Why is the Bishop asking my church to suspend worship?
Part of our Wesleyan heritage as United Methodists is caring
for one another, which means caring enough to prevent the spread of a terrible
A large portion of our church population falls within one or
more of the categories defined by the CDC as most at-risk for contracting
COVID-19 (adults over 60, or those of any age who have compromising health
Transmission of the Coronavirus can occur through the air through
coughing and sneezing, close personal contact, such as touching or shaking
hands; touching an object or surface with the virus on it, then touching your
mouth, nose, or eyes.
It can range from mild illness to pneumonia and even death
in certain at-risk populations. Medical professionals currently understand it
to be anywhere between 10 to 20 times more lethal than the average flu bug.
By using social distancing, we can SLOW the SPREAD of this
disease and prevent hospitals from being overwhelmed.
My community isn’t experiencing any issues with the
Coronavirus. Why can’t we continue to meet
While public health professionals including the CDC still
acknowledge that the risk of being exposed to the virus is low for many
Americans, they predict that “as the outbreak expands, that risk will
increase.” While rural communities and some cities have yet to have a single
case, it is widely understood to be a matter of time and testing.
Sometimes individuals may be carriers of the Coronavirus
without knowing they have been infected. The CDC reports that it can take up to
14 days for symptoms to even appear.
As more time passes, public health officials are seeing more
cases through what they call “community spread.” And as testing starts to
become more commonplace, it is likely that they will find that it is already in
places that are presumed to be free of the virus.
What will happen to vulnerable members of my congregation
who I don’t see on Sunday?
We recommend using your church’s prayer tree or communications
plan to check on those in your church who may be self-isolating to make sure
they’re maintaining good health and staying connected to people within their
this story from Fairwood United Methodist Church outside of Seattle on how
they’re using disaster response protocols to love each other better.
How will my church recover financially if we’re not able
to give to a Sunday offering?
Concerns about the financial impact of suspending
worship are understandable. Actions taken now by community groups like
local churches actually have the potential to help to lessen the probability of
more extended, less voluntary, cancelations in the future.
Greater Northwest Area leaders are already started to
discuss how suspending worship may negatively impact some financially
vulnerable churches. We will be watching this closely.
In the meantime,
there are many ways for churches to set up online giving, or electronic
giving, which allows for churches to continue ministry in trying times and
If you or other members of your congregation are not
comfortable with setting up electronic giving, feel free to mail your church a
How will I maintain spiritual practices during this time?
Worship is a holy experience for many and also a great
opportunity to check in with our beloved siblings in Christ.
A number of churches are offering online worship services
for you to stream on Sunday mornings. This also could be a great time to
explore one of the many other spiritual disciplines that have developed within
the Christian tradition, in solitude or with a small group.
The Upper Room has great daily devotionals.
In addition to those options, we’re developing an online
devotional platform for people to connect. More details will be made available
What about committee meetings? How will we accomplish the
business of the church during the next four weeks?
Again, thank you for remaining faithful and committed to the
work of the church. We’re encouraging everyone to utilize online meeting
platforms like Zoom, Skype or phone calls
to accomplish as much work as possible in the next few weeks – or postpone meetings if you can.
The three conferences of the Greater Northwest Area are offering heavily discounted Zoom accounts to local churches. Click here to learn more.
My church provides a food pantry, childcare, etc., for our neighborhood. Are we expected to close those operations as well?
United Methodists are involved in so many important
ministries which help the vulnerable in our communities. We understand the need
to continue providing support, but 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
about camps, campus ministries and other specialized ministry settings?
campus ministry leaders, camp directors and Innovation Vitality team are all
watching this situation closely as well. Many campuses in the area are moving as
many of their classes as they can to online-only platforms or are extending
spring break while they make adjustments to schedules. We’d encourage our
campus ministers to utilize their communication systems to connect with college
students and plan any possible gatherings according to state and federal health
camp and retreat ministry directors are monitoring the situation closely as
well and may make decisions on suspending camp and retreat gatherings at
various sites in the coming days and weeks. One upcoming youth retreat in the
Seattle area, SUMYT, cancelled their event at Camp Indianola earlier this week.
Communion is always an important aspect of worship,
particularly so during Lent. We’re asking churches right now to suspend
offering communion. In small group settings of less than 10 people, it may feel
unnecessary to do so but please consider it anyway. We’d remind clergy to
consider the health risks this may pose and use individualized elements – such
as a single serving of grape juice and already-torn bread or wafers – to mitigate the risk and follow stringent
guidelines on sanitizing before and after serving such elements.