Western Jurisdiction Bishops offer guidance for the Observance of Holy Communion

A Letter to the United Methodist Clergy of the Western Jurisdiction
The United Methodist Church
From the WJ College of Bishops

Beloved Servants of Christ, 

We write, as your episcopal leaders, in these unprecedented days of social change due to the COVID-19 crisis. We are grateful for the many ways you have responded, learning new skills and experimenting as you seek to respond to the pastoral needs of your people.

We have received many questions about online communion: Is this possible? Ordained elders of The United Methodist Church have been set apart to care for the Sacraments in the life of the Church. Local pastors appointed to local churches are extended this privilege as well. How are we to be the body of Christ in these days we are living when we cannot meet in each other’s presence but instead gather online or through other means?

The Sacrament of Holy Communion is a means of grace in our Wesleyan tradition. Through it, we experience the mystery of God’s prevenient, justifying, and sanctifying grace. In this meal, we experience Christ fully present to us as we come to the Table with penitent and grateful hearts to remember what God has done through Jesus Christ for our sake and the sake of the whole world. Through Holy Communion, we are brought into saving relationship with Christ and with one another as members of Christ’s body across time and space. 

In these times when we cannot meet in person, we believe it is important to offer one another this vital means of grace. We are not prescribing that Holy Communion be celebrated in all of our congregations in this time of social distancing. However, we stand with our clergy who through reflection and prayer have come to the place of believing that their congregation would be strengthened in this hour through the sharing of Holy Communion. We trust the wisdom and the faithfulness of our Clergy to discern such pastoral matters in their own context. 

Especially in this time of physical separation from one another, Holy Communion can be a conduit of God’s healing power. We remain open to what God is teaching us in this moment. We believe in the importance of being community, present together at the Table of our Lord, repentant of our sin and seeking to live in peace with one another. We support you our Clergy in your efforts to find ways to bring the means of grace to God’s people knowing that the Holy Spirit who alone can make us one with Christ, one with each other, and one in ministry to all the world, is unfailingly with us. Remember that you have been entrusted with this sacred meal. Reverently prepare your congregation to receive the gifts of God that are meant for the people of God:

Some of you are gathering through live-streaming, Zoom, and other face-to-face platforms. Still others are connecting by phone, or are relying on printed material or a DVD disc. Here are some things for you to consider:

  1. In advance of providing Holy Communion through these new means, tell people what they will need to have on hand to participate, being mindful that we don’t want to increase people’s anxiety or jeopardizing their safety by requiring a trip to the grocery store during this time. What basic elements might people have on hand that are familiar and could be used?  Give your church members and others who may choose to participate with you in Holy Communion enough guidance to help them observe it fully present to Christ our Lord.  
  2. Moving to online communion provides us with an opportunity to deepen our congregations’ understanding of Holy Communion. As you gather your faith community for Holy Communion, discuss our theology of the Eucharist and how it is a means of grace that binds us to Christ and one another. This Holy Mystery: A United Methodist Understanding of Holy Communion is a helpful resource that holds us together in our common understanding. It can be found online HERE.
  3. For those who are unable to connect with the worshipping congregation through technology and thus the elements cannot be consecrated online, we recommend that:
    • You purchase pre-filled communion elements (for example, see: LINK). If you choose to use these elements, consecrate them before having them sent to church members and constituents. 
    • You may choose to mail these consecrated elements or with the help of lay leaders deliver them to people’s homes while practicing social distancing. 
    • Some congregations already have communion visitation teams in place. We advise that pastors who do not already have these teams create them to assist in participating in the sharing of Holy Communion.
    • We believe human contact is critical for those unable to join by livestream. When these consecrated elements are sent to people’s homes, it should be followed with a call from the pastor or visitation team member so that communion prayers can be offered together. You may want to add a written liturgy to the elements when you send them forth. Don’t forget to practice safety precautions.

We continue to pray with and for you. You are providing a vital center of community connection and the hope that is found in the Good News of Jesus Christ. May God continue to equip and strengthen you for the ministry to which you’ve been called.

In service with you,

Robert T. Hoshibata, President                        
Minerva G. Carcaño, Secretary                        
Grant Hagiya      
Elaine JW Stanovsky
Karen P. Oliveto

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

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

Luke 10:25b, 27

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

Love God  |  Love your neighbor  |  You will live

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


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.

