Author: Greater NW Communications

‘Where Love Lives, Creating a Fully Inclusive United Methodist Church’; Western Jurisdiction Beginning Year-long Campaign

DENVER, Colo. (Oct. 7, 2020) – The Western Jurisdiction of The United Methodist Church is beginning preparations for the next General Conference by recommitting itself to be a faithful, inviting, open, safe and loving place for all people.

As The United Methodist Church awaits a delayed decision on the proposed Protocol of Reconciliation and Grace through Separation, “Where Love Lives” is a nearly year-long campaign centering on the faith values that have undergirded the jurisdiction’s long-term commitment to a scripturally based fully inclusive ministry. It advocates approval of the Protocol by the General Conference.

“The Western Jurisdiction is committed to living out our belief that God’s church is open to all,” said Bishop Karen Oliveto, president of the Western Jurisdiction College of Bishops. “The Protocol for Reconciliation and Grace through Separation offers a way forward to begin easing the five decades of pain created by the wounds inflicted on LGBTQ persons by the church.”

Episcopal Address Part 3 | The United or Untied Methodist Church – shaping the future of the Church?

The United or Untied Methodist Church – shaping the future of the Church?

Episcopal Address Part III  (Part IPart II) | September 16, 2020

Remember February of 2019?

General Conference met in St. Louis, Missouri, with high hopes that The United Methodist Church would adopt “The One Church Plan,” eliminating the prohibitions and punishments which have marginalized and excluded full participation of LGBTQ+ people in the Church and its ministries for nearly 40 years. When the plan failed, hopes crashed and the General Conference ended in open anger and hostility, while conversations began across the church about what needed to happen next.

How can United Methodists who cannot tolerate the exclusive policies and practices resist? Hang banners outside the church, run newspaper ads, withhold apportionments, plan to leave the denomination? Should we try again at another General Conference? Should the denomination plan for an orderly separation with fair division of assets to be presented to the next General Conference? Should we abandon the idea of a global church, and give more autonomy to national or regional churches? One thing we quickly realized is that we needed to intentionally invite into leadership as we shape the future that they will carry forward.

A year ago, I called together a Guiding Coalition of diverse leaders from the Alaska, Oregon-Idaho and Pacific Northwest Conferences. It organized into ten working groups that began to look at options for the future. 

And then COVID-19 grabbed our attention, threatening the very health of the nation and world. It became the critical focus as we adjusted every aspect of our lives to keep safe and prevent the spread of the disease. Concern for the future of The United Methodist Church receded into the background. Almost everything we understand as Church moved online. Conferences were cancelled or postponed and conducted remotely like this one.

And then the world saw George Floyd, with a policeman’s knee on his neck, struggle, plead, call for his Mama and die on a street in Minneapolis. Again, the headlines shifted, attention focused on real and present systemic racism in America. People cried out, rose up and poured out into the streets to demand racial justice and equity.

We live in a different world today than we did even a year ago. These movements are overwhelming. They demand all our attention and resources. We are weary. But no rest for the weary.

As wildfires rage across the West, we find ourselves in another crisis in Oregon and Washington, and to a lesser degree, to this point, in Idaho. And the church digs deeper, finds reserves it did not know it had, invents new ways to mobilize to offer relief to people who are evacuated, homeless, and stricken by sooty, ashen air.

Disaster response volunteers are working with district superintendents, local church pastors and laity, our Hispanic ministry coordinator and communicators to provide emergency shelter – a necessary service. They are also responding to the need to store the personal belongings of people who have evacuated in church buildings that have been closed for months. All the while they adopt practices to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The faithfulness, courage, and generosity of the churches is urgently needed and ready in this time of uncertainty. And the “connections” The United Methodist Church brings to these crises are the blessings of generations of faithful folks who have given, organized, volunteered, prayed, and reached out.

United or Untied: what is the future of United Methodism?

I think about this as a telescoping question, beginning in every local church, and expanding out until it includes the whole global UMC.

