It will not be an easy undertaking to reopen your church for worship and other activities. It will take much planning and preparation that will extend for weeks before you are adequately prepared.
We are encouraging you to form your Protocol Planning/Reopening Team immediately. There is much to think about and much more to do. Throughout you must remember that this is not a time to cut corners, look for loopholes, or avoid necessary precautions. To only perform some of these functions eliminates the effectiveness of any measure taken.
In summary there are critical areas of emphasis that must be cared for in this process:
- Attention to and care for vulnerable individuals.
- Creation and maintenance of social distancing measures.
- Restricting physical contact.
- High levels of sanitation and cleaning.
- Maintenance of a high level of online activity by offering an online worship presence and ZOOM internet meetings.
- Cancellation of certain activities (VBS, mission trips, fellowship meals, fund- raising dinners, nurseries during worship, etc.) for the foreseeable future.
Where’s the Hope?
The bulk of this communication is centered upon the stark reality that there will be much preparation and hard work to be accomplished both before we can re-assemble and when we actually open the doors once again for in-person worship and ministry.
These intentional steps highlight the magnitude of the problem before us -and the depth of work it will take before we can re-open. In the midst of all of these requirements, it’s very easy to cry out, “Where’s the hope?”
Listen to these faithful reminders:
- “Our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth.” (Psalm 124: 8)
- “My hope is built on nothing less, than Jesus blood and righteousness. I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus name! When darkness veils his lovely face, I rest on his unchanging grace. In every high and stormy gale my anchor holds within the veil. His oath, his covenant, his blood support me in the whelming flood. When all around my soul gives way, he then is all my hope and stay.” (Edward Mote, 1834)
- “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my help and my God.” (Psalm 42:11).
We’ve done this before. Time and again throughout human history, God’s people have felt the presence of God, have seen God at work, and responded with extraordinary faithfulness. We can do this. There is great creativity, love, respect and determination in the lay and clergy of this Annual Conference. This is our time to demonstrate our faith by rising up and meeting the challenge that is before us.
What lies in front of us can and should be seen as a chance to truly create a “new norm” for us as God’s people. It could be argued that what we have been is not who we were intended to be. For years we have been in decline. We have lost our passion for those who do not embrace faith as a norm. We have, at times, lost our cutting edge for that which is truly impactful and needed. This is our best opportunity to re-think about what is essential in the ministry of our church. The time has never been more ripe for renewal and revival in God’s church. Where’s the hope? It’s all around us if only we dare to believe.
A Final Word
As leaders, we must commit ourselves to helping everyone understand that a reopening plan is not designed to go back to the way we were before but to discover the “new normal” of what we must become. The issue is not whether or not we can/should change. Rather, the issue is how we must change in order to properly care for the people under our care.
Our founder, John Wesley, was a brilliant person. He not only struggled but successfully moved from his current situation to the new reality of taking the gospel message from the pulpit into the streets and among the poor and marginalized. He was not only interested in the salvation of the soul but was also consumed with taking care of the physical body so that life could be lived to the fullest.
His understanding of God’s intention for humanity was one that not only required deep faith in the mystery of God’s grace but also serious practices that helped people take responsibility for their own actions. It was an inclusive practice of personal and social holiness all designed to demonstrate deep love and belief in God and deep love and responsibility for one another. John Wesley once said,
Do all the good you can,
By all the means you can,
In all the ways you can,
In all the places you can,
At all the times you can,
To all the people you can,
As long as you ever can.
As we walk through these uncertain days and as we plan to bear witness to what we believe in the intentional measures of reopening our churches, may Mr. Wesley’s words guide our path each step of the way.