Dec 11, 2020

Calling on all Eastern Pa Conference members and churches to be “be bearers of light and hope,” Bishop Peggy A. Johnson has urged more caution and even cancellation of plans for indoor gatherings in the coming weeks, as the COVID-19 pandemic worsens with rising infections, hospitalization and deaths. Relating winter’s seasonal darkness to the darkness of our deadly pandemic, she lamented in a letter the sadness felt by so many at the loss of onsite worship, fellowship and celebrations during Advent and Christmastide.

But “our faith teaches us that light is more powerful than darkness,” the bishop writes, urging “people of the light” to “prayerfully consider heeding with urgency, the recent mandates ordered by the governor of the state of Pennsylvania.” Governor Tom Wolf has called for at least three weeks of exercising extreme caution and avoidance of public gatherings from Dec. 12 to Jan. 4, 2021. 

“These new restrictions are a crucial attempt to stem the turbulent, rising tide of COVID-19 infections and the heavy toll it is taking on so many lives and families,” the bishop explains in her episcopal letter, sent to conference members following the governor’s Thursday announcement. The new state guidelines call for gatherings of no more than 10 people indoors and no more than 50 people outdoors. Philadelphia’s “Safer at Home” restrictions are even more stringent.

“These restrictions will surely curtail Christmas worship services and gatherings a great deal; but I firmly believe it is a wise, potentially lifesaving decision to do so.” writes the bishop. “I am well aware that religious entities are exempt from these kinds of government mandates; but I still believe that pastors and churches need to lean toward extreme caution in these extreme circumstances.

“Please follow these new mandates,” she urges. “Doing so will save lives, reduce overcrowding of hospitals, and protect our churches from blame if someone contracts the virus from a church attender.”

Bishop Johnson recommends “other important ways to be light-bearers during this still-special time of year:

  • Continue to give generously to your churches and to mission.
  • Support restaurants that have had to close indoor dining by purchasing from them online or through delivery and carry-out service.
  • Support local businesses that now must operate at reduced capacity.
  • Give to the poor and to places that serve the poor, since these new restrictions will drastically affect many livelihoods.
  • Give a “shout out” of encouragement and thanks to frontline health care professionals and service providers.
  • Get tested and do quarantine if you are feeling sick or have been exposed to someone who has tested positive.
  • Wear protective masks at all times, except when at home with immediate family members.
  • Hold all holiday gatherings virtually.
  • Keep washing your hands and using hand sanitizer.

 “The dawn of hope for the conquest of this disease will come faster if we all work together and follow these mandates,” she assures conference members. “The vaccines are going to help eventually. But for now, we are responsible for taking care of ourselves and each other by doing our part. Let us all choose to be bearers of light and hope.

Read the full letter: A Season of Darkness and Light