Bishop Oliveto Recommends Suspension of Worship
Services in Response to Coronavirus Outbreak
March 13, 2020
To the laity and clergy of the Mountain Sky Conference of The United Methodist Church,
In light of the current health crisis created by COVID-19 (Coronavirus), I am recommending that all churches throughout our conference suspend all worship services and meetings through the end of March while we continue to monitor the transmission of this disease. This recommendation is not made lightly but after reviewing current medical news as well as the state and federal declarations of emergency. I continue to encourage you to consult with local public health departments to stay current on the latest developments in your area.
Jesus says, “In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16). Just because the lights are off in your sanctuary should not dim the light of your congregation’s witness in your community. There are going to be many needs emerging as a result of this health crisis. While we must exercise social distancing to prevent the spread of the virus, we must not allow this to foster social isolation and break down our communities.
The elderly will be especially vulnerable and are being encouraged to stay home. How can members care for the elderly and homebound in your community, providing groceries and other necessities?
There are school age children whose schools have closed that will be in need of meals. How can you provide them with a regular meal?
Some workers will have their income severely cut. How can you insure they don’t have to make the hard decision between buying food or paying the rent?
“Christ has no body now but yours. No hands, no feet on earth but yours. Yours are the eyes through which he looks compassion on this world. Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good. Yours are the hands through which he blesses all the world. Yours are the hands, yours are the feet, yours are the eyes, you are his body. Christ has no body now on earth but yours.” – Teresa of Avila
The cabinet, conference staff and I are committed to supporting you through this time. Director of Communications Charmaine Robledo has been providing numerous resources online. We continue with Digital Devotions Monday-Friday at 6:30 a.m. as a way to remain spiritually together.
I invite you to a Fireside Chat over Zoom this Monday evening, March 16, at 7 p.m. This will be a time for us to pray together, share together, and ask questions and share best practices.
In the meantime, follow CDC guidelines:
Take steps to protect yourself:
- Clean your hands often.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds .especially after you have been in a public place, or after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
- If soap and water are not readily available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol. Cover all surfaces of your hands and rub them together until they feel dry.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
Avoid close contact:
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Put distance between yourself and other people if COVID-19 is spreading in your community. This is especially important for people who are at higher risk of getting very sick.
Take steps to protect others:
Stay home if you’re sick
- Stay home if you are sick, except to get medical care. Learn what to do if you are sick.
Cover coughs and sneezes:
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze or use the inside of your elbow.
- Throw used tissues in the trash.
- Immediately wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not readily available, clean your hands with a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol.
Wear a facemask if you are sick:
- If you are sick: You should wear a facemask when you are around other people (e.g., sharing a room or vehicle) and before you enter a healthcare provider’s office. If you are not able to wear a facemask (for example, because it causes trouble breathing), then you should do your best to cover your coughs and sneezes, and people who are caring for you should wear a facemask if they enter your room. Learn what to do if you are sick.
- If you are NOT sick: You do not need to wear a facemask unless you are caring for someone who is sick (and they are not able to wear a facemask). Facemasks may be in short supply and they should be saved for caregivers.
Clean and disinfect:
- Clean AND disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily. This includes tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, handles, desks, phones, keyboards, toilets, faucets, and sinks.
- If surfaces are dirty, clean them: Use detergent or soap and water prior to disinfection.
I am so grateful for your ministries. We are stronger together as we respond to this crisis. I pray that you will find moments to care for your body, mind and soul. May we all be guided by God’s wisdom and compassion.
Bishop Karen Oliveto