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.
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.
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.
For the bread of God… comes down from heaven
and gives life to the world.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
Dear United Methodist Clergy, Members and
DO NO HARM. DO GOOD. STAY IN LOVE WITH GOD.
John Wesley’s Three Simple Rules, adapted
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.
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
“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,
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.
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.
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.
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:
Stay home when you don’t feel well. Model this behavior and encourage others to do the same.
Download and post the hygiene advice (linked below) in all restrooms and kitchens.
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.
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.
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.