May 7, 2020 Message
~ Bishop Advises Local Churches to Continue To Refrain From In-person Worship ~
To slow the spread of the deadly coronavirus COVID-19 virus, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer has released a series of emergency orders, the most recent, Executive Order No. 2020-70. Portions of that order recommend all churches suspend in person gatherings and close church buildings until May 28, 2020. Based on these orders, Bishop Bard requested that United Methodist local churches not hold in person worship services until at least May 28, 2020.
It is expected at some point, restrictions may be eased or lifted in the coming weeks and months. This publication is intended to provide guidance on how to reopen safely, based on state health recommendations. The publication is produced in consultation with Conference Staff, Michigan Public Health Advisors and based on recommendations provided by Federal and state public health officials. It reflects the best-known recommendations as of May 7, 2020. This document will be updated online as information becomes available at MichiganUMC.org/health-crisis-risk-management. Before taking any action, you are advised to consult the conference website for the latest advisories and recommendations.
If you have questions or concerns, please contact your District Office. Thank you. Be well! Be safe!
Guidance on How to reopen local churches:
Please click HERE to download the PRINCIPLES & DIRECTIONS to use when restrictions are lifted.
~ Bishop Advises Local Churches Continue To Refrain From In-person Worship ~
On Monday, March 23, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer issued an Executive Order to slow the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus. Today, based on recommendations from state health officials, the Governor has extended that order to May 15, 2020. The Executive Order continues to advise all faith communities to refrain from in-person worship and keep church buildings closed. For this reason, Bishop David Bard is also recommending Michigan United Methodist Churches continue to follow these recommendations until at least May 15, 2020.
Executive Order No. 2020-59, requires all Michigan residents and most businesses to stay in their homes, except for essential life-sustaining purposes. The order took effect at 11:01AM Friday, March 24 and remains in effect until at least May 15, 2020.
While the new order recommends that we not hold in-person worship, The United Methodist Church of Michigan continues to be the church every day of this crisis. This Bishop continues to encourage local churches to hold online or telephone-based worship each week, to set up systems to receive electronic offerings that support much needed mission and ministry, and to be in safe connection with those sheltered at home. Bishop Bard has announced he will address the Michigan Conference next week in a video message about this Executive Order and other measures being planned to safely re-open local churches.
Local churches needing support through this crisis are urged to visit the COVID-19 Resource Toolbox on the conference website, or to contact their District Offices.
BISHOP EXTENDS “NO GATHERINGS” TO APRIL 30. Michigan now has the fourth-highest number of COVID-19 cases in the U.S. At advice of government and public health officials, Bishop Bard calls for no in-person gatherings through April 30, 2020.
Dear Friends in Christ:
The coronavirus and COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect our lives deeply and will continue to do so in the coming weeks. Michigan now has the fourth-highest number of cases of COVID-19 in the country, over 10,000, and the metro-Detroit area is projected to be one of the more significantly affected areas in the country.
In light of these realities, I am extending my request that Michigan United Methodist Churches refrain from in-person gatherings through April 30. President Trump has asked Americans to observe CDC social distancing and mitigation guidelines through the month of April. Governor Whitmer’s “Stay Home, Stay Safe” executive order remains in effect through April 13, though that order may be extended in the coming days. I will continue to monitor the spread of the disease and the advice provided by government and public health officials. If current trends continue, it seems likely that my request to refrain from in-person gatherings could extend well into May.
Now is the time to bring your church online. This is a very trying time for all of us, and it is a time when the ministry of the church is profoundly important. You are encouraged to continue to worship on-line, while strictly limiting the number of persons who might be together at any one time to tape or stream worship. Ideally, worship leaders will not gather as a group at the church. Individuals could tape from the church and elicit the help of a tech person to do so.
Continue to explore possibilities for persons to record from home and bring these video pieces together for a worship service to be presented on-line. If you have not tried to provide on-line opportunities for worship and prayer, now is the time to experiment. If you’ve not explored on-line giving options, now is the time to do that. I encourage you to continue to consult our Michigan Conference web page for creative worship and ministry ideas, including links to webinars.
As more information is released about guidelines for staying safe, I will revise recommendations accordingly. I affirm the creative work that, you, Michigan United Methodists, are engaged in to keep worship and care going even as we all do our part to limit the spread of COVID-19.
Grace and Peace,
David Alan Bard
Michigan Area Bishop
March 26, 2020 Message
Bishop David Bard celebrates the creativity of Michigan United Methodists ministering in the shadow of the coronavirus crisus. He offers new possibilities for Easter worship during this ongoing stay-at-home season.