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

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

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


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.


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

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

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


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

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

Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky

Respuestas de nuestras Iglesias Locales al COVID-19

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

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

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

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

Tu tienes muchas preguntas sin respuesta

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

Conferencia general. Conferencias Anuales. Conferencia Jurisdiccional.

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

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

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

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

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

¿Qué esperanza nos ofrece Dios?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Obispa Elaine JW Stanovsky

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

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

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

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

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

You have a lot of Unanswered Questions

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

General Conference. Annual Conferences. Jurisdictional Conference.

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

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

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

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

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

What hope does God offer?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky

Carta Pastoral: Nuevas pautas para combatir el Coronavirus exigen suspender los servicios de adoración

Estimado Pastor/a metodista unido, miembros y amigos:

Las tres simples reglas de John Wesley (Adaptadas)


Día a día estamos aprendiendo más sobre COVID-19, o el Coronavirus. Sabemos que pueden pasar hasta 14 días entre el momento en que una persona está expuesta al virus y cuando comienzan los síntomas. Esto significa que, como ha pasado en los condados King y Snohomish en el estado de Washington, el virus puede pasar desapercibido durante algún tiempo antes de ser identificado. Durante ese tiempo, la persona infectada con el virus está exponiendo a otros a la infección sin siquiera saberlo. También sabemos que el virus es altamente contagioso, pero que las medidas de precaución pueden reducir la velocidad de propagación. Disminuir la propagación baja el porciento de casos de una epidemia como esta. Si hay demasiados casos que necesitan atención médica al mismo tiempo, esto puede inundar nuestros hospitales y clínicas, lo que hace imposible que todos los casos críticos de COVID-19, así como otras emergencias médicas no relacionadas, reciban un tratamiento oportuno y adecuado.

En acuerdo con las directrices y recomendaciones emitidas por el Gobernador de Oregon Brown y el Gobernador de Washington Inslee y reconociendo que las personas mayores de 60 años o que tienen condiciones de salud pre-existentes se les aconseja no asistir a reuniones de más de 10 personas, Estoy ordenando a las iglesias locales de cualquier tamaño y otros ministerios en los estados de Alaska, Idaho, Oregon y Washington que suspendan el culto y otras reuniones de más de 10 personas durante las próximas dos semanas, a partir de hoy. Sus líderes de la conferencia y yo evaluaremos como se estan desarrolando los eventos y actualizaremos esta directrices según corresponda, pero no más tarde del 24 de marzo, antes del Domingo de Ramos y la Semana Santa.

Algunas personas se preguntan si estas fuertes directrices están justificadas en Alaska, donde se confirmó el primer caso o en Idaho, donde COVID-19 aún no se ha detectado. Le pido que adopten esta disciplina como un acto valiente de prevención. Es probable que este virus esté presente, aun sin ser detectado, como lo ha estado en muchos lugares.

¡No queremos arriesgarnos a que nadie contraiga o propague este virus en la iglesia! También solicito al personal de la conferencia a que suspendan los viajes aéreos innecesarios y aconsejo al clero que haga lo mismo hasta nuevo aviso.


El Departamento de Salud de Oregón nos recuerda que “Juntos, podemos minimizar el impacto de COVID-19 en los miembros mas vulnerables de nuestra comunidad”. Los metodistas unidos nos esforzamos por vivir una vida que promuevan el bienestar de los demás. En esta temporada de propagación de la enfermedad, hago un llamado a “extender la hospitalidad a los extraños”

  • mantengan una distancia social de 6 pies, sin abrazos, apretones de manos o golpes de codo
  • quédese en casa si no se siente bien
  • practique una higiene saludable

“Contribuya a la necesidad de los mas vulnerables”, al continuar apoyando a su iglesia local y otros ministerios vitales con sus oraciones, presencia (en espíritu y en línea), dones (incluyendo el apoyo financiero), servicio y testimonio para que los ministerios de compasión y la justicia no sean interrumpidos. Información de preparación para emergencias de la Conferencia de Oregon-Idaho, información de preparación de la Conferencia PNW, información de preparación de la Conferencia de Alaska.

