Bishop L. Jonathan Holston, resident bishop of the South Carolina Conference of The United Methodist Church, released this statement regarding how local churches should respond to the developing coronavirus outbreak:
Friends, we have been notified that at least two members of one of our South Carolina United Methodist churches have been hospitalized and are being treated for the coronavirus (COVID-19), and the pastor and two other members have voluntarily quarantined themselves at home.
Given this development, I strongly urge the leadership of each of our local churches to review and familiarize themselves with the Interim Guidance For Faith-Based Organizations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and to take actions to comply with its recommendations.
Conference leadership also is recommending that our local churches:
- Seriously consider rescheduling all meetings and non-worship events.
- Ask their congregations to call or email the church or the pastor – rather than to visit the church offices in person – for routine business.
- Follow the lead of state and local governments by closing church offices if those public offices close. The United Methodist Conference Center in Columbia will follow this recommendation.
- In the event of the closing of church offices, pastors should make sure church members know how to reach them by cell phone, email or other methods. Social media is an effective way to stay in touch, but remember that some of your members might not have accounts on Facebook, Twitter or other social media.
At this time, however, I am encouraging local churches to proceed with worship services – providing increased vigilance regarding cleaning worship areas, providing hand-washing stations, and educating members about social distancing and other preventive measures.
For more information on how to prepare, prevent and respond to the potential for coronavirus in your church and community, review the resources linked from this page.
My friends, while the World Health Organization has declared that the coronavirus is now a pandemic, it remains important to base our actions and behaviors on what health experts are saying and to make sure any information we share comes from credible sources.
Please continue to pray for those affected by illness, the medical professionals treating and caring for them, and those working diligently to ensure a healthier future for all of us..
Grace and peace,
L. Jonathan Holston