A Word from Bishop Bryan: COVID-19 update - suspending church services & activities
Dear South Georgia clergy, laity, and friends,
I sit in gratitude today as I reflect on the ways our clergy and our churches have leaned into the sudden adjustments being thrust upon us by the spread of the coronavirus. With inspired creativity, you are exploring ways to stay in connection as you minister in your congregation and community. You are giving special attention to those who are considered most vulnerable. Thank you for rising to the occasion so that the South Georgia Conference can demonstrate what it means to be Alive Together in Witness in the face of a major social need.
Out of an abundance of caution and in light of the CDC’s most recent recommendation to suspend large events and mass gatherings for the next eight weeks, the Cabinet and I are asking each church, if you haven’t already, to suspend in-person worship services and congregational activities, starting now through at least the end of March. We are also suspending all conference and district events through the end of the month. We will reevaluate April 1 and make decisions based on what we know at that time. Please be aware that it is highly likely we will need to suspend our gatherings further.
I recognize that we find ourselves in an unprecedented and ever-evolving global health issue. On one hand, we as Christians and local churches always want to dispel fear and panic because of our faith. That is what we are called to do. In this instance, however, suspending worship as well as conference, district, and local church activities is not an act of fear, it is recognizing we have a role to play in slowing the rate of infection so that we can, together, defeat this virus.
I hope we will look at this as an opportunity to be creative in our worship experiences as well as how we care for one another in our congregations and in our communities. Let us each ask, “What new opportunities is this situation creating for our local church?”
Already the Cabinet and I have changed this week’s Cabinet meeting from in-person to a video conference. We will be diligent in exploring creative ways to do our work while also doing our part to lower the infection rate of the coronavirus.
For at least the next two Sundays, I will offer a live stream worship moment from 10:00 am - 10:30 am. You can find this on our conference Facebook page and website, and we will post the recording to the conference website for use anytime. This is not to compete with anything you are already doing but is meant as a resource for churches who may not yet have in place their own options for offering online worship. This will also give me a way to provide a weekly update to our entire annual conference.
We will continue to provide updates as well as resources on the conference website. We have several resources to help you stream worship, preaching, and teaching through social media and/or your church website as well as resources for online giving and children/youth resources. If you are thinking about using Facebook Live for your worship service, we will be sharing teaching videos and helpful documents each day this week on our conference Facebook page.
If someone asks why your church chose to respond to this health crisis by closing its doors, here’s a helpful response:
- Our physical doors may be closed, but our church is not. Share how you are continuing to BE the church!
- We are loving our neighbors by protecting our neighbors. By practicing social distancing, we are protecting those who are most vulnerable.
- We are not being fearful. We are being responsible; we have a role to play in defeating this virus.
- This is what love requires of us in this season. We want to love our neighbors and be Alive Together in Witness in the face of a major social need.
If you have questions about this announcement or need guidance in determining what is best for your church, please contact your District Superintendent.
We all have a role to play so that we can defeat this virus in our communities, this nation and around the world. Thank you for doing your part in this and being alive together in witness as we love and serve each other in this unprecedented season.
Prayer is a powerful weapon. Please join me in praying for the doctors, nurses, medical researchers, and all others who are on the front lines responding to this virus as well as those who are infected. Know that the Cabinet and I are praying for you, your churches, and all affected by this outbreak.
Resources & Previous Updates