Para que los ministerios que sirven a poblaciones vulnerables permanezcan abiertos, tal como: cuidado de niños, programas de alimentación, servicios para personas sin hogar, AA, es estrictamente recomendado el cumplimiento de las medidas de seguridad del Departamento para el Control de Enfermedades u otras agencias de salud pública para la limpieza, el distanciamiento social y estas pautas de detección de salud son obligatorias.


En tiempos de incertidumbre y vulnerabilidad, el contacto humano y la conexión espiritual son importantes. Le animo a que encuentren formas creativas de mantenerse en contacto con sus colegas y sus feligreses durante este tiempo. Las redes sociales son geniales, pero no sustituyen una llamada telefónica o tiempo de atención.

A pesar de que se nos alienta a quedarnos en casa, evitar el contacto social y adorar en línea, las iglesias y las agencias de servicios sociales necesitan un apoyo constante de la comunidad para continuar su crucial trabajo de justicia y compasión. Espero que experimenten ofreciendo cultos en línea, donaciones y reuniones durante esta emergencia.

Hay buenas noticias para las iglesias sobre las licencias Zoom y CCLI. Finalmente, en tiempos de crisis, el miedo da paso al odio. Las personas de ascendencia asiática, o aquellos que han viajado al extranjero, informan que han sido hostigados y estigmatizados bajo el supuesto de que trajeron el virus aquí.

Las personas no son responsables del virus, y cualquiera de nosotros podría ser portador. Solo el perfecto amor echa fuera el miedo (1 Juan 4:18).

Tomen precauciones para que usted, sus seres queridos, extranjeros, congregaciones y comunidades esten seguras.

Con gratitud por ti y tu liderazgo, y con confianza en el firme amor y la gracia de Jesucristo,

Obispa Elaine JW Stanovsky

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

Dear United Methodist Clergy, Members and Friends:

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
  • stay home if you don’t feel well
  • practice healthy hygiene

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky

Coronavirus en nuestra Comunidad

Dios es nuestro amparo y nuestra fortaleza,
nuestra ayuda segura en momentos de angustia.
Por eso, no temeremos…
Salmo 46:1,2

Metodistas Unidos del Gran Noroeste Area,

La noticia de la propagación del Coronavirus (COVID-19) dentro de los Estados Unidos está causando gran preocupación. Si bien esto es particularmente grave en el área de Seattle, los miembros de las comunidades religiosas de todo el país están haciendo preguntas sobre cómo esto podría afectar las formas en que adoran y practican su fe tanto dentro como fuera de sus edificios.

Cada vez es más claro que el virus COVID-19 es un peligro para las personas y nuestras comunidades en el area Gran Noroeste y especialmente en el Condado de King, Washington, donde se propagó sin ser detectado por algún tiempo. La capacidad de evaluar a todas las personas con síntomas continúa rezagada con respecto a la necesidad de esta prueba.

Debido a esto, reunirse como comunidades de fe puede poner a las personas en riesgo de exposición al COVID-19. Estoy animando a seguir una gran cantidad de precauciónes en nuestras iglesias, siguiendo la sabiduría y los consejos del Departamento de Salud del condado de King.

Recomendaciones del departamento de salud pública para residentes e iglesias en los condados de King y Snohomish, en el estado de Washington.

Ayer, la ciudad de Seattle y el condado de King emitieron pautas temporales de salud pública destinadas a frenar la propagación de COVID-19 y reducir el riesgo de exposición. Al describir la situación como “un paisaje cambiante”, el Ejecutivo del Condado de King, Dow Constantine, expreso que se deben evitar las reuniones de grupos grandes de 10 o más personas. Esto luego se ajustó a 50 personas.

Esta mañana, el Distrito de Salud de Snohomish siguió al condado de King al anunciar que también está recomendando evitar las reuniones innecesarias de grupos grandes de más de 50.

Como su Obispa, solicito encarecidamente que los pastores de iglesias y otros ministerios dentro del condado de Seattle y King sigan las recomendaciones del Departamento de Salud Pública. Estas pautas, sujetas a cambios a medida que la situación evoluciona, definen las poblaciones vulnerables, fomentan las prácticas seguras en nuestros entornos de trabajo, limitan el tamaño de las reuniones públicas, ofrecen orientación para las escuelas y las personas enfermas, y dan consejos a quienes buscan mantenerse saludables.

