Message from Bishop and Cabinet on Opening Church Buildings

5/22/2020

Dear Clergy and Laity of the North Georgia Conference,
 
As we consider President Trump’s plea to open churches soon, the Cabinet and I ask you all prayerfully to consider the question, “Are we prepared to open in a way that makes our church campus as safe as possible?” rather than “Are we going to open simply because we can?”
 
Set forth on the Conference website are the suggestions we gave you previously as steps that are necessary for a responsible opening. It is critically important that, before you gather, you have a plan in place, obtain the supplies you'll need, and train folks to enact the plan.
 
We do not see ourselves as those charged with issuing edicts about opening from on high. We see ourselves as pastors whose first obligation is to do no harm. We also are all too aware that church gatherings have resulted in some of the most severe spread of the disease. We do not want even one United Methodist to get sick, die, or infect others because they chose to go to church.
 
We have a task force of music directors and worship leaders at work to offer us their recommended guidelines next week. We anticipate that they will recommend that there be no choirs or congregational singing because singing groups are “super-spreaders” that greatly increase the spread of the COVID virus. That insight will be helpful to all of our planning.
 
We are also aware that there are several COVID hot spots within the boundaries of our North Georgia Conference, and that it is too early to ascertain if there will be a spike in cases caused by the re-opening of Georgia. We still think it prudent to wait until after June 22 to open so that we are more sure of the trends and the prevalence of the disease.
 
We recommend that even after June 22, those who are at high risk (underlying conditions, immunologically suppressed, and/or over 65yrs) avoid any public gathering and instead continue to worship online or at drive-in worship. We are also concerned about clergy who are at higher risk, and ask their parishioners to continue to worship in a way that does not put them at greater risk.
 
Finally, we know that, as followers of Christ, you are committed to doing what is best for the body of Christ. Sometimes watching out for the greater good means letting go of our own personal preferences. We trust that you will do what is necessary to best protect yourselves and others in your faith community. 
 
We pledge to continue to give you advice that balances safety with freedom to gather. We continue to consult with medical experts and will give you the best advice available to ensure health and safety. We appreciate your cooperation to date and ask that you remain in partnership with us as we navigate this uncharted territory.
 
Yours in Christ,
 
Bishop Sue and the North Georgia Conference Cabinet 


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