Bishop L. Jonathan Holston, resident bishop of the South Carolina Conference of The United Methodist Church, released this statement regarding the latest guidance in response to the coronavirus outbreak in our state:
My friends, coming together in worship is central to the practice of our Christian faith and to our identity as the people called Methodist. It helps us fulfill our responsibility to honor God and to be in community with God’s people. However, when coming together poses a potentially serious threat to our health and to the health of those around us, it can become a hindrance to our mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.
The federal Coronavirus Task Force now recommends avoiding gathering in groups of more than 10 people as part of the effort to stem the spread of coronavirus. This already has affected the communities where we are in ministry. Schools are closed, restaurants and businesses are operating in ways that minimize personal interaction, and public events have been canceled or postponed.
In light of the latest guidance – and after consulting with The Cabinet today – I recommend that leaders of each local church suspend in-person worship services and all gatherings, meetings and events, effective today through March 31, 2020. Please know that I do not make this recommendation lightly.
Does this mean we cannot worship together? Not in today’s digitally connected society, when modified forms of worship are possible. Many of our churches live-stream their services online or through social media sites. Your church can do the same – or you can follow a live-stream service from another South Carolina UMC.
To help local churches continue in ministry through this temporary upheaval, we have created a Coronavirus Resources page – umcsc.org/coronavirus – where you can find information including:
- How to live-stream worship services on Facebook, YouTube and through other online means.
- A list of South Carolina churches that already are live-streaming.
- Best prevention practices for personal hygiene and facility sanitation.
- An interactive guide to electronic giving.
- The latest updates from the conference, DHEC and the CDC.
I want to remind all South Carolina United Methodists that, while we might not be coming together to worship, our local churches and broader ministries will continue to operate. When we joined The United Methodist Church, we vowed to faithfully participate in the life of our local congregation through our prayers, presence, gifts, service and witness.
Please continue your participation in whatever way you safely can. Here are some suggestions:
- Volunteer to help your pastor check in – by phone, text, email or through social media – on homebound church members and others who might feel even more isolated during this time.
- Ask your pastor if you can do something from home to support the church’s ministry in the community.
- Maintain your giving at whatever level you are able, whether through e-giving or by mailing a check.
- Pastors should make sure church members know how to reach them by cell phone, email or other methods.
While these latest developments are certainly disrupting our routines and have the potential to increase anxiety, I encourage everyone to continue to follow the guidance of state and federal health officials.
And, most importantly, please continue to pray for those affected by this illness and those experiencing stress and anxiety because of the ongoing crisis, for the medical professionals treating and caring for them, and for those working diligently to ensure a healthier future for all of us.
Grace and peace,
L. Jonathan Holston