At the Center: Local Churches 

At the center of questions about United Methodism is the local church. We know, going back to Paul’s church in Corinth, that every local church struggles to have a center that is strong enough to hold people together despite strong differences of understanding, practice, opinion and actions. This is nothing new, though it looks different in every generation and every location. Churches fight about anything and everything: music, the color of the carpet, worship time, Sunday school curriculum, who should have keys to the building, or the kitchen. And they fight about abortion, gun rights, human sexuality and inclusion of LGBTQ+ people in its ministries.  Divisions have become even more intense as attitudes toward the pandemic, racism and LGBTQ+ inclusion have become politicized and threaten to divide congregations that have lived in peace for decades.

First Ring: The Alaska Conference

The Alaska Conference, which is 49 years old, is asking to become a mission district in the Pacific Northwest Conference. This proposal will come before the Annual, General and Jurisdictional Conferences in 2021. What will life together look like if this proposal is adopted next year? What must we be doing now, planning now, changing now to fully embrace Alaska in the PNW?

Second Ring: The Greater Northwest Area – Alaska, Oregon-Idaho and Pacific Northwest Conferences

What does it mean that the area shares one bishop? It’s easy to see it as a burden – less bishop per conference. Even as the churches and communities across the Greater Northwest decline and struggle to connect with new generations and new populations in their communities, we are learning that as we work together across conference lines, we often expand our capacity, our innovation, our community engagement, our connectional strength. Cooperation across conference lines has blossomed during COVID-19 and now in response to the wildfires that are ravaging Oregon, Washington, and Idaho. Crisis response, communications, Grocery Gift Cards for Families and the Fund for Families, all benefited from cross-conference collaboration.

  • Let’s hear it for disaster response volunteers and the district superintendents who have worked as a crisis management team consistently from the earliest days of the pandemic, to learn the best science as it emerged, to listen to the best advice, and to lead our churches to put health and life first, and to adjust and limit their activities to prevent spread of the virus. Oh, and they just secured two $10,000 UMCOR emergency grants, one for Pacific Northwest and one for Oregon-Idaho Conference, to provide relief to victims of the wildfires. And they are working with district superintendents to help local churches that have been closed for months, open to provide emergency shelter and other relief services.
  • Let’s hear it for conference communicators, who have worked tirelessly during COVID-19 to help us keep connected while we were staying at home, closing church buildings, and learning to worship, pray and give online. Communicators from the three conferences have worked together to provide timely updates on the pandemic, host weekly webinars on topics like online worship and giving, providing pastoral care, staying healthy. They promoted the best practices for hygiene, including a campaign to sew and wear masks. They helped local churches learn to use Zoom, Facebook and other platforms for online worship and meetings. They published notices to local churches on staying safe, postponing in-person worship and Reimagining Life Together. They produced online Easter Worship available across the area, and resources for local churches to incorporate into online Pentecost worship.
  • Let’s hear it for the Innovation Vitality (IV) Team, that initiates and supports innovative ministry projects across the area, within existing churches and with new leaders working in communities our churches don’t reach. 

Now take a deep breath. I’m going to ask a question that I mostly hear in whispered tones:

Is it time for the conferences to merge into one?  

Hear me. I know that simply uttering this question causes some blood pressure to rise, and other blood to boil. I have been slow to consider this question until and unless it arises from within the area. Friends, this question is arising from within the area. We can pretend we don’t hear it, but it’s being asked. And as it is asked, I hear two responses: 

  1. This is the time to merge into the Greater Northwest Conference – when everything is disrupted already, and we are working well together, and
  2. Never! The conferences have distinctive cultures, history. We don’t want to lose that. We’ll get lost in a bigger conference.

We owe it to ourselves and to each other to have this conversation, and to ask: Where is God leading us? Where are we finding new life?

