that May’s General Conference will be postponed. Leaders across the Greater Northwest Area, and the Western Jurisdiction, are closely monitoring the recommendations of public health agencies, with the wellbeing of potential participants our utmost concern. I’ll let you know as soon as decisions are made about Annual and Jurisdictional Conferences.

Finances. We know that we are in the midst of a dramatic economic downturn. We don’t know how long it will last, or how deep it will crash. We know that others are experiencing loss of employment or income. We do know that some local churches are already experiencing reduced income. Your conference leaders are exploring ways we can relieve pressure on local churches, and ways in which we can sustain essential conference functions through this time of scarcity.

SOUL WORK: Caring for relationships and spirits as well as bodies.

We know that human beings are vulnerable to insecurity and isolation as well as to the virus. I share your concerns about how damaging fear, scarcity and isolation can be toward maintaining a balance between 1) protecting and preserving physical health and 2) concern for spiritual health and nurturing relationships. At our best, we see and tend and invite the wholeness of the persons we serve to show up in worship, in prayer, in play – in Church. And we know we aren’t really whole on the phone, or online, or with 6 feet of separation.

How do we deepen our confidence in God and each other and cultivate human community while practicing safe distances from each other? One pastor shifted from saying “social distance” to “physical distance,” emphasizing the importance of drawing near to one another socially, despite physical distance. It’s a challenge. But it’s not impossible. I know you are rising to it and sharing creative ideas: from online worship to drive-up food pantries and parking-lot meet ups for neighborhood prayers.

What hope does God offer?

Your faith in God should be a resource for you in these times.

COVID-19 is causing far-reaching, long-term changes in our daily lives and in the human race, globally. We experience the effects in our daily lives: empty store shelves, restricted activities, unusual awareness of every sneeze, throat tickle, morning cough.  How many will lose their jobs? Homes? Pensions? How will we eat? We worry for our parents, grandparents, children. Some families are living in tighter contact than usual and experiencing both the blessings and curses of close community.

The Bible acknowledges that life comes with blessings and curses.  Full times and lean times. And the Bible also shows us that bad news isn’t the final word. We are living in the imperfect, uncertain, dangerous, perplexing world God reveals in the Bible.

As Christians, we have a relationship with a Savior who comforts the afflicted, rescues the perishing and welcomes strangers.  We know him as a man who lived in a world of human misery, and he went out of his way to reach out across social distances of every kind. We know him as God-with-us. And Jesus invites us to be partners in God’s saving grace by being with others. Jesus knows our strength better than we do. Listen for the voice of the Savior, saying, you are living through a time of trial. I see you. I am not causing this disease. It is part of an imperfect world. I am with you, leading you to be a blessing in a world of hurt.

I’ve asked you not to share Communion for a while. But don’t forget the bread and the cup. Life, given for you. Love, poured out for you. Jesus says, this is me: my body my blood. Cup of Salvation. You don’t need the symbols to experience God’s real presence. Remember God’s love for you. God puts you in the world to love one another.

Nothing can separate us from the love of God in Jesus Christ.The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.

Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky

Bishop’s COVID-19 Notice #1, March 13, 2020

Dear United Methodist Clergy, Members and Friends:

DO NO HARM.  DO GOOD.  STAY IN LOVE WITH GOD.
John Wesley’s Three Simple Rules, adapted          

DO NO HARM

Day by day we are learning more about COVID-19, or the Coronavirus. We know that as many as 14 days may pass between when a person is exposed to the virus, and when symptoms begin. This means that, as in King and Snohomish Counties in Washington State, the virus can go undetected for some time before it is identified. During that time, the person infected with the virus is exposing others to infection without even knowing it. We also know the virus is highly contagious but that cautious measures can slow down the rate of its spread. Slowing the spread flattens the curve of the peak of an epidemic like this.  If there are too many cases needing medical attention at the same time, they can swamp our hospitals and clinics, making it impossible for all the critical COVID-19 cases, as well as other unrelated medical emergencies to receive timely and proper treatment. 

Consistent with the directives and recommendations issued by Oregon Governor Brown and Washington Governor Inslee and recognizing that persons over 60 or who have compromising health conditions are advised not to attend gatherings of more than 10 people, I am directing the local churches of any size and other ministries in the states of Alaska, Idaho, Oregon and Washington to suspend in-person worship and other gatherings of more than 10 people for the next two weeks, starting today. Your conference leaders and I will assess unfolding events and update this directive as appropriate, but no later than March 24, before Palm Sunday and Holy Week.

