The Church + the Coronavirus (COVID-19)
Dear Colleagues in Ministry,
Due to the strong restrictions related to public gatherings issued by President Trump and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), I am strongly encouraging all our churches – of any size – to temporarily suspend worship and most of their in-person gatherings (including Sunday morning, funerals, weddings or anything over 10 people).
Sadly, this includes Palm Sunday and Easter services scheduled for April 5 and April 12. Once the all-clear comes, I recommend holding Palm Sunday on the first Sunday back in worship and Easter on the second Sunday gathered as a group.
Pastors, together in conversation with their leadership, should make decisions about how best to worship (ideas on our website), how to serve your community (more ideas on our website) and how to manage activities that involve 10 or less people. That said, pastors, please comply with our health professionals’ advice. If their restrictions change from 10 people to 0, adapt and support their efforts. Our civic leaders need us, as spiritual leaders, to show moral courage and work together with them to flatten the curve of this disease.
I realize you have a lot of questions. Who wouldn’t? I’ve never pastored through a pandemic and I imagine you haven’t been trained for this either. Please give yourself and others around you grace in trying to figure it all out. No one has all the answers, but together, we will get through this. The Conference has developed a set of FAQs for you as you and your lay leaders wrestle with the difficult decisions surrounding our new normal.
One of the greatest ways we can share compassion with our world right now is to join the collaborative effort to prevent the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19). I know that Missouri Methodists will faithfully discern how God is calling us to be the Church during this crisis. I also know that Missouri laity and pastors have the courage and creativity to discover new ways of being the Church within this challenging reality. Stay faithful. Listen to the experts. Do your best. We will get through this together.
Bishop Robert Farr