March 16, 2020
To: The People of the Florida Conference of the United Methodist Church
From: Kenneth H. Carter, Jr. Resident Bishop
Subject: Guidance for Ministry in this Season
In order to be in partnership with others and to prevent the suffering that is upon us through the Coronavirus (COVID-19), I offer the following guidance to our clergy and churches:
We recommend no public worship through the month of March. This is in response to the Centers for Disease Control’s recommendation of the postponement or cancellation of gatherings of more than fifty persons. Our motivation is grounded in the call of Jesus to love our neighbor (Matthew 22).
We give thanks for churches that are offering worship through technology. The conference has created a list of those churches (click here). I have asked each superintendent to designate two persons in their district as technology advisors. These persons (volunteers) will be available to clergy and churches to advise them about how to begin to use or best use technology. I am also asking districts to make available mini-grants for technology.
District and Annual Conference meetings scheduled over the next eight weeks (through mid-May) will be postponed or in some instances will take place virtually. Today, our appointive cabinet begins the third in a series of meetings we have over the winter and spring, related to the appointment of clergy to local churches. We are meeting this week virtually, in order to reduce the spread of the Coronavirus. The benefits of our being in each other’s presence, which are real, are simply outweighed by the risk of danger to health, and some of that risk is unknown to us.
We will continue to reflect on how we will have the Annual Conference meeting, scheduled for early June, and what are the most important agenda items (for example the election of leaders, the ordinations, adoption of a connectional budget, making of appointments).
We encourage working remotely from home, where that is possible. We hope to make training resources available that help all of us to continue to work effectively away from workplaces.
We will be developing a coaching process for local church pastors to stay in steady contact with the leaders of their churches, for the purpose of pastoral care and relationships, growing spiritually in smaller groups and individual devotional practices, the continuation of ministry with the most vulnerable, financially sustaining our local churches, and being the best partners we can be with local health care authorities.
We want to come out of the other side of this virus with strong, more vital local churches, and this will not happen without intentionality, accountability and support.
I will be posting frequently on Facebook. I will be staying in touch with you. And know that I will continue to lift you in prayer.
Click here for a video update from Bishop Carter