Greetings in the strong name of Jesus,
Every day throughout this health crisis, I learn more about myself and others. On one hand, I find comfort in knowing Gov. Mike DeWine and Dr. Amy Acton have access to more information regarding the coronavirus than any of us. Their collective wisdom has guided us through these last few months. On the other hand, I find myself wishing I could snap my fingers, and everything would instantaneously go back to normal.
As businesses and restaurants are reopening, the governor and health director have given specific guidelines including capacity limits, social distancing, wearing face coverings and other directives. We, too, are eager to adapt to our new normal.
I have worked carefully and prayerfully with the conference leadership team to provide guidelines for our churches. The guidelines are again available for your review at the end of this message. Our district superintendents report that some of our pastors and congregations are working diligently to keep their church members and guests as safe as possible. Thank you for your effort.
In a previous NewsNet, I spoke of an aspirational goal to begin opening churches on May 24 (Aldersgate Day/Heritage Sunday). For some of our churches, especially smaller congregations, that is a possibility. Yet, for others, opening now is not an option. No congregation is mandated to open on any specific date. All churches that do ramp up operations are encouraged to adhere to the guidelines. Clergy, you are urged to work with your leadership teams, use your best judgment in your context, while using best practices to provide the safest environment for all people to worship. Please keep in mind that each one of us, clergy and laity alike, bears personal responsibility in practicing social distancing, washing our hands, using hand sanitizer, wearing masks and so forth. By doing so, we are not only caring for ourselves but also for our neighbor, especially the most vulnerable.
One of my favorite Scriptures is "It hasn't yet appeared what we will be." (1 John 3:2b, CEB). Beloved, this is true. We do not know what we will be, but we believe in Jesus, and through him, ALL things are possible. We are a different people than we were in February. Different can be a blessing if we embrace it. Please know of my continuing prayers for each of you.
Yours in Christ,
+Bishop Gregory V. Palmer