Dear Beloved Friends and Members of The United Methodist Family,
As we respond to the order issued by Governor Holcomb this week, let me thank you again for your faithful witness, prayers and patience as you 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. So as we approach this new mandate from the State of Indiana, 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.
However, whatever your previous plans have involved, all of them should have addressed the CDC guidance for the use of masks and social distancing. And as in the past, our observations are provided to be guidance, but not prescriptive. Some churches have not yet returned to “in-person” worship. Others have. But we want to be clear that churches are in different community contexts and have different membership characteristics. 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. In addition, every church should be encouraged to adjust their plans as conditions change in their area.
As a reminder:
- Governor Holcomb’s mandate can be viewed here.
- We are asking that you report to your Conference Superintendent any COVID-related hospitalizations or deaths, as well as congregation exposure and a response plan. (https://www.coronavirus.in.gov/2396.htm See Contact Tracing FAQ)
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 a higher risk for becoming sick.
- We know that persons can be asymptomatic and yet have COVID-19 and 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 have prevented more people from becoming ill.
Please know that the Extended Cabinet and I are praying for all of our pastors and congregations and ministry partners. We remain encouraged as we have seen evidence of the resourceful ways churches are responsibly connecting to proclaim and witness to the presence of Christ among us.
Be encouraged as we go through these times together!
Bishop Julius C. Trimble
Indiana Conference of The United Methodist Church