Actualmente, la orientación del Departamento de Salud Pública significa que se les pide a las iglesias que no reúnan a grandes grupos de personas para adoración, conciertos o comidas compartidas. Además, la gravedad de la situación significa que deberiamos posponer la celebración de la comunión hasta fin de mes y prestar especial atención a la limpieza de nuestras instalaciones. Para muchas congregaciones en los condados de King y Snohomish, estas recomendaciones son una invitación a encontrar otras formas de estar en oración y relacionarse entre ellos.

Recomendaciones del Departmento de salud pública para iglesias fuera de los condados de King y Snohomish, Washington.

Si vive o trabaja, o está involucrado en una iglesia fuera del condado de King o Snohomish, le recomiendo que comience ahora a desarrollar planes para identificar y preservar los ministerios de su iglesia local cuando COVID-19, o algún otro desastre , llega a su pueblo.

La Guía Provisional para Comunidades de Fe del CDC se publicó esta semana y cada líder debe tomarse el tiempo de revisarla. Una lista de producida hace varios años para preparar a las comunidades religiosas para una pandemia de gripe puede ser una guía útil.

Aquellos que hayan recibido el programa Conectando Vecinos producido por UMCOR pueden ser un recurso para las iglesias que son nuevas en este tipo de trabajo. Una lista de personas capacitadas estará disponible pronto junto con otros recursos en el sitio web del Gran Noroeste area.

Palabra de aliento para todas las Iglesias en el area del Gran Noroeste

Es natural que las personas se pongan ansiosas ante una enfermedad desconocida que no muestra síntomas durante muchos días después de haber infectado a una persona. Este es sin duda un momento de preocupación, y para tomar precauciones, pero no es el momento del pánico

Cuando la salud y la vida están en juego, las organizaciones deben cooperar con la última información recibida y deben recibir direccion de los departamentos de salud estatales y del condado y los Centros para el Control y la Prevención de Enfermedades (CDC) y la Organización Mundial de la Salud (OMS).

Hemos creado una página en el sitio web del Gran Noroeste area que proporciona un fácil acceso a estos sitios y hemos creados enlaces de varios recursos específicos que estaran disponibles para las iglesias en los próximos días.

Es en momentos como estos que las personas de fe se llenan de coraje de persistencia y confianza en Dios. Es hora de hacer todo lo posible para promover la salud y el bienestar y asegurarnos de que nosotros y las personas en los círculos de nuestro cuidado estén seguros y tengan lo que necesitan mientras vivimos esta temporada de enfermedad.

Obispa Elaine JW Stanovsky

Cambios en Practicas para la Oficina de la Conferencia del PNW

En respuesta a la recomendación de Seattle y el departamento del salud del condado King, los empleados que trabajan en la Oficina de la Conferencia del Noroeste del Pacífico tienen la facultad discreta de trabajar desde sus casas hasta finales de marzo. La oficina no se está cerrando, pero el número de empleados que trabajaran desde la oficina de la conferencia será menor.

Esperamos que esto nos permita ayudar y asistir a las iglesias locales según sea necesario, le pedimos su gracia mientras nos adaptamos a esta medida.

Tenemos la intención de seguir esta guía para el mes de marzo, pero evaluaremos semanalmente y realizaremos ajustes a medida que sigamos vigilando de cerca la situación. Si tiene previsto asistir a una reunión en la Oficina de la Conferencia de PNW durante este período de tiempo, póngase en contacto con la persona encargada de la reunion. Cuando sea práctico, trasladaremos las reuniones a Zoom para limitar el viaje de las personas al condado de King. Algunas reuniones también pueden posponerse o cancelarse.

Coronavirus in our community

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

United Methodists across the Greater Northwest Area,

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

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

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

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

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

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

Please read these guidelines as they are available online here: 

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

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

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

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

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

Encouragement for all churches across the Greater Northwest Area

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

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

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

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

Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky

Changes in Practice for the PNW Conference Office

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

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

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

Keeping our communities healthy during the season of Lent

Traducción: español

United Methodists and friends,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May God bless you and keep you healthy and safe,

Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky

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

United Methodists in the Pacific Northwest Conference,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky

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