Question: Can we meet outdoors on Easter?
The following question was posed this week to Bishop Stanovsky by a pastor serving in the Greater Northwest Area. It has been edited lightly for clarity.
Bishop, I heard Governor Cuomo’s address this morning and one of the things he noted is that the blanket action to close everything needs to be made with the added information they have gained. He said now strategic decision making needs to be brought to bear so that portions of the population that need to stay home should and others could be allowed to go to work and start the economy slowly and thoughtfully. There are populations that need to stay home and some don’t if they follow the strict CDC protocols.
I hope in making your decision about church closures, you will consider these differences in the populations and areas most affected and those which are not. For instance, before the church closures, we had urged people in high-risk populations to stay home and use precautions. Those who were not, if they felt they were safe, could come to worship where we practiced strict sanitary protocols and spatial distancing.
One of our members recently offered to use his outdoor stage and field for an open-air Easter Celebration and place chairs safely apart if we want to use it instead of the sanctuary. His offer is gracious and he is thinking of how to have an Easter Celebration safely.
This is the time of strategic decision making I think Governor Cuomo was referring to. Just my thoughts as you make your decision. I am praying for you as always.
A week ago, I was imagining the faithful scattered sparsely on hillsides shouting Alleluia on Easter Sunday. The person who has offered an outdoor space is thinking creatively and generously. However, this is not the year.
The states of Oregon, Washington, and Idaho have all issued Stay at Home orders that do not permit gatherings of any size, even if social distances are kept. An outdoor gathering for Easter worship in any of these three states is not allowed under orders in effect and put public health at risk. As I prayerfully gather and weigh all the evidence and listen to the orders of our public officials, I am moved by conscience and obedience to the law of the states and the law of love to insist that United Methodists postpone from gathering until the danger is past and restrictions lifted.
My directive applies to all four states in the Greater Northwest out of an abundance of caution and concern for public health.
– Bishop Elaine