The Western Jurisdiction

Our jurisdiction has more unanimity about the divisive questions of LGBTQ+ inclusion than almost any other sector of the Church. LGBTQ+ clergy have been ordained and survived in ministry, and LGBTQ+ weddings have been performed in every conference in the West. So, what does the future look for in the West? If the main branch of United Methodism continues to prohibit and punish LGBTQ+ inclusion, what is to become of the Western Jurisdiction? Can it remain part of a church that excludes or marginalizes LGBTQ+ people, working and praying for another General Conference to solve the conflict? Across the United States and around the world, United Methodists who are LGBTQ+ inclusive look to the Western Jurisdiction to lead. What might that look like? How do we have those conversations? God didn’t lead United Methodists in the West out of the slavery of homophobia to let us wander eternally in the present wilderness. We search for the path to promises fulfilled.

The United Methodist Church

For nearly 40 years our church has struggled to reach a consensus about inclusion of LGBTQ+ people in the life and ministry of the Church. But it hasn’t been just about human sexuality. Some strategic people chose this as the issue over which to divide the church. This conflict came to intense and agonizing conflict at the General Conferences held in 2016 and 2019, with no resolution. It does not appear that United Methodists can remain together in the one, global church we have been since 1968. So, what will become of this one great “connectional” church of 12 million members worldwide when the ties that bind us stretch and break? Will it break into national churches? Will it splinter into many small fragments based on worship style, inclusive language, sexual identity and orientation or social policy? Will every local church have to decide who to affiliate with? Or will Annual Conferences make this decision, forcing some local churches to vote to stay or withdraw from their Annual Conference? How will property and other assets be divided? And most importantly, what will the division be for?  What purpose will it serve?  What vision is God leading us toward? Who do we want to be for one another and how does God want us to transform the world? 

The existential question we face in the Greater Northwest is, will we stay together? Do we want to stay together? Do we love each other enough, to stay in communion with one another despite real differences? The annual conferences of the Greater Northwest Area have been LGBTQ+ inclusive for many years. LGBTQ+ inclusion is already part of the identity of United Methodism in the area. And we have had a commitment to include ministries with immigrant people, and to be racially and ethnically diverse. Both urban and rural. Young and old. Red and blue.

But we fall short of our own inclusive aspirations. And we squabble over which diverse communities can stay together and which ones are incompatible. Between now and General Conference in September 2021, we need to test and grow our faith to a deeper level where we trust that Jesus gives us One Faith, One Lord, One Baptism, even though we live out our faith in different ways. At the core we are not divided. Our gifts all serve one Savior, who gives us the grace to live, worship and serve together. We can endure this rough patch if we stay in relationship, if we learn to talk about what we hold most close, if we let love bind us together with cords that cannot be broken. 

A year ago, when I called the Guiding Coalition and its working groups, we started to explore the complicated questions surrounding our United Methodist Future. When COVID hit in the spring, we all shifted our focus from the future of United Methodism to the immediate present. All except one group that called itself “Weaving a Grassroots Connection.” The members of the group continued to experiment with initiating conversations among people in The United Methodist Church about why they are United Methodist. They had a great time doing it. And they want to help us all have these conversations. Watch this first fruit example of their efforts.

They believe, and I believe that if we grow to know and love one another, we will be united and connected in the love and grace of Jesus Christ. What was it Jesus said? “For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them” (Matthew 18:20). What would Jesus do with us if we gathered in small gatherings, learned to love each other, and asked him what he wants for us? What if the “connection” became personal instead of institutional? What if it was about loving relationships with one another, about how a local church relates to its community or how one local church comes alongside another local church in times of joy and distress – to share each other’s burdens? What if the future of United Methodism rested on a weaving of connections between people who are learning to see, know and love each other? Now that would be a strong connection.

