May 23, 2020

By Bishop Peggy A. Johnson—

Greetings in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.  I have been asked recently about the reopening of our churches. I want to be clear about the following:

  1. The ministry of our churches has always been considered “essential services.” However, in recent months our governor and health officials have asked that we observe strict public gathering orders that have prevented in-person worship.  This was for the sake of our health and safety, and it was the prudent thing to do.  Reopening is now being cautiously permitted by our state officials.
  2. Reopening guidelines issued by the state are still our best practices and should be followed in the interest of health and safety for all, especially our older congregants and those with health issues that put them at higher risk.
  3. Each church’s board of trustees and pastor(s) should draft a plan for reopening their church and do so with provided safety guidelines in mind.  These guidelines are posted on our conference website. It is essential to prepare church buildings by cleaning and to keep people spread out at a healthy distance among church pews and other gathering areas.
  4. It is always acceptable to continue to remain closed until the church decides it is safe and ready to reopen.
  5. It is advisable that worship, meetings and other activities continue to be held online and by conference call, even when the church reopens. This action can accommodate those who are unable to come to the church in person, and it can further the church’s online outreach into the community.
  6. Remain prayerful and in communication with church members as plans and guidelines develop.  Disagreements about the timing of reopening and the enforcement of protocols are best prevented when everyone is informed. 

I hold all of you constantly in my prayers, as you continue the work of the Lord Jesus Christ in these challenging times.  Your ministries with the poor are exemplary.  Your faithful worship has lifted the hearts of people to the Lord.  Thank you for all that you do to serve and share Jesus Christ!

Also, here is a recommended, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) resource for churches planning to reopen: Interim Guidance for Communities of Faith

Also see–Summer Recreation, Camps and Pools: Frequently Asked Questions, provided by the PA Department of Health

Eastern Pennsylvania Conference, The United Methodist Church
May 23, 2020