Guidance from Bishop Tracy S. Malone and the Extended Cabinet – May 21, 2020
Greetings in the name of Jesus Christ. We continue to be thankful for the creative and loving ways you are embodying the love and grace of Jesus Christ. The leadership and resilience you have demonstrated during this COVID-19 pandemic is remarkable and is celebrated.
We continue to be in a public health crisis due to the coronavirus, that remains contagious and can be deadly. Each of us needs to be intentional about making decisions and developing ministry plans that prioritize the well-being of our clergy and laity. No one should feel obligated or compelled to attend worship or any in-person event if they feel the risk is too high to do so.
The Extended Cabinet is now recommending that churches can consider moving from Phase 1 to Phase 2. We appreciate the way pastors and church councils (and equivalents) are giving serious attention to the details of the EOC guidelines as they develop and implement plans that prioritize care for people.
During Phase 2, small groups such as bible studies and other spiritual groups, committees, and office functions can begin to meet together in-person. Small group gatherings could include worship in some contexts, if clergy and lay leadership mutually and prayerfully determines that they will follow the worship practices and other practices listed in Phase 3 of the Guidelines for Phased-in Reopening of EOC Church Buildings as well as the guidance of their county health department.
The Guidelines are a resource based on the best advice of faithful United Methodist medical professionals and reflect current State of Ohio orders to reduce the risk of spreading the coronavirus. It is a tool to empower clergy and lay leadership to have conversations and make collaborative decisions about what needs to be done so that each congregation and faith community can be the Church in safer ways in their particular context.
Each of our nearly 700 East Ohio Conference churches is unique and will create its own plan for what is necessary for that congregation to move from one phase to the next. That is expected because every church has a different context, capacity and level of readiness and risk. Church pastor(s) and their council (or equivalent) should not feel pressured to move to the next phase before they are ready to do so but they are expected to be actively developing plans for reentering the church building.
We are closely monitoring the situation and will continue to do ongoing assessments and make recommendations accordingly. District superintendents and Conference staff continue to be available to support and resource your ministry.
We place our trust in God whose wisdom is beyond our understanding. We continue to follow Christ who is our example and our strength. And we rely on the power and encouragement of the Holy Spirit.
“Therefore, if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort in love, any sharing in the Spirit, any sympathy, complete my joy by thinking the same way, having the same love, being united, and agreeing with each other. Don’t do anything for selfish purposes, but with humility think of others as better than yourselves. Instead of each person watching out for their own good, watch out for what is better for others. Adopt the attitude that was in Christ Jesus.” - Philippians 2:1-5 (CEB)
Executive Secretary to the Bishop
The East Ohio Conference Office:
located in North Canton, OH,
near Akron-Canton Airport.
8800 Cleveland Ave. NW
North Canton, OH 44720
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