So, my friends, my siblings, and cousins, my neighbors and you who may be strangers – I invite you to be the hopeful, faithful, loving, courageous, audacious, humble people that God, in holy scripture, invites us to be. We can stop the spread of a deadly virus. We can root out racism and create beloved community. We can and we will recover from flood, earthquake, storm, and wildfire. We can be a “big tent” church, where people can journey with each other, in the presence of Jesus, toward a future where everyone has a place, and the parts all fit together. We might even be able to save the planet and all the teaming creatures that call it home.

When faced with a very difficult assignment that the disciples did not feel capable of, Jesus said to them, “truly I tell you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.” (Matthew 17:20)

How do we move forward together?

For the next 15 months, the Greater Northwest Cabinet is committed to focusing our leadership on three ministry foci:

  • Do No Harm

    Fighting COVID-19

  • Do Good

    Dismantling Racism
  • Stay in Love with God

    Weaving a Connectional Future for United Methodism

Alongside these priorities, we will, of course, help our churches provide relief to people harmed by wildfire. And we will always keep our eyes on the horizon to receive what comes our way of blessing or curse and respond with love. This is what love requires. And what is possible – with the faith of a mustard seed.

Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky
Greater Northwest Episcopal Area

A Message from Bishop Stanovsky on Juneteenth 2020

24 February, 1791

Balam. England

Dear Sir:

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

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

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

Your affectionate servant,

John Wesley[i]                        

Juneteenth, 2020

To the People Called Methodist,

BLACK LIVES MATTER
BLACK VOTING RIGHTS MATTER
BLACK VOICES MATTER

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

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

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

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

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

                                                      Hebrews 12:12

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

Amos 5: 24

Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky


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

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

Estimados líderes pastorales del Gran Área Noroeste de la IMU, 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Recuerdo las supuestas últimas palabras de John Wesley: “ 

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

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

Efesios 3:18-19

Obispa Elaine JW Stanovsky
Area Episcopal del Gran Noroeste


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

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


COVID-19 Statistical Reports

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky
Greater NW Episcopal Area


COVID-19 Statistical Reports

Greater Northwest COVID-19 Timeline

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

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

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

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

April 2, 2020 (Video)
Bishop discusses online Communion

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

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

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

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

  1. Bishop relaxes restrictions 

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

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

Coping Resources in a pandemic lifestyle

Fear And Worry Are Normal Feelings that Many People Experience During These Difficult Times. It is particularly important to prioritize taking care of yourself. The following sections will provide simple strategies to Care for Yourself, which in turn will support your efforts to care for others.

HOW TO TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF AND FAMILY–OVERVIEWS

A toolkit from the National Child Traumatic Stress Network. Parent/Caregiver Guide to Helping Families with the Coronavirus. Helps parents and caregivers think about practical coping strategies.

California’s Surgeon General’s Playbook on Stress Relief: Provides a useful and practical approach for adults. Could be adapted for small groups.

California Surgeon General’s Playbook on Stress Relief for Caregivers and Kids Offers a useful and practical approach.

SELF-CARE AND RESILIENCE STRATEGIES

That Discomfort You Are Feeling Is Grief from Harvard Business Review Good talks about recognizing, accepting, and coping with our uncomfortable emotions.

Mental Health expert Brene Brown discusses a useful “family gap” strategy when patience is running low and frustration is high:

Simple self-care exercises for all ages to help identify emotions and self-calm.

Nurturing Hope in Difficult Times.

Self-Help Guides. Easy to use PDFs on coping with anxiety, mood swings, worry, emotional eating, loneliness. Make good handouts for small groups.

Coping with stress while in isolation.

Helping older adults cope.  

Get Moving. Though in isolation, there are many great workout platforms to help keep energy up.

GRIEF AND LOSS RESOURCES

Stress, anxiety, and other depression-like symptoms are common reactions during and after a disaster and may compound the grief and disorientation surrounding the death of a loved one.  A local Hospice provider, which offers individual and group bereavement support is a good place to begin.

That Discomfort You Are Feeling Is Grief. Good article about recognizing, accepting, and coping with our uncomfortable emotions.