Dear friends in Christ, I greet you in the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the peace and power of the Holy Spirit.
The words of Paul from Philippians come to mind as I address you today.
“I thank my God every time I remember you, constantly praying for all of you, because of your sharing in the gospel.” We have a shared ministry together of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. It is a ministry of worship and prayer, a ministry of teaching and preaching, a ministry of compassion and care, a ministry of healing and feeding, a ministry of justice and reconciliation, a ministry of creating communities of love and forgiveness. It is a ministry we are needing to find new and creative ways to engage in as we live in a world shadowed by the coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic. I have been filled with deep joy at your creativity in being in ministry in new ways. I am needing to ask even more of you now.
On March 23, Governor Whitmer issued a new executive order to stem the spread of the coronavirus and COVID-19, so as to prevent our state’s health system from being overwhelmed. The “Stay Home, Stay Safe” order requires persons to stay at home and work from home with few exceptions, and it is in effect until April 13. I have offered an initial response to the executive order, but would like to and need to say more.
Michigan United Methodists, you have risen to the occasion thus far and I have every confidence that, by the power of the Spirit, we will continue to do so. We are closing church buildings, but not shutting down the church’s ministry. We are closing conference offices, but your conference staff continues to work diligently to support our shared ministry. These closings will continue through April 13. I understand that places of religious worship are not subject to misdemeanor penalties for gathering, we recognize that finding other ways to worship is not about avoiding penalties but about promoting the common good.
What might ministry look like at this time? Continue to worship on-line, though you may need to change how you do that. Worship leaders should no longer gather as a group at the church, even to tape worship, though I believe individual pastors could tape from the church and even elicit the help of a tech person to do so. I hope this would be the exception as we seek to model, “Stay Home, Stay Safe”. There are possibilities for persons to record from home and bring these video pieces together for a worship service to be presented on-line. I encourage you to continue to consult our Michigan Conference web page for creative worship and ministry ideas, including links to webinars.
The request to refrain from in-person worship now continues through Easter Sunday and includes Holy Week. Holy Week offers multiple options for worship and often opportunities for cooperative worship between churches. I encourage you to find partners for offering unique worship and prayer experiences for Holy Week. Your conference staff are considering possibilities for providing some worship services you could share through your churches on-line platforms.
Holy Week worship raises the question of on-line communion. Some of you are aware that The United Methodist Church officially discourages the practice of on-line communion believing that it inadequately represents the tangible, bodily and communal elements central to the sacrament. Mailing communion elements or asking people to simply find whatever is available seem to many insufficient means for celebrating communion. There are powerful alternatives that could be used. Holy Thursday not only marks the beginning of the Lord’s Supper but remembers Jesus washing the feet of his disciples. Might we use water simultaneously in creative ways to remember this profound moment of humble, self-giving love? The Love Feast, found in our United Methodist Book of Worship, might also be shared on-line. Bread and drink are brought together by all participants as the grace of God is celebrated in remembering how Jesus shared meals with all, inviting those often excluded. Perhaps we would do well to celebrate communion when we are all together, face to face, again. God will understand and extend grace to us generously.
In offering these worship possibilities as alternatives to communion I am aware that some already offer communion on-line and others are considering it. As followers of Jesus who challenged traditions and rules when they seemed to stand in the way of grace, as followers of Jesus in the stream of John Wesley who took to the fields to preach and ordained Thomas Coke, I recognize extraordinary times invite extensions of grace that might not be needed in ordinary times.
I also encourage your continued generosity to your church. The Michigan Conference is here to help your church set up on-line giving. For more information please contact the Treasury office. For those who write checks, these can always be sent to your church. An office staff person can still pick up mail and pay bills for our churches even under the new executive order.
The coronavirus pandemic has arrived during the church season of Lent, a time for spiritual introspection, a time when we remember Elijah’s forty-day sojourn at the end of which he encountered God in the sound of sheer silence, a time when we remember Jesus’ forty days in the wilderness where he encountered wild beasts and angels. This can feel like wilderness time, and our God is a God who brings the wilderness to blossom. Our God is the God whose raising of Jesus we celebrate at the end of Lent. Easter is coming. Even if Lent is extended, Easter is coming. Whatever day we come together again, no matter when, it will be Easter. I will declare it to be Easter Sunday, and Easter is coming.
Thank you. Be well. Know God is with you.
David Alan Bard
Michigan Area Bishop