Some people wonder if this strong action is warranted in Alaska, where the first case was just confirmed and Idaho, where COVID-19 has not been detected yet. I am asking you to adopt this discipline as a courageous act of prevention. It is likely that the virus is present, though undetected, as it has been in so many places. We don’t want to risk anyone contracting or spreading this virus in church!

I am also asking conference staff to suspend unnecessary air travel and advising clergy to do the same until further notice.

DO GOOD

The Oregon Health Authority reminds us that “Together, we can minimize the impact of COVID-19 on our most vulnerable community members”. United Methodists strive to live in ways that promote the well-being of others. In this season of spreading disease, I appeal to “extend hospitality to strangers:”

  • keep a social distance of 6 feet, no hugs, hand-shakes or elbow bumps
  • stay home if you don’t feel well
  • practice healthy hygiene

“Contribute to the needs of the saints,” by continuing to support your local church and other vital ministries by your prayers, presence (in spirit and online), gifts (including financial support), service, and witness so that ministries of compassion and justice are uninterrupted. Oregon-Idaho Conference emergency preparedness info, PNW Conference preparedness info, Alaska Conference preparedness info.

In order for ministries serving vulnerable populations to remain open – like childcare, feeding programs, homeless services, AA – strict adherence to safety measures recommended by the Centers for Disease Control or other public health agencies for cleaning, social distancing and health screening guidelines is mandatory.

STAY IN LOVE WITH GOD

In times of uncertainty and vulnerability, human contact and spiritual connection are important. I encourage you to find creative ways to keep in contact with your colleagues and your parishioners during this time. Social media is great, but it’s no substitute for a phone call or face time.

Even as we are encouraged to stay at home, avoid social contact, and worship online, churches and social service agencies need unfailing community support to continue their crucial work of justice and compassion. I hope you will experiment with offering online worship, donations and meetings during this pause. There is great news for churches about Zoom and CCLI licenses.

Finally, in times of crisis fear gives way to hate. People of Asian descent, or those who have traveled abroad report that they have been harassed and stigmatized on the assumption that they brought the virus here. Individuals are not responsible for the virus, and any of us could be carriers. Only perfect love casts out fear (1 John 4: 18). As people of faith, let your words and actions cultivate love all God’s people.

Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers. Romans 12: 12-13

Please take precautions to keep yourself, loved ones, strangers, congregations, and communities safe.

With gratitude for you and your leadership, and with confidence in the steadfast love and grace of Jesus Christ,

Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky

Coronavirus in our community

God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear…
Psalm 46 1,2

United Methodists across the Greater Northwest Area,

News of the spread of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) within the United States is causing no small amount of concern. While this is particularly acute in the Seattle area, members of faith communities across the country are asking questions about how this might impact the ways they worship and practice their faith both inside and outside of their buildings. 

It is becoming increasingly clear that the COVID-19 virus is a danger to individuals and our communities across the Greater Northwest and especially in King County, Washington, where it spread undetected for some time. The capacity to test everyone with symptoms continues to lag behind the need for this testing.  

Because of this, gathering as communities of faith may put people at risk of exposure to COVID-19. I am encouraging an abundance of caution in our churches, following the wisdom and advice of Seattle & King County Public Health.

Public Health Recommendations for Residents and Churches in King and Snohomish Counties, Washington

Yesterday the City of Seattle and King County issued temporary public health guidelines meant to slow the spread of COVID-19 and reduce the risk of exposure. Describing the situation as “a shifting landscape,” King County Executive, Dow Constantine, discouraged large group gatherings of 10 or more people. This was later adjusted to 50 persons.

This morning, the Snohomish Health District followed King County in announcing that it is also discouraging unnecessary large group gatherings of more than 50.

Please read these guidelines as they are available online here: 

As your Bishop, I am strongly requesting that pastors of churches and other ministries within Seattle & King County follow the recommendations of Public Health. These guidelines — subject to change as the situation evolves — define vulnerable populations, encourage adaptive practices in our work environments, limit the size of public gatherings, offer guidance for schools and those who are sick, and give advice to those seeking to remain healthy.

