Spirit of unity: A word from the Superintendent on COVID-19
Dear NWC Sisters and Brothers in Christ (May 15, 2020),
I pray this letter finds you healthy and finding a sustainable rhythm in this time of disequilibrium and change. Please know that our pastors, churches and affiliate ministries remain in our prayers on a regular basis.
As the weeks go by we know that there are many in our midst who are growing increasingly anxious by our present circumstances and the restrictions that we are all experiencing—both personally and in our shared lives together. We also know that there are differing opinions, some held strongly, which stand in stark contrast. This has further led to levels of deep frustration for some. This should not come as a surprise to any of us and as a result, we are receiving more inquiries seeking guidance and direction.
I would like to share a few high-level considerations as we move toward the summer months. While this is not exhaustive, I hope that you find these helpful. While none of this can be mandated by NWC leadership, I believe that they do represent wise and prudent counsel.
- The NWC and ECC strongly encourage our churches to continue to follow the guidelines and recommendations of both federal and state officials regarding any stay-at-home directives. Further, we hope that we would continue to be good and conscientious citizens by following the safe practices being promoted by our leaders.
- Please resist the impulse to read in to our present circumstances any “conspiracy” interpretation. At this time, it is important to discipline our thinking and to not ascribe malicious intent to any action or perspective with which we disagree. Please seek to give others the benefit of the doubt.
- Remain realistic in your expectations. We will likely experience ebbs and flows in the months ahead.
- Be sure that you continue to read the current information available on steps leading to re-opening, whenever that might occur. You will find some of these resources on the NWC website at northwestconference.org.
- Related to this, invite other leaders in your church to sign up for the NWC weekly electronic UPDATE to stay abreast of unfolding information. In order to do so, please contact Cheryl Theilen at the NWC office, or click here.
- When the time comes that churches can gather for worship and other activities, be sure that you are able to do what is necessary before you make the decision to meet corporately. Count the cost versus the benefits to your congregation. Are you truly able to provide a safe environment for your people?
- Evaluate whether the quality of what you can do in person is, at least, as good as what you are able to provide electronically.
- Related to the above, please be aware that when you are able to meet in person, things will most likely not feel the same as they did pre-COVID-19. This will be important to keep in mind lest we express our sense of grief and loss in ways that are counter-productive. An example of this might be to blame pastors or lay leaders for worship experiences that do not “feel” the same as prior to the pandemic. Be self-aware enough to handle your personal emotions in appropriate ways.
- Consider ways that you can especially care for those most vulnerable in your congregation. Opening prematurely, even if allowable, could place your elderly population at great risk as many of these older saints may be the very ones who will feel the most obliged to come back to church once it reopens. Please watch out for those who may need the most encouragement to continue social distancing.
- For many of our churches, a new online ministry opportunity has unfolded. Think carefully about what your church needs to do with your online presence, both for people from outside of your church who have been tuning in as well as for your own congregants who may need to continue to shelter in place.
While there is much more that could be stated, I hope that you continue to move sensibly and use good judgment as events unfold and restrictions are loosened. Certainly, while we can provide some guidance, it is the responsibility of each church to stay informed on current developments.
I would invite you to click on the following link to access some strategic considerations relative to reopening your church. This brief PowerPoint (Reopening Process Strategies) is adapted with permission from Howard Burgoyne, East Coast Conference Superintendent.
Certainly there are many logistical things to consider and great discernment is needed. However, as NWC Superintendent I am also concerned with the manner in which decisions are made and the spirit of unity that will allow congregations to thrive in the midst of these anxious and challenging days.
May God provide both wisdom and the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit as your congregation moves into a future known only to Him.
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:37-39).
Sincerely in Christ,
Mark R. Stromberg