Dear Beloved Friends and Members of The United Methodist Family,
As we approach June 14, let me thank you again for your faithful witness, prayers, and patience as we continue to embrace social distancing and spiritual connection with an abundance of caution as you lead your congregations.
A few weeks ago you read my guidance regarding how our congregations might return to worship in our sanctuaries where I suggested, “We believe it is still wise to plan ‘in-person’ worship no sooner than June 14.” As we approach that date, I want to say again that we do not believe it is prudent or necessary for the United Methodist churches in Indiana to recommend a “one size fits all” protocol for churches. That date was provided to serve as guidance, not prescriptive. June 14 may work for your setting.
But we want to be clear that churches are in different community contexts and have different membership characteristics. Some made arrangements earlier; others have determined that June 14 is too soon. Each setting will require discernment of its own and truly, you and your leaders are the only ones who can make decisions for what will be right for your congregation.
As a reminder:
- We have provided resources here which include a guide to consider as you plan to return to worship and in-building activities. Please communicate with your Conference Superintendent about your plans and questions.
- We will continue to make recommendations and decisions based first on our General Rules as United Methodists, the first being to “Do no harm.”
- We believe no one should feel compelled to attend worship who does not feel safe or that they may be at higher risk of becoming sick.
- We know that persons can be asymptomatic and yet have COVID-19 and could spread it to others. We know that at this time there is no vaccine or cure. We do know that wearing a mask, washing hands, and practicing disciplined social distancing has prevented more people from becoming ill.
- The good news is that we are confident that you will take seriously the sacred trust placed in your hands to care for your flock. As you do, please know that the Bishop and Extended Cabinet are praying for all of our pastors and congregations and ministry partners.
As we have celebrated Pentecost, we are lifted by the mighty power of the Holy Spirit to share the message of hope and love of Jesus Christ with all the people we can, in all the ways we can in the days ahead.
Bishop Julius C. Trimble
Indiana Conference of The United Methodist Church