You can find many helpful resources at the Center for Loss: Coronavirus And The Six Needs Of Mourning.

OTHER HELPFUL RESOURCES

TRAUMA RESOURCES

SPECIFIC STRATEGIES FOR SUPPORTING CHILDREN AND YOUTH

Child Mind Institute: Talking to Kids About the Coronavirus. Short article on do’s and don’ts for talking with children.

APA: How to talk to Children About Difficult News. Brief article on the important points for talking with children about traumatic news.

Childhood well-being during the pandemic. Well-written article from University of Massachusetts.

Manuela Molina: COVIBOOK. Nicely written book for young children and special needs youth in multiple languages to print-out, color, and read with parents.

How to Explain Coronavirus COVID-19 to a Child with Anxiety & ADHD.

Healthcare Toolbox. COVID-19 Helping My Child Cope. Brief guide for parents in multiple languages that covers the basics of emotional coping.

Parenting anxious kids during coronavirus.

Understanding the needs of teens. The article discusses disappointments teens face and how to help.

NY Times: Quaranteenagers: Strategies for Parenting in Close Quarters. Specific strategies for dealing with feelings of youth.

Toolkit for supporting individuals with autism during pandemic.

Supporting college students. Written by a college psychiatrist on how to help college students cope whether staying in an apartment or moving home for the remainder of the semester:

STIGMA REDUCTION RESOURCES

Washington Department of Health: Stigma Reduction around Coronavirus and COVID-19

King County: Anti-Stigma Resources. Discusses ways to handle discrimination and where to report it.

CDC: Stigma prevention and facts about COVID-19. Brief article discusses ways to prevent stigma.

Teaching Tolerance: How to Respond to Coronavirus Racism Short article on what to say when people use racist comments.

Don’t Let Fear Of Covid-19 Turn Into Stigma. Discusses the roots of stigma and how to overcome it.

NATIONAL HELPLINES

Trauma-Informed Telephone Support Available 24/7: The Disaster Distress Helpline, 1-800-985-5990 or text TalkWithUs to 66746: 24/7, 365-day-a-year, national hotline dedicated to providing immediate crisis counseling for people who are experiencing emotional distress related to any natural or human-caused disaster. Toll-free, multilingual, and confidential.

From The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: A National Leader In Suicide Prevention And Mental Health Crisis Care Emotional Well-being During the COVID-19 Outbreak: Tips and Links and 24/7 Helpline

Lines For Life https://www.linesforlife.org/ Get Help NOW: 800-273-8255

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

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

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

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

¿Qué hemos aprendido hasta ahora de la pandemia?

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

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

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

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

Cómo se ve el amor cristiano en una pandemia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Haría cualquier cosa por un cambio’

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

Haga clic aquí para leer

Mientras ejercen precaución, las iglesias deben prepararse para reabrir

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

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

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

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

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

Fuerza para la larga carrera

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

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

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

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

Obispa Elaine JW Stanovsky

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

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

Worship Suspension and Building Closures Extended through June 15, 2020

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

What Have We Learned So Far from the Pandemic

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

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

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

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

What Christian Love Looks Like in a Pandemic

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘I would do anything for a do-over’

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

Click Here to Read

While Exercising Caution, Churches Should Prepare to Reopen

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

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

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

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

Strength for the Long Run

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

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

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

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

Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky

Simple instructions to make homemade masks

Advice from the Centers for Disease Control recently released states that, “a significant portion of individuals with coronavirus lack symptoms (“asymptomatic”) and that even those who eventually develop symptoms (“pre-symptomatic”) can transmit the virus to others before showing symptoms.

This means that the virus can spread between people interacting in close proximity —for example, speaking, coughing, or sneezing — even if those people are not exhibiting symptoms.

In light of this new evidence, CDC recommends “wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (e.g., grocery stores and pharmacies) especially in areas of significant community-based transmission.” ( See full article here.)

Health authorities warn not to rely on the homemade mask to protect you and still keep a safe distance of at least 6 feet from others when outside your home.