Currently, Public Health’s guidance means that churches are being asked not to gather large groups of people for worship, concerts or shared meals. Additionally, the serious nature of the situation means we should postpone celebrating communion through the end of the month and give special care to the cleanliness of our facilities. For many congregations in King and Snohomish Counties, these recommendations are an invitation to find other ways of being in prayer and relationship with one another. 

Public Health Recommendations for Churches outside King & Snohomish Counties, Washington

If you live or work, or are involved in a church outside King or Snohomish County, I recommend that you begin now to develop plans for how you will identify and preserve the critical ministries of your local church when COVID-19, or some other disaster, arrives in your town. 

Interim Guidance for Faith Communities from the CDC was released this week which every leader should take the time to review. A checklist produced several years ago to prepare faith communities for a flu pandemic should still be a helpful guide. Those who have received the Connecting Neighbors program produced by UMCOR may be a resource for churches who are new to this sort of work. A list of trained individuals will be made available soon along with other resources on the Greater Northwest website.

Encouragement for all churches across the Greater Northwest Area

It is natural for people to become anxious in the face of an unknown disease that shows no symptoms for many days after it has infected a person. This is undeniably a time of concern, and for taking precautions, but it is not the time for panic.

When health and life are at stake organizations must cooperate with the latest information and guidance from county and state health departments and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO)

We’ve set up a page on the Greater Northwest website providing easy access to these sites and links to several church specific resources which we’ll add to in the coming days. 

It’s in times like these that people of faith dip into the well of their courage and persistence and trust in God. It’s time to do what we can to promote health and wellness and to make sure that we and the people in the circles of our care are safe and have what they need as we live through this season of illness.    

Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky


Changes in Practice for the PNW Conference Office

In response to the recommendation of Seattle & King County Public Health, employees working out of the Pacific Northwest Conference Office have been given the discretion to telecommute through the end of March. The office is not being closed but the number of employees working out of the conference center will be lower. While we hope this will still allow us to aide and assist local churches as needed, we ask for your grace as we adjust to this measure.

We intend to follow this guidance for the month of March, but we will evaluate on a weekly basis and make adjustments as we go keeping a close watch on the situation.

If you are scheduled to attend a meeting at the PNW Conference Office over this period of time, please be in touch with your staff liaison. Where practical, we will be moving meetings to Zoom to limit persons travel into King County. Some meetings may also be postponed or canceled.

Keeping our communities healthy during the season of Lent

Traducción: español

United Methodists and friends,

Grace and peace to you in the name of Jesus Christ, who came so that we all might live life to the fullest. We know that life depends on spiritual health, and also on physical well-being.

As we enter the season of Lent, the world is watching a dangerous disease spread. We don’t know how widely or quickly the Coronavirus (COVID-19) will spread. I do know that United Methodists want to help limit its spread for the health of one another and the whole world.

Churches are places where people gather and care for one another. We welcome strangers, sit close to one another, join hands in prayer, give hugs of encouragement, and sometimes even weep together. This is a season when it is important for us to be careful and to develop intentional habits that can prevent the spread of this disease.

So, as Lenten practices, I encourage all United Methodists, wherever you gather, to take these reasonable precautions, consistent with the advice of the World Health Organization:

  1. Stay home when you don’t feel well. Model this behavior and encourage others to do the same.
  2. Download and post the hygiene advice (linked below) in all restrooms and kitchens.
  3. Be sure alcohol-based hand sanitizer is readily available throughout your facilities, for example, alongside boxes of tissue in sanctuary pews, and in every room. Encourage people to take the hand sanitizer with them when they leave. Then make sure it is replenished. Invite a church member to volunteer to monitor this throughout the Lenten season as a gift to the health of the church. 
  4. Encourage everyone to observe a 4 ft distance from others. Maybe suggest a new gesture of greeting, like folding your hands over your heart and then opening them palms out and down toward another person — in a sign of connection, rather than palms out and up, which might indicate separation.
  5. Check the World Health Organization website, and local health sites for new public notices, publicize them.

The spread of COVID-19 is a situation that we’ll be watching closely. I’ve asked our Directors of Connectional Ministries (DCMs) to be in conversation with our UMVIM/Disaster Response Teams to review plans and assess potential resources as these persons regularly network with community and governmental agencies.

The way John Wesley held spiritual and social holiness together is a mark of Methodist distinction. He studied and wrote extensively about medicine and the importance of maintaining a healthful life both spiritually and physically. Let’s follow his example. Let’s work for holiness of body as well as spirit this holy season.

