An Update to the CUMC Congregation 
Concerning Plans to Resume In-Person Worship 

June 4, 2020

As much of the Commonwealth of Virginia has entered Stage I to contain spread of Covid-19, the leadership of Cunningham United Methodist Church (CUMC) would like to update you regarding the plan to resume in-person worship at CUMC.  

It is important to remember that all United Methodist churches are part of a larger connectional system.  CUMC falls under the guidance and direction of the Bishop of the Virginia Conference of the United Methodist Church.  The VA Conference recently published guidelines and protocols for all VA United Methodist churches to follow regarding the resumption of in-person worship. 

CUMC’s Church Council received these protocols and reviewed them in light of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and John Wesley’s 3 Simple Rules: Do no harm; Do good; and, Stay in love with God.  We also considered the 46 completed surveys the congregation completed to provide input on these matters.

After careful consideration of all of these, CUMC has decided to adopt a gradual approach to resuming in-person worship.  

CUMC leadership discussed the VA Conference detailed plan at the May Church Council meeting. The plan is online and available for your review at . At that meeting we created a Healthy Church Team (HCT) which is charged with the responsibility for preparing for the time when we are able to offer in-person worship.  The HCT will provide advice for preparing the building, safely accommodating worship, and communicating with the congregation.   The committee is comprised of: Anne Luniewski, Betty Meyer, Bill Peters, David Simmons, Jennifer Wilkerson, and Pastor Amy.

The Council also discussed the possibilities and merits of resuming in-person worship at each unfolding stage as outlined in the VA Conference plan.  Stage 1, which has begun,  allows churches to provide the following options:  Drive-In Worship, Online Services, and Pioneer Churches.  
  •  Drive-In Worship means that members gather in their cars in the church parking lot (or any other parking lot) for worship.  Worshippers must stay in their cars, not park next to one-another, and the church must follow strict guidelines.  
  • CUMC is currently offering online services.  
  • Pioneer Churches are a small number of approved churches who will be experimenting with gatherings of 25 or fewer who are meeting in different parts of the building, ensuring no comingling of participants.  The requirements to be a Pioneer Church include numerous volunteers, pre-registration of attendees, and the exclusion of the more vulnerable members of the congregation, including children less than 12 years old.  

During Stage 2, churches are allowed to offer in-person worship to groups of 50 or fewer.  The guidelines for in-person worship during Stage 2 are also rigorous and include strict cleaning regimens, pre-registration of attendees, and the exclusion of the more vulnerable members of the congregation, including children less than 7 years old. During this stage online worship should be maintained.  The plan emphasizes that no church is obligated to open at this stage.  

Stage 3 allows for all churches to return to in-person worship under the “New Normal” protocols.  The timeline for this stage is still to be determined.  

After consideration of all the options, Cunningham’s Church Council determined that Online Church is still the safest and most effective option for our congregation.   Therefore, CUMC will consider restarting in-person worship only after Stage 3 has been initiated. In the meantime we will continue our Sunday morning online worship with Pastor Amy.  In fact, online worship has proved to be so popular that we will continue with it in some form even when we are back in the sanctuary.  

Thank you for your patience, your prayers, your continued giving, and your service to each other and to the community.  Concern for our safety ensures we will  do no harm .  Concern for one another ensures that we will  do good .  And our prayers that more will come to know the love of God ensures that we will  stay in love with   God .  Following the lead of our Healthy Church Team, we will gradually get back to in-person worship. Please contact Pastor Amy or me if you have any questions or concerns.

David Eddy
Chair, Cunningham Church Council  

Pastor Amy
Pastor, Cunningham UMC