Responding to COVID-19 in the CTC ©

In this time of crisis and pandemic, I invite you to breath deep and remember that Jesus is still Lord. May our response as Christ followers be that of a people guided by faith, not driven by fear.

As the coronavirus, known as COVID-19, continues to spread across the globe, our communities and churches in the Central Texas Conference are facing a time of unease and the unknown. Earlier this afternoon, Tarrant County Judge Glen Whitley issued a state of local disaster declaration and is recommending that community gatherings of 250 or more people be canceled. This came on the heels of Gov. Abbot declaring a state of disaster amid the COVID-19 outbreak.

In times of disaster or high stress we seek to gather together in worship and prayer. However, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to expand, it may be unwise to do so. As your bishop, I believe it is best that the decision regarding the suspension of services be made at the local level. The Cabinet and I have full confidence that the leadership of our local churches can and will make the best decision for their church and local community. As you make your decisions however, I urge you to consider the following.
  • Use your best judgement and common sense and pay close attention to the advice and orders of local, state, and federal authorities. 
  • Give your congregation and community as much notice as possible through as many communication channels as possible – email, text, social media, etc.
  • Offer online worship as an alternative. If you don’t do this regularly, consider Facebook Live as an option. Our communication team has pulled together some easy “how tos” on our website.
  • Provide regular updates for your congregation and community regarding when regular services will resume.
  • Should anyone from your church (member, visitor, staff, etc.) test positive for COVID-19, we strongly suggest that you suspend services.
Please note that if you decide to suspend services, you should notify your District Superintendent and/or district office of this suspension and when you plan to resume your regular in person worship services and ministry activities.
Friends, even in these most unusual of circumstances, our mission, our Wildly Important Goal of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world is as vital as ever. We should not and cannot stop being the church for our communities; we just have to find a way to do it differently for a while. In his weekly newsletter, Rev. Mike Ramsdell offers some excellent advice on what churches can do to still be the church at this time. I paraphrase below.
  • Make sure you still have worship, just do it online. Facebook Live and YouTube are just a couple of the online platforms at your disposal. Again, our communications team has put together some tips on how to do this. If this is something that you just cannot make happen, please point your church to one of our churches which is does offer online worship (a list of churches offering online worship is available on the conference website).
  • Don’t make people feel guilty if they choose to stay home and watch online.  Celebrate that they are not only watching, but that they are fully present by addressing them in the greeting, various stages of the worship service, and in the message. 
  • If you possibly can, give people a way to register their attendance online; Facebook comments, Facebook message, special website where they can go to register, a place for prayer requests, a special email address they can register and give prayer requests with. Carefully offer a response from you and your church team to the people who attend online, either immediately or in the next week.  Interaction in worship is important, this is a way to interact.
  • Communicate, communicate, communicate that this is an important way people can join worship. Affirm that their pastor, preacher, leaders will see who attends online, again respond if you can in the week ahead. This affirmation from their pastor is very important, especially if this is not the normal way they connect.
  • Money and offerings. I know the health of our church family is the most important thing but supporting the life and mission of the Church is important as well. Our churches are going to be called upon to provide assistance – financial and other – to our communities if this pandemic lasts any length of time at all. Also, there is the stewardship element of discipleship as well. Many people today already give by some form of electronic giving. However, for those who don’t, absolutely encourage them to give (texting, mail, online opportunities, credit card, whatever method your church has capabilities to do). The conference website provides some information and tips on how to do effective online giving.
Now is the time to provide strong, confident leadership to your church and community. Regularly communicate the simple steps that the CDC and other disease control organizations have put forth to help control the spread. Be in prayer, especially for those who are most vulnerable to this disease – those over the age of 60 and people with underlying health conditions as well as those who may become economically disadvantaged due to missing work. And above all, as you’ve heard me say many times before, Breath Deep. Jesus is still Lord! Now, as always, it is time to trust the Lord! Let prayer be your first response and not your last resort.