J une 16, 2020

Fellow Members:

It was in mid-March when Pastor Lynn wrote to us noting the disrupting effects of
COVID-19 on our church life. It is now summer, our church lives are still interrupted, and
we don’t like it much. We ask when will our church come back to us – when will we

Our church, our community and our work continue even though we are not in the
building. In this time of constraints, we have Zoom meetings, Facebook events, and a
host of other activities unknown to our past. We are fortunate in our loss that we have
ways to connect with each other. But back to the relaunch.

The Relaunch task force has met via Zoom twice now with our interim Senior Pastor
Phil Hathcock to consider how to reopen the church within the applicable orders and
guidance issued by Governor Hutchinson. In addition, it is important to know that our
Bishop, Gary E. Mueller, has largely adopted the State’s approach to managing Covid-
19. On May 29, 2020, Bishop Mueller wrote that “It is imperative that you treat Governor
Hutchinson’s May 4 Guidance as a directive that must be followed, regardless of when
your church initiates any in-person gatherings of any size. This is non-negotiable – for
me and for the State of Arkansas – because unsafe in-person gatherings literally put
people’s lives at risk. (emphasis in the original).”

The May 4 Guidance requires, at a minimum:
•signage regulating entry into the building,
•face coverings,
•hand sanitizing stations at all public entrances,
•lines or queues for entrance and exit,
•instructions on distancing,
•limiting meet and greet activities to before or after services and outside only,
•instructions regarding physical contact,
•elimination of items that are traditionally touched or handled by different people,
•refrain from altar calls,
•sanitization of all high-touch areas, etc.

More details may be found at:

Effective June 15, 2020, the State of Arkansas moved into Phase 2 which allows groups
of up to fifty (50) people to meet, still under restrictive rules and conditions. However,
at the District Conference on Saturday, June 13, Bishop Mueller advised that despite the state’s loosening of group meeting sizes, Methodist churches in the
Conference would stay in ARMUMC Stage 1 with its requirement to limit meeting sizes to ten (10) or fewer people. The Bishop passionately implored attendees to “Go slow, please go slow, for God’s sake go slow…”
See, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pCGX-iSz58Q at (1:19:00 - 1:25:10)

We, the North Little Rock First United Methodist Church, must go slowly. We shall not
yet increase our activities to include large group meetings.
We are striving to reopen to small groups so they may meet subject to Phase 1 limits
mentioned above. Staff has been and is now engaged in the complex logistics of
managing the use of our grounds and buildings. Staff’s efforts, in addition to their other work, involves the:

• procurement, maintenance, and use of needed supplies
•determining the best use of personnel (staff and volunteers), and
•enacting regulations for the safe use of our facility.

We can look to the CEC which has successfully created and maintained the daytime
childcare we offer but because the daycare is subject to different law, we are unable to
simply copy their approach. We seek to create a successful return, starting with
groups of less than ten people, and likely, only outside. If we can make the outside meetings work, then we can learn to make our inside meetings work well too, and to then expand as external developments warrant.

In the meantime, the church will continue to use technologies available to us to continue
our good works and will strive towards a more complete opening as COVID-19 abates.

We Methodists, have long adhered to the rule of doing no harm. We must continue to
do so.

Relaunch Task Force

Chris Bradley
Find us on social media @NLRFUMC!