In the beginning of COVID-19 pandemic, many of us imagined that we would return to normal, to worship on Sunday morning, caring for our neighbors, weekly Bible studies and small groups, all at once. We are now recognizing that this return to life outside of our homes will happen gradually, in phases.
What future we will find ourselves in depends not only on the behavior of the virus, but on the actions of people – as individuals, churches, communities, and governments. The way forward will not be a matter of following a timetable, but of faithfully discerning the signs of the times, and responding accordingly.
We find ourselves now at a threshold, discerning together how best to re-enter life together. The founder of the Methodist movement, John Wesley, encouraged us to consider three rules as we seek to follow Jesus in the world: do no harm, do good and attend to the ordinances of God (the practices that help us to love God and others well). The following recommendations are offered in the spirit of those three rules, with the hope that, throughout the pandemic, we will do no harm to one another, that we will find creative ways to do good, and that in all these things we will come to love God and God’s people more deeply.
Below are our recommendations of how to phase a church reopening which aligns with the phases offered from Governor Cooper’s office. In developing this document, we are indebted to the Wisconsin Council of Churches, as well as the Iowa Conference of the United Methodist Church, whose work greatly aided in the creation of this resource. We offer it as a framework to guide clergy and lay leaders in making healthy and pastoral decisions, not as a fixed set of guidelines that will account for every circumstance. All ministry is contextual and we know that you will continue to respond in ways that account for your particular congregation and local conditions. You may need to consult local health officials or your District Superintendent as you finalize decisions.
A prayer from Bishop Hope Morgan Ward:
Ever-living God, we pray for your light and life as the pandemic continues, threatening the human family in every place. We look to you, Jesus Christ, our Great Physician, for wisdom and strength as we lead our churches and communities. By the power of the Holy Spirit, we pray for healing of body, mind, spirit and relationships to abound across the breadth of our world. We offer this prayer with humility, in the strong hope that we will be faithful as we serve you and one another now and always with loving hearts. Amen.
*To download the guide from Google Docs, choose File – Download and pick your preferred file type.
We recommend PDF or Microsoft Word.
Please send your questions for clarification to your District Superintendent.