I greet you in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and hold you in my prayers during this liminal time in the life of our church, our country, and the world on so many levels.
Presently the Corona virus pandemic has taken the center stage with alarming statistics and increasing numbers of sick people. The very word "pandemic" conjures up the word "panic" when I hear it. Suddenly we are all vulnerable to contracting very easily a silent, invisible virus that has no known cure or vaccination at this time. News is coming in almost hourly about the spread and the disruption in travel, schools, events and even a trip to the mall is now in question.
I urge you to exercise the bedrock of your faith: the promise of Jesus for peace. Jesus said "Peace I leave you, my peace I give you, not as the world gives do I give to you." It was his last gift to his disciples just before his suffering and death. It is an irony to promise peace when in just hours the most gruesome, breach of justice happened on Calvary. Yet Jesus word is true: we are promised peace that passes understanding in the midst of the storms and through the storms of life. I ask that you hold on to that at this time as well and be harbingers of peace and calm as a witness to your faith.
We also need to observe the many directives that are posted on our websites regarding prevention. These include vigilant hand-washing, cleaning surfaces regularly, staying home when sick, avoiding exposure with common sense decisions about gatherings, taking special care of senior citizens who are the most vulnerable, reporting any symptoms immediately to health officials, reporting any exposure you may have experienced, following the mandates of our government officials about travel, etc.
It is recommended that a common cup for communion be suspended during this time and offer only the bread if you are receiving by intinction. Individual small communion cups could be another option for providing grape juice.
Pastors should not hold services if they have large attendance (250 or more) in areas that have been affected and governments are limiting gatherings of large numbers. In the case of canceled worship you may want to live-stream church services as well as encourage electronic giving.
The EPA Conference office is asking that we do not hold meetings in the conference office for a period of time since it is located in an affected area. Use electronic means in order to hold meetings.
Please follow these directives and widely distribute these to our church members as well. We exercise peace and calm as you observe methods of prevention. They go hand in hand. This is serious and we don't take this lightly. Best of all we have a great God who is with us through it all.
I will keep you informed about any developments regarding the postponement of our important United Methodist gatherings in the months to come. I have been asked several times if General Conference will still happen in May. At this time no decisions have been made, but those who are responsible for this meeting are watching things carefully.
Thanks to those on our Disaster Response teams who are assisting us at this time to keep us informed and safe. I thank the Communications Team of the conference for posting much helpful information on the website. Keep checking our website for more updates. As we work together in service and love we will be victorious during this crisis.