Friday, May 22, 2020
Dear Colleagues in Ministry,
This morning, President Donald J. Trump issued a statement calling on governors to allow houses of worship to open. In Missouri, Governor Mike Parson's Show Me Strong Missouri guidance allows Missourians to attend worship "as long as the social distancing requirements are followed, places of worship are allowed to hold in-person services. Common practices that may occur with worship services, such as hand shaking and shared communion cups, should be avoided. Places of worship are also encouraged to continue use of alternative means of services through streaming services and other opportunities" (from https://showmestrong.mo.gov/faq/).
United Methodists in Missouri are encouraged to follow their local and county health guidelines. The statement made by the President this morning does NOT change our earlier guidance (below dated May 4) to our local churches. This will mean that many of our churches will continue to worship in ways that do not include being in-person or in the building or sanctuary. I want to remind you that as a United Methodist, we are to follow our General Rules, the first of which is Do No Harm. My guidance to all our local churches is to take that rule seriously.
You, as the local pastor, together with your lay leadership, and in conversation with local public health officials are the best decision-makers regarding the return to worship within your sanctuaries. The Cabinet will support your decision made for your local Church. If you have concerns, raise them to your District Superintendent.
Today's statement is a caution to us all to refuse to consider the Church as solely being a building-centric entity. You and your teams have been the Church in these past weeks - through sheltering in place and through social distancing. Your witness and faith to share the Good News in creative ways has given me great hope for the Church. Thank you for your faithfulness.
As the U.S. approaches 95,000 coronavirus deaths, I offer my prayers for those who have died, those who are sick, those who have recovered and the front line workers seeking to heal those who are ill and working toward a cure.
Stay faithful. Listen to the experts. Do your best. We will get through this together.
Bishop Robert Farr
The Missouri Area of The United Methodist Church