A Letter from Bishop Karen about the Coronavirus
March 11, 2020
Dear Colleagues in Christ,
You and I have been entrusted with the spiritual needs of our communities. We have held the hands of the grieving, cared for the sick, and helped people learn how to care for one another. These tasks, however, feel especially daunting in the face of the Coronavirus (COVID-19).
You are a trusted source of information. Since we cover such a vast geography in our conference, I want to encourage you to be in touch regularly with your local health department. They can keep you informed of infection rates in your area, protocols specific for your area, and other important information to slow the rate of transmission. We are also providing more general information on the Mountain Sky Conference website. Please keep your congregation informed and make cancellation decisions based on information for your area.
One major concern is the social isolation that this virus is causing: even those who have been in contact with someone who has the virus have been asked to self-quarantine for two weeks. How will you keep your congregation connected to one another and make sure people have the care, access to food and medication they need? Is their sick leave adequate to pay their bills?
This is the time to create phone trees and regularly use them. How can you connect people via technology? For instance, how can bible studies, prayer groups, and even retreats occur through Zoom, Skype, Google Hangouts, and other social media platforms? How can you bring worship to the homebound through livestreaming? The time to experiment with best practices is now.
This is new territory for all of us. Your conference leadership wants to provide you with as much assistance as possible. We know a number of churches in our area already do digital worship through livestreaming. This link will lead you to a public shared Google document so we can provide tools and resources for one another. We will share this information through district channels.
If your church has a method for digital worship, please fill out the form in the next three days with the following information:
- Link(s) to your livestream as well as time of service
- Resource/trainings you realize you need in order to pastor effectively during this time
- Any questions you have that we can help answer
Jesus gives us an imperative that undergirds our pastoral ministry: “I was sick and you looked after me.” (Matthew 25:36). May you help your congregation care for one another as we would care for Christ. May you model to them ways to care that protect the vulnerable from exposure to disease.
Emily Peck-McClain, a professor at Wesley Seminary, wrote, “Every year in my Spiritual Formation for the Practice of Ministry course I teach my students that they’re not that important. Every year students dislike this truth. We want to be indispensable. We want to think our ministries depend on us. They don’t. Our ministries depend on God, and everyone in those ministries is responsible for participating and leading – in whatever way makes sense for their gifts, abilities, and availabilities.”
If you are sick, stay home! We clergy are notorious for caring for everyone else. Now, caring for everyone else means caring for ourselves, lest we pass on the virus.
We are in this together and we will get through it together. May God guide us through these days, offering wisdom and compassion as we care for our communities.
Bishop Karen Oliveto