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Projected Date for Return to Public Church

Greetings in the name of Jesus the Risen Christ.

I promised you that by May 4 I would share my guidance and encouragement about what I have come to refer to as Return to Public Church. By that, I mean the when and the how of our gathering for worship, Bible study, small groups and meetings in alignment with the clear guidance of state and federal leadership. Gov. Mike DeWine's briefing today was helpful and needed. In the special edition of NewsNet that you will receive, we will post the guidelines for returning appropriate to our mission and ministry. They are going through a final check now to make sure they are consonant with the guidance coming from the State of Ohio. When our guidelines are posted, please read them carefully and implement them with seriousness and intentionality. We have come so far by our shared commitment and sacrifice. The last thing we want is to take any steps backward. And remember: this will be a phased-in return in terms of size of groups and activities. Make no mistake; we will be doing some old things in new ways, and we will not be doing some things at all.

I am now asking you to project May 24 as the Sunday to start up again, according to the guidelines. This gives all of us several more weeks of prep time to deep clean, acquire supplies, publicize and so forth. May 24 is a day of special significance for United Methodists. We call it Aldersgate Day. For us, it is an opportunity to remember one of the founders of our movement and some of our history. Aldersgate Day commemorates John Wesley's experience of assurance that God's gift of salvation was, indeed, for him. He said: In the evening I went very unwillingly to a society in Aldersgate Street, where one was reading Luther's preface to the Epistle to the Romans. About a quarter before nine, while he was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone, for salvation; and an assurance was given me that He had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death.

I know some would like to go back to church sooner, and others still would rather we hold off longer. If the weekend of May 24, for any reason, turns out to be too soon because of a setback, we can adjust. Some folks have repeatedly asked whether or not they would get in trouble with me if they have been holding services all along. Please know my capacity and desire to "police" this is at the bottom of my to-do list. At the end of the day, my task is to offer and point toward the things that will build up our common life, increase our capacity and help pour more life and love into the world. I am ever so grateful for your prayers, support, cooperation and trust. We have come a long way, and we have a long way to go. My heart is full, and my hat is off to you for your heroic and creative efforts in this unprecedented season when we have taken on an uninvited, unwelcome intruder. We have flattened the curve. Now, let's crush it. I beg you not to set aside any new, creative approaches to ministry you have adopted. You have found a way in the most formidable of circumstances to be the church. Thank you. Thanks be to God.

 

Yours in Christ,

+Bishop Gregory V. Palmer