Conference and District News
Dear Bethel & Rehobeth Families,
COVID-19 has created tremendous changes in our lives. Some people have lost their jobs, and some have lost a lot of money to their business. The children couldn't go to school, and people couldn't get out of the house freely. The lives of all of us are withdrew. It's already been three months since we couldn't even worship in our chapel. I think all of you are getting tired of this situation. May the Lord give us strength to persevere and wisdom to defeat the virus, so that we may return to normal.
Now the Virginia Conference is offering step-by-step guidelines for reopening the churches. Last week Bishop Lewis has announced that all churches may enter Stage 2 beginning Sunday, June 21. In Stage 2, churches can go back to the In-Person worship if they want. But if we go back to the In-Person worship, we should strictly follow the guideline. Let me summarize it.
First, we have to organize the Healthy Church Team and prepare the reopening plan in detail.
Second, as we return to in-person worship, we will need to submit our plans to the District Superintendent 10 days before our planned return to worship.
Third, In-person worship must include the wearing of masks, six-foot social distancing, and not exceeding 50% of the capacity of the Sanctuary.
Fourth, In-person worship must not include choir, praise band, and congregational singing.
Most of the churches and pastors I know are hesitant about going back to In-Person worship. It's because they are most concerned about the possibility of a confirmed patient in the In-Person Worship, and they are not sure that the limited In-Person worship is better than online worship. The Crossroads UMC, which Ashburn Korean UMC is sharing with, plans to start the In-Person Worship on the first week of September. I also think we should not rush back to In-Person worship.
However, I would like to hear your opinion on this issue. Please let me know if you have any comments or suggestions. Your opinions and suggestions will be helpful to plan for reopening the church.
I would like to ask you a favor. Please participate in the online worship service until the church is reopened. There is a downside to online worship, but this is our official Sunday service, and it is the most important and only thing we can do as a member of the faith community in this situation. Moreover, I personally like the experience that members of the two churches worship together while looking at each other's faces through a zoom. I think it's a present from God to us during this period. I hope more people can share this great experience. Of course, some of you want to participate, but you may not be able to participate for a variety of reasons. I hope those people don't feel too pressured. I respect your situations and circumstances. I just ask you to do your best.
I'd like to ask you one more thing. Even if you can't attend in the online worship service, I would appreciate it if you could send the donation to the church through mail every week. It will be of great help to the financial management of the church during difficult times.
I miss all of you. I hope you stay healthy and peaceful. May the grace and peace of the Lord be with you and your family!
Grace & Peace,
June 13, 2020
Please see the below letter from Virginia Conference Bishop, Sharma Lewis.
If you have any questions, please contact the Winchester District Superintendent,
Rev. Dr. Steven Summers at firstname.lastname@example.org or 804-822-2824.
May 22, 2020
Our Drive-In and Pioneer Church Worship Services Remain in Place.
As you may have heard, this afternoon President Trump called for places of worship to be deemed essential and allowed to be open this weekend.
The Conference already has a plan to resume in-person worship beginning this weekend through a select number of in Drive-In and Pioneer Church services. These are listed on the Conference website at http://doc.vaumc.org/News2020/ReminderofIn-PersonWorship.pdf. Our implementation plan for a return to in-person worship resulted from careful analysis and prayer. We believe we have provided a framework for a safe return to in-person worship and our plans remain in place.
If your church is not a Drive-In or Pioneer Church on May 24, 2020, please consider talking with your District Superintendent about becoming one for future Sundays. For additional information about our return to in-person worship please visit our website:
I am proud that our Conference has continued to worship through online and recorded worship services over these recent difficult weeks and I am looking forward to attending a Pioneer Church Worship service on Sunday.
Thank you for your attention to these matters.
Peace and Blessings, Bishop Sharma D. