El discurso de la obispa Stanovsky para las Conferencias Anuales virtuales de septiembre de 2020 se publicará por escrito en tres partes antes de las sesiones programadas para el 15, 16 y 17 de septiembre. Hoy recibes la Parte 1, que también es el aviso número 8 sobre COVID-19. En las próximas semanas recibirán la Parte 2: Desmantelando el Racismo y la Parte 3: Re-imaginando el Metodismo Unido: Alaska, el gran área del Noroeste, la Jurisdicción del Oeste y La Iglesia Metodista Unida. La obispa ofrecerá una descripción general en línea durante las sesiones de la conferencia anual. Envíe sus comentarios o preguntas a firstname.lastname@example.org escribiendo en el encabezamiento: “Dirección episcopal”.
Bishop Stanovsky’s address to the September 2020 online Annual Conferences will be issued in written form in three parts before the sessions scheduled for September 15, 16 and 17 [link]. Today you receive Part 1, which is also COVID-19 Notice #8. It will be followed in coming weeks by Part 2 – Dismantling Racism, and Part 3 – Reimagining United Methodism: Alaska, the Greater Northwest, the Western Jurisdiction and The United Methodist Church. The bishop will offer an online overview during the conference sessions. Please send comments or questions to her at email@example.com with the subject line: “Episcopal address.”
For the Love of God,
STAY AT HOME WEAR A MASK KEEP PHYSICAL DISTANCE
BUT DON’T HUNKER DOWN
Yesterday was the six month anniversary of my first pastoral notice regarding COVID-19. We didn’t know much about the coronavirus and the pandemic it would cause on February 27. We didn’t know we would celebrate Easter online. That General Conference in May would be postponed, Annual Conferences in June cancelled, Jurisdictional Conference in July. We couldn’t imagine movie theaters closing. Restaurants open only for take-out. Loved ones being isolated from visits in hospitals or nursing homes. We didn’t imagine that we would pass spring and summer and enter fall with restrictions on social gathering, travel, economic activity and schools. We find ourselves in a wilderness. The bible knows what wandering in the wilderness is like. The bible is full of stories, laments, encouragements, admonitions, guidelines for people who, from time to time find themselves wandering, discouraged, uncertain, lost. So, people of God, listen up. God has not abandoned us.
DON’T STOP LOVING YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF
“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” – John 15: 12-13
Sacrifice personal liberty to save lives
To save lives, prevent long term health effects, slow the spread of COVID-19, and to promote long term, sustainable economic recovery, United Methodists in the Greater Northwest will continue to praise God and serve their communities under the provisions of Reimagining Life Togetherfor the foreseeable future.
The risk from the coronavirus isn’t behind us. While the spread of the disease is declining in some areas, it is increasing in others, as waves of community spread carry it into previously untouched rural communities and some experts predict new spikes this fall in areas where schools and other social gatherings restart in person, and as temperatures drop, people move indoors and another cold and flu season begins.
At the same time, an “increasing numbness to the virus’s danger”[i] means that our collective sense of risk is abating and leading to careless behavior that promotes spread of the disease. This is a predictable, natural occurrence: “The more we’re exposed to a given threat, the less intimidating it seems…. Because risk perception fails as we learn to live with COVID-19,…researchers…see… strict social distancing, enforced masking outside the home and stay-at-home orders as perhaps the only things that can protect us from our own faulty judgment….Our tendency to view risk through the prism of emotion… hurts us during a pandemic.”
This numbing to the reality of risk has combined with an emphasis on individual rights to fuel rebellion by some against restrictions on social gathering, refusal to wear face coverings and calls for removal of public officials who advocate such measures. Individual liberties activists even carry guns to protests and to government offices to make their point.
Developing tolerance to risk is a good coping strategy if you have a crippling fear of heights or crowds or closed spaces. It is dangerous if it results in risky behavior that causes more community spread of a virus that leads to further spikes in cases, hospitalizations and deaths.
Ask yourself, WHAT WOULD JESUS DO? Wash your hands with soap or hand sanitizer. Stay at home as much as you can. Wear face coverings in public. Keep socially distant. Don’t gather in large groups. And be gracious about it! Do not look dismal (Matthew 6: 16). These are small, life-saving sacrifices in the face of a pandemic that has killed 180,000 people in the United States and is far from finished. Think of them as acts of love for God, self and neighbor.
As you encounter other people on the street or in the grocery store, whether or not their faces are covered, let your eyes meet their eyes, as an affirmation that you see them, maybe say at least “hello” and offer a silent prayer: “May God bless and keep you.” This is how Christians behave as they try to obey God’s reverence for life.
Deepen Relationships of Spiritual Depth and Care
The pandemic poses risks besides those from infection by the coronavirus. Long term social isolation and anxiety are dangers to mental, spiritual and social health. We hear reports of increased domestic abuse, crime, substance abuse, depression and other mental illnesses. Job loss and economic instability put strains on individuals, families and communities.
Most of our churches have adapted very quickly to provide ways for the community to gather remotely – online, drive-in, distanced outdoor, on the phone, by sending written sermons and bulletins. Some have activated telephone trees. It’s been amazing.
In addition to group gatherings, as we move into autumn and winter, how will our churches foster networks of human connection for as long as distance and isolation continue? What is our long-term plan to encourage relationships of spiritual companionship, encouragement and prayer among people who may have limited social networks? How do we ensure that no-one in our communities of care are left without human contact day by day and week by week?
Could we develop networks of Companions on the Journey (COJ), who commit to keep in weekly touch with each other, and to be available to one another as needed between scheduled contacts? Might a team of people in a congregation search out lines of powerful, prophetic scripture, hymns, poetry, prayers, to post on the church website or Facebook page to feed the spirits of people.
LOVE GOD WITH HEART, SOUL, MIND, STRENGTH
Don’t Hunker Down Spiritually
We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves…groan inwardly while we wait…. The Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sights too deep for words. – Romans 8:22-26
To combat declining mental, emotional and spiritual health experienced by many during the COVID-19 pandemic, I call United Methodists to return to the deep well of God’s love and grace, revealed in Jesus Christ, as we remember, refresh and reclaim the spiritual strength and courage of our faith preserved in the scriptures, hymns, prayers, teachings, and practices of our Church. And I call on new generations to lead us into new expressions and practices that have the power to bless people in this pandemic with fortitude and resilience.
Nothing is the same in our churches since COVID-19 first forced us to “hunker down” with stay at home orders in March and April and I asked the churches of the Greater Northwest Area (Alaska, Oregon-Idaho and Pacific Northwest Conference) to suspend worship and close their buildings beginning March 13. No handshakes, no communion, no friendship circles, no laying on of hands, no sardines, no passing of the peace, no singing, no meetings, no potlucks, no coffee hour, no hospital visits, home visits, prayer circles, child care, food banks, AA meetings.
I hear from some of our churches an urgency to gather again in person, in the sanctuary, in our familiar pews, to sing our beloved songs as if our Christian love for one another would wither and die without its familiar forms — as if God isn’t present except when the community is gathered. As if we cannot support one another without physical proximity. As if even one of the breaths we take is not filled with the life-giving breath of the Holy Spirit. Our dependence on sensory signs creates in us a tendency to hunker down and wait until we can celebrate in the ways we are used to finding comfort in.
The United Methodist Church has worked very hard to embody the love of God in our gatherings for worship, study and fellowship, in our volunteer service, advocating for just public policy, providing meals, welcoming new immigrants, caring for families. We have a strong focus on faith in the flesh, faith at work in the world that you can see, hear, smell, taste and touch. We believe that faith was alive in the physical presence of Jesus as he walked through villages, touched and healed the sick, restored sight to the blind, called forth demons, shared the bread and wind in the Upper Room and a breakfast of fish. And we believe our faith has concrete physical expressions. “Faith without works is dead” (James 2:17). And yet, beneath or behind the world of our senses, there is another reality. The bible calls it the world of “unseen things.”[ii] Outward facing faith need to be balanced with a theology of spirit that affirms that there is more to faith than what we can see, touch, taste, hear and smell. There is also an inwardness to faith. Beneath all sensory evidence, our hearts are touched by God in experiences so immediate and powerful that they cannot be dismissed.
We must grow deeper roots. We must not settle for a faith that lets us down when times are tough and the way is hidden in shadows. The Christian Church must strive to be a beacon of hope in the very darkest of times. When we can see no evidence of God’s redeeming grace whatsoever, the “eye of our heart” sees what is not seen. When no encouraging word is to be heard, the Holy Spirit speaks to our inner being. When we cry, “Abba! Father!” it is that very Spirit [of God] bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, of God and joint hers with Christ. (From Romans 8: 15-17).
When you read in the bible about light, dawn, lamp, fire, radiance, sun, it’s talking about the way God opens our eyes and enlightens us to see the things of the spirit that cannot be seen.
Open my eyes that I might see…
Open the eyes of my heart, Lord…
Ye blind, behold your savior come…
Be Thou my vision, O lord of my heart…
Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path…
Some of us have read and sung these words our whole lives. Now is the time to call them forth, and shine them into the dark days of disease, isolation, fear and division. We learned them for a time like this.
My faith is not dependent on in-person gathering, on the elements of communion and baptism, on the laying on of hands, or the kiss of peace. I love all of these, and they enrich my faith, and they certainly help keep my participation in the community of faith alive and immediate. But, in the midst of a pandemic, sitting at my desk in the corner of my isolated bedroom as I write, God lives in me, speaks to me, gives me hope, cajoles me to action, quickens my heart. “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1)
In the year ahead I promise to lead the Greater Northwest Area to invite its members and friends to broaden and deepen their spiritual lives, not in a way that turns us inward, away from our communities and the world, but in a way that strengthens our hearts with courage to engage with our families, neighbors and strangers during times when evidence of God’s presence and goodness are scarce.
By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will shine upon us, To give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, To guide our feet into the way of peace. – Luke 1: 78-79
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
“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.
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.
No haga daño: Proteja la salud publica
Haz el bien: Comparta la carga financiera con las personas más vulnerables y con los mas impactados económicamente.
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.
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.
Do No Harm: Protect the public health
Do Good: Share the financial burden with persons most vulnerable to economic impacts
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.
WHAT’S IN YOUR POCKET? Sharing what we have with those who have less.
Members and friends of The United Methodist Church in the Greater Northwest,
“From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required and from the one to whom much has been entrusted, even more will be demanded.” – Luke 12: 48b
“Earn all you can. Save all you can. Give all you can.” – John Wesley, “On Money”
There is nothing fair about COVID-19. People are not equally vulnerable to it or protected from it. People don’t all have the same supportive community, the same emotional and spiritual resources. People don’t have equal access to health care. People do not all have the same resources to endure an economic downturn, unemployment or closed schools.
COVID-19 exposes injustices that are embedded in our social, economic and political systems. For some, this pandemic means an immediate survival crisis.
Sharing what we can when people are suffering comes as second nature to people who follow Jesus. If you have the ability to give money at this time of crisis, I am writing to encourage you to do so. If you are able, please consider one or all the following actions.
Support your Local Church. Your church needs your support for as long as this crisis lasts and beyond. A check in the mail is a blessing.
After you have given to your local church, if you can do more, please give a “thank offering” to the FUND FOR FAMILIES. Text the code “GNWFFF” to 44-321 or visit http://bit.ly/gnwfff to give. Local Churches will partner with community organizations to “practice being human” with people who are especially vulnerable to the impacts of COVID-19.
If someone else may need your Stimulus check more than you do, consider “passing it along” to the FUND FOR FAMILIES (above).
Begin now to think now about whether you can share your salary if local churches become unable to support their clergy or lay staff salaries.
And, finally, if you can’t make financial contributions, offer what you can. Life-saving social distance. A prayer. A phone call. A kind word. A letter or note card. An email. FaceTime. Help with groceries. A favorite poem, book, song, photo or TV series. Weeding a garden. Blood donation. God is counting on us to share what we have.
I want each of you to take plenty of time to think it over, and make up your own mind what you will give…. God loves it when the giver delights in the giving. – 2 Corinthians 9:7, MSG
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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:
Limpie y desinfecte el edificio antes y después de cada uso.
Distancia social de 6 pies entre los participantes.
Lavarse las manos con agua y jabón o usar desinfectante para las manos.
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:
Encontrar maneras de aliviar la carga sobre las iglesias locales,
Protegiendo la seguridad de ingresos para el clero y el personal en nuestras iglesias y conferencias,
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.
“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:
Sanitizing cleaning of the building before and after every use
6 feet social distance among participants
Hand washing with soap and water or hand sanitizer
Coughing and sneezing into tissues which are discarded into closed containers
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
Finding ways to lighten the burden on local churches,
Protecting income security for clergy and staff in our churches and conferences,
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.