Continuing in ministry with the buildings closed

April 30, 2020

Greetings Conference Family,
Grace and peace to you in the precious name of our Risen Lord, Christ Jesus!  I am holding you close in prayer.  Thank you for your gifts of emails of support, cards of love, and masks that your lovely and loving hands have made!  Know that every time you reach out to me, I stop and give God thanks for you and pray that the Holy Spirit will protect you from all harm and sustain you when the afflictions of these days come.  We are not alone, God is with us, all of us. 
There may be those among us who in their isolation and their suffering are experiencing deep and crippling loneliness.  I think of those who are ill with COVID-19, those who are ill due to other serious illnesses who have not been able to obtain the care they need, those whose necessary medications are no longer available because they have been squandered at the advice of those who have no medical knowledge but seek praise and following. 
I think of those who are dying without loved ones by their side, those whose food has vanished from their tables leaving them without the hope of feeding their families, other families for whom the impact of the deadly virus running rampant among us has turned them to violence, and those who are imprisoned or indefinitely detained without the sustaining visits of their families or the luxury of social distancing.  The list of those who are suffering and experiencing life-defying loneliness caused by the stranglehold of COVID-19 is long, too long.  
Among these beloved of God are persons we know, members of our communities, even members of our churches.  In our sheltering in place let us not forget them.  We are still the Church called to serve that the world may be transformed, its brokenness healed.
Thank you, friends for all you are doing to be the Church in this time of COVID-19.   From you I have learned so much about what we can do in ministry in this age.   Continue to think out of the box in this time of sheltering in place. Your innovative spirit is making a difference!
The things we are together learning about connecting online, giving so our ministries support the most vulnerable and keep our churches going, and the ways we are reorganizing to do the work of the Church will carry us forward into a new age of ministry beyond this time of sheltering in place.  We will be better for it and by God’s grace our witness in the name of Christ will be more relevant and effective, more life-giving.  Let us keep our ears, our eyes, our hearts and minds open to what the Holy Spirit is teaching us and beckoning us to do and be. 
While we continue the sacred work we are called to, it is clear that we must do so with our California-Nevada church buildings closed.   Not our ministries stopped, but our buildings closed. After careful analysis of virus reports from state and local government and public health officials in Nevada and California, I am directing California-Nevada churches to remain closed throughout the month of May. Our conference staff team will also continue to shelter in place and work remotely from home.
We will continue to monitor the virus trends and data in the coming weeks and make another assessment of sheltering in place at the end of May.
Perhaps you have seen recent news broadcasts of persons protesting the shelter in place orders from our national, state and local governments.  The spirit of these protests seems to me to be a spirit of individualism – personal liberty above the common good.  As Christians we have always known that core to our identity is a commitment to the common good. 
It is important in this time when we are seeing some glimmers of good news, some flattening of the curve – indicators of the impact and strength of this virus – that we continue to follow directives from our public health officials - directives that are making a difference.  COVID-19 is still very much with us and we have a responsibility to our loved ones, our communities, our congregations and to people we may never know, all whose lives are precious to God, to remain steady in our commitment to help stop the spread of the coronavirus. 
Thank you for your faithful, prayerful, thoughtful and courageous witness to the mercy and healing power of God in this time.  Thank you for being the Church of Christ our Lord!
Your Sister in Christ,