Earlier today President Donald Trump issued a national declaration acknowledging the essential nature of churches in our communities and calling on all Governors to allow churches to open immediately. It is always encouraging to hear governmental leaders reflect the values we hold so dear. However, while bold proclamations serve to stir people to action, let us first be a people who are committed to love and wisdom before we consider regathering.
As we move forward, please hear our intent on a few key issues.
First, our mission, to Love God, Love People, and Make Disciples is not, nor has it been, compromised during this season of physical distancing. We will continue to be essential even as we live out our mission house to house, in our communities, and through our collective service.
Second, the Conference Statement on Lifting Meeting Restrictions has not changed. COVID-19 will continue to be a threat for some time, so we must remain vigilant as we continue to work to spare those most vulnerable from the effects of the virus. We are expecting updated safety guidelines from both national (CDC) and State agencies (expected Monday, May 25) that will help us better provide for the safety and protection of the people we serve. Until then, we recommend that you take some time to review the most recent guidance from the Centers for Disease Control on how to prepare for reopening and how to assess both the timing of your reopening and the appropriate response if, after reopening, additional outbreaks occur.
“A prudent person sees danger and takes refuge, but the simple keep going and suffer for it.” – Proverbs 22:3
Lastly, wisdom would guide us that no national declaration can fully reflect the realities in each local community which is why we will wait for the anticipated guidelines before rushing into action. A general call to reopen churches and even government permission to do so is not our first concern. Rather, our priority remains to love and care for those entrusted to our leadership.
As Free Methodists, our history and values make us primed for the unique and responsive ministry we need to have in our communities during this time. Let our focus continue to be on feeding the hungry, visiting the sick, caring for the stranger or immigrant, providing clothing and other essentials, and partnering with those who do (Matthew 25:31-46).
Know that we are praying for each of you even as you are holding the tension between calling people to gather and leading through the unknown. May God give you strength for the work you are doing and the grace to bear the weight of responsibility that falls to each of you in times like these.
Charles, Glen, Fraser