May God bless you and keep you healthy and safe,

Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky

A big decision in Alaska and its potential impact in the Pacific Northwest Conference

United Methodists in the Pacific Northwest Conference,

I’m writing you from Anchorage, Alaska, where clergy and laity from 29 churches across the state will gather on Saturday to decide whether to ask to remove its status as a missionary conference and to become part of the Pacific Northwest Annual Conference. This proposal was developed by the Alaska Conference Leadership Team, in response to several considerations:

  • Financial and administrative support from the General Board of Global Ministries (GBGM) has diminished over the years and is likely to be discontinued in the near future.
  • GBGM intends to discontinue missionary conferences within the United States altogether, which would require Alaska to be included in another Annual Conference.
  • A sense that United Methodist Churches in the Western Jurisdiction of the US should take responsibility for supporting the ministries in their area that are not self-sustaining.
  • A desire for Alaskan United Methodists to have a role in determining their own future, rather than waiting for others to determine their future.

If Alaskan United Methodists approve this proposal, it could have significant implications for the Pacific Northwest Conference. I want you to be aware of the important matters being considered this week, and their possible impacts on the Pacific Northwest Conference.

There are multiple steps to this process before it is final. The sequence of actions necessary for this change to occur is:

  1. February 22 – Alaskan United Methodists request to no longer be organized as a missionary conference.
  2. May 5-15 – General Conference approves this request.
  3. July 15-18 – Western Jurisdictional Conference redefines the boundaries of the Annual Conferences in the West to include the churches of Alaska in the Pacific Northwest Conference.

Of course, depending on what happens at General Conference, we will have the opportunity to discuss these matters in June, when the three conferences of the Greater Northwest Area – Alaska, Oregon-Idaho and Pacific Northwest – meet together in a shared Annual Conference session in Puyallup.

I hope that as you consider this possibility, and as you talk with your friends about it, your interest and concerns will be for the future of Methodist faithfulness in the northwest, and how we can be stronger together than we are separate.

God is at work in the Greater Northwest in powerful and hopeful ways. We are invited and privileged to be invited to join God’s work as United Methodist disciples of Jesus Christ. I look forward to the conversations and deliberations as these possibilities emerge during the spring and summer.

Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky

A Pastoral Letter for Epiphany 2020

United Methodists of the Greater Northwest,

What came into existence was Life, and the Life was Light to live by.
The Life-Light blazed out of the darkness; the darkness couldn’t put it out…
We saw the glory with our own eyes…
Generous inside and out, true from start to finish.
John 1, The Message

This morning United Methodists around the world received a word of hope that the strife that has racked our Church might find a peaceful end.

A group of sixteen United Methodist leaders from around the world, who hold a wide range of theological and social convictions, have negotiated protocols for a graceful separation within The United Methodist Church. If adopted by the General Conference in May, the proposal would:

  • Maintain The United Methodist Church intact.
  • Allow local churches and annual conferences that choose not to remain affiliated with The United Methodist Church to leave, while maintaining their property, assets, and liabilities. 
  • Commit $39 million to racial and ethnic inclusion and anti-racism work.
  • Convene the first session of the post-separation United Methodist Church, perhaps before leaving Minneapolis in May, to create four regional conferences.
  • Allow for the first session of the newly established North American Regional Conference to act on proposals to remove prohibitive language regarding LGBTQ clergy and weddings. In the meantime, signers to the Protocol have agreed to abeyance on complaints against clergy for related offenses.  

While this is not the resolution I hope for, I believe it may be the best next step for the people called United Methodists who have been unable to find a way forward that maintains the unity of the Church. It does not move the Church toward Christ’s vision that we “may all be one…so that the world may believe” (John 17:21), but it is a faithful effort “to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3), even as we find it necessary to walk separate paths for a season.

I trust this proposal is designed to unbind us from our “irreconcilable differences” and free us to focus on the future. It does not guarantee a particular outcome, but it appears to offer United Methodists in the United States the opportunity to choose a future that is fully inclusive of LGBTQ persons.

Please read the attached proposal, asking prayerfully whether it offers Life and Light as we seek to create a new movement of Wesleyan faithfulness in the Northwest and around the world.

May the Life of Christ live in us, and the Light of Christ lead us into the future,

Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky

  • 1
  • 2
  • 6
© Copyright 2019, Greater Northwest Episcopal Area. All Rights Reserved.