For those interested in making masks to wear in nonclinical settings or
for personal use, Kaiser Permanente offers step-by-step instructions here. Be sure to instruct the receiver to wash it before wearing. There are several other mask instructions available on the internet. 

Sally Blanchard, Oregon-Idaho Conference office and event manager, who has been sewing these said, “After you make the first one, they go quickly and are easy to make. Neighbors and friends have asked for them and it feels good to share what I can do.”

Bishop Stanovsky discusses pros and cons of Online Communion

Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky briefly discusses some of the arguments for and against Online Communion. She reminds us that the WJ College of Bishops’ guidance does not require clergy to offer Communion online, and reiterates her trust in clergy to make good, reasoned decisions.

Transcription

Good afternoon. Yesterday after the webinar, a number of questions came to me about online communion and whether or not it’s appropriate for people to serve, for clergy to consecrate and invite people to receive elements in their own homes while we’re doing worship remotely. And so I wanted to just give you some quick responses.

As you know, United Methodist bishops in the Western Jurisdiction have given permission, with care, for this to be done during the virus epidemic. But I want you to be clear that the bishops are not prescribing that this must be done, or that everyone may feel comfortable, or it may be appropriate in every setting.

We understand communion to be a means of grace, that it’s a converting ordinance meaning that through communion God works through us as we confess and as we affirm our faith, and as we receive the elements of communion around the table or in community. When we come to the table, we’re inviting God to change us, to work on us, to make us more the people that we are intended to be, that we can be in the fullness of God’s grace. So changing the practice is a big deal and we should do it thoughtfully and prayerfully, if we do it at all.

So I’m going to give you the arguments, at least some of them, the pros and cons, of online communion.

In favor of online communion is Wesley, John Wesley’s admonition that communion is a duty. He talks about the duty of constant communion. It’s a commandment, “do this in remembrance of me. “Do it as often as you eat it and drink it.” And he doesn’t talk about frequent communion. In fact, he corrects himself and talks about constant communion. We must be in constant communion with God and Jesus our Savior. He talks about communion as being a blessing, as food for the soul, as a mercy from God to humankind.

Therefore, those who argue for online communion say it is disobedient not to constantly offer communion. And it’s a refusal of God’s gifts of love and mercy not to find ways to be engaged in communion. All that’s required, they say, is that we repent of our sins, that we seek to lead a new life, and that we live in charity with all.

Now the arguments against are a little more focused. They’re about the embodiment of the sacrament in the physical presence of the gathered community. The gathering of the community, God speaking and working to us in relationship with the people around us is absolutely essential for those who argue against online communion.

I want to offer you a word of grace. I’m not going to tell you what to do.

Communion is a means of grace and a blessing and so I’m not too worried about guarding it too closely. What if the means of grace got loose? Hmm, something interesting might happen.

And in our polity, in our church, clergy are entrusted with the sacraments, with baptism and communion. I trust the clergy with them. I ordained those clergy, at least some of them. I trust the clergy with them. I trust you clergy, my colleagues, to make good judgments and discernments and to practice appropriately in your context God’s means of grace.

I believe that God can work through what we do in faith. So if you offer online communion; if you don’t offer online communion; if you offer a love feast as an alternative; God can adapt. The Holy Spirit can find a way into the gathering of your community online as well as in person.

But I don’t want any clergy person to feel that they are being asked to do something they don’t feel comfortable with, they don’t feel has integrity with their faith and their understanding of the gospel.

I leave you with this line from one of Charles Wesley’s hymns, “the Spirit saves, the letter kills.” So be of good spirit, act faithful to the witness of the Holy Spirit with your holy spirit. Lead your communities with confidence and trust that God will make up the difference if we have fallen short.

God bless you as you prepare for worship on Sunday and in the weeks to come as we continue to practice safe distancing so that the coronavirus can touch and harm as few people as possible. God bless you all.

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