Bishop Minerva G. Carcaño welcomed more than 400 clergy and layperson attending the Special Edition of the California-Nevada Annual Conference Wednesday Webinars from 4:00-5:15 p.m. on June 10. The webinar released a draft of comprehensive protocol of guidelines for local churches to implement when the Bishop authorizes the resuming of in-person services. The draft is available now on the conference website at www.cnumc.org/covid19
In the Great Northern District and Central District, four UM churches will be “testing” the protocols on Sunday, June 14. Leaders from the churches will participate in a panel discussion to review the results during the Wednesday’s CNUMC webinar, June 17 from 4:00- 5:00 p.m. (PDT). Connect to the Zoom link HERE.
To implement re-opening protocols, churches must first develop a “Re-launch Ministry Team” of 3 to 10 people, including the pastor(s) and lay leader(s). Since CNUMC covers significant areas of two states and many counties who have experienced the pandemic at different intensities, teams need to be aware of the specific guidelines in their areas. Churches continue to be asked to follow CDC, state and local guidelines in developing plans.
The protocols are contained within a Wesleyan framework addressing the overall vision of the church to focus on John Wesley’s three simple rules of conduct: “To do no harm, do good and stay in love with God.”
Sharing his computer screen, Rev. Jorge Domingues, executive director of Connectional Ministries, conducted a PowerPoint presentation in which he reviewed the 11 important steps of consideration within the document including:
- What high risk population(s) does your church have and what are their needs?
- What will physical distancing look like in your church building?
- What do cleaning and hygiene protocols mean for your church?
- What is your church capacity limitation given the 25% of maximum capacity or 100-person limit in California (Nevada is 50%)?
- How will your church address the ‘live singing’ or ‘group recitation’ restriction?
- How will your church give and receive communion?
- How will your church take an offering?
- What will your church do in terms of a ‘fellowship time’?
- Will your church continue online activities?
- What other ministry activities will your church have in the building?
- How will your church address hospitality issues and logistics?
After a church develops their own specific, local in-person and online ministry plan, the pastor will submit the draft to their district superintendent for final approval.
“Be realistic. Be honest. Be creative!” said Domingues reminding churches to ask for help and seek out resources available from the conference for those churches transitioning to in-person ministries. “…and start with prayer, seeking God’s guidance.”
Bishop Carcaño, the Conference Lay Leader and extended cabinet have been meeting every Monday to serve as a response team to the COVID-19 pandemic. This team has been conferring with conferences across the United States and bishops in the jurisdiction, particularly Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky of the Greater Northern Episcopal Area who oversees the Alaska, Pacific Northwest and Oregon-Idaho conferences, in order to compose the CNUMC draft.
Bishop Carcaño noted that in-person ministry is only for those churches who are prepared and who can do their in-person ministry safely. Because some areas are opening up sooner than others, local pastors and teams need to have consensus on their plans and move towards in-person ministry when the local community, laws and church are in full agreement.
“This is a journey,” said Domingues who requests feedback and questions so that the final document can be perfected. He noted that a special ‘Frequently Asked Questions’ document will accompany the final draft. “We are in this together.”
The webinar, the PowerPoint presentation, the draft of the entire protocol and other resource materials are now available on the conference website at www.cnumc.org/covid19
Also, on the California-Nevada office of Disaster Response Ministry website is an interim list of precautions and preparedness points including:
“Local Church Protocols in Response to the Coronavirus”;
“Local Church Drive-in Protocols”;
“Local Church Preschool Reopening Protocol”; and
“Determining a plan of action for your church or organization? Review CDC’s Risk Assessment.”