Suspension of In-Person Worship Through May

Last night I was on a Zoom call with the Wesley Foundation at Middle Tennessee State University. I was asked to lead their Bible Study focusing on Acts 1 and 2. What joy I felt as these young adults engaged with scripture and what it means to be the Church in this age of distancing.

Three of the students on the call were seniors anticipating a transition to graduate school. A lack of commencement exercises to honor their accomplishments and not be able to be with their community of faith creates grief and loss for them. We understand.

As we talked about what it means to be the Church in this season, these college students have experienced real community through their experiences at Wesley. The Greek word for community is koinonia. My sense is that these students have experienced koinonia, shared life.

The fear for the graduating Seniors is that they will not easily find community in the places they encounter in the future. We pray that they will find and create spaces and places where their lives can thrive in the spaces they occupy.

The key verse in our study last night was Acts 2:42:  They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.”

As these students thought together what it means to be the Church in a zoom world, distanced from one another, it became apparent how deeply they felt that this description of the Church matched their felt experience as college students. It is my prayer that all of us are able to engage in a distanced way, through the power of the community of faith that brings hope.

The greatest challenge now is how to experience fellowship and continue to remain safe.

As we continue to live in an environment of physical distancing and stay at home orders in our communities, I wish to offer an update regarding our best thinking about next steps.

It has been 6 weeks since I requested our pastors and lay leaders to suspend public worship in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19. I challenged all of you to find alternative ways to practice and sustain our faith. I am, and continue to be, inspired by your response and creativity!

As I expressed to you in March, I am convinced the faith community has a very important role to play in our communities during this unusual health crisis.

This week, I listened to government officials and consulted with several health professionals about phasing in a return to public worship and congregational gatherings. I confess that I do not know the single best course of action to take.

However, the most compassionate and caring approach for our return to public worship should always consider those who are most vulnerable among us.

Therefore, I have determined it is in the best interest of our churches and faith communities for public worship and congregational gatherings remain suspended through May 31.

Through this cautious and proactive action, I pray that our witness and example will save lives.

As you know, things change daily with this pandemic. I will continue to consult regularly with health experts and conference leadership concerning our date to resume public worship and gatherings.

We will one day soon be able to safely and joyfully gather! In the coming weeks, I encourage you to prepare your church for that day.

In the coming weeks, resources will be shared through our conference websites, e-news, and social media giving best practices for you to follow for returning to public worship when the COVID-19 crisis subsides.

Our world has changed. This virus has no cure and may return. This means some common practices within our congregations will need to be modified.

In the meantime, please remember to

Stay Calm,

              Stay the Course (stay on Mission)

                                            Stay Connected

May the peace of Christ be with you all.

Bishop M

2 Comments on “Suspension of In-Person Worship Through May”

  1. […] United Methodist Church announced last week that it plans to keep churches closed through May, citing “the best interest of our […]

  2. […] Update as of 4/28:We will not gather for worship or Sunday school through the month of May. Click here to read the statement from the Bishop. […]