“Carry each other’s burdens and so you will fulfill the law of Christ.”
– Galatians 6:2 (CEB)
We are at an unprecedented time in history. In just the past few weeks, we have witnessed a rapid increase of positive COVID-19 cases across the state, nation and world setting new daily and weekly records nearly every day. This news is alarming and requires all of us to make difficult but necessary decisions for the Indiana Conference of The United Methodist Church.
“There is a tremendous risk with this virus. It spreads really, really easily. The next 8-12 weeks are critical. Anything the Church can do to reduce gatherings will be helpful to slow the spread. We must take this very seriously,” said Kristen Kelley, Director of Infection Prevention, IU Health
Since it is a fact that church worship gatherings are key sources of the spread of COVID-19, it is the recommendation of your Bishop that all churches should suspend in-person worship and in-person meetings of groups for the foreseeable future until the number of COVID cases improve. This will likely include making alternative plans for the holidays. This is particularly true for churches in counties and communities where hospitals are reporting excessive demands due to the rising number of COVID admissions.
We do not make this recommendation lightly, but offer it through an abundance of caution, a continued commitment to our 3 General Rules: Do no harm, Do good, and Stay in love with God; and because “loving our neighbor” is at the top of our priority list. Remember, a life saved this winter is a life saved to journey with us into the next year.
Please note that we are not closing the Church! We are not out of business! But I am calling on all pastors to use their authority to make wise and bold decisions for their community, and I am calling for all Indiana United Methodists to continue ministry in creative and innovative ways like you have been for the past 7 months.
“We need to be willing to do the hard things and to make sacrifices in the short term for the benefit of all in the long term,” said Rev. Kevin Armstrong, Chief of Staff, IU Health
We encourage you to watch the COVID Town Hall video on the INUMC website as well as resources discussed in that webinar (Nov. 16). Over the past several months I have shared some suggested actions you can take in your local church. Additionally, here are some of those suggestions (with a few new ones):
- Follow the 3 Ws: Wash your hands; watch your distance; wear your mask.
- Isolate yourself if you believe you have been exposed to the Coronavirus. Call one of the many free screening hotlines or online sites for guidance and/or talk with your doctor to determine next steps.
- Quarantine yourself at the first signs of symptoms for 14 days since your last contact with someone who was ill (even family in your household). Learn more: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/if-you-are-sick/quarantine.html
- Continue with socially-distanced outdoor and drive-in worship (as weather permits).
- Continue to care for the vulnerable persons in your community with appropriate precautions (food banks, meal programs, etc).
- Go online with worship, studies and small groups. Use Zoom, Facebook, and/or any of the variety of other platforms available.
- Focus on what you CAN do, rather than what you cannot.
Here’s some good news: I believe a great revival is coming in 2021. We may be making sacrifices now, but you have never seen a reunion like the one we are going to have at the end of this pandemic. Our God is good, and God is not done with us yet. Hold on a little while longer. Stay strong. Remain faithful. And as always…
Bishop Julius C. Trimble
Indiana Conference of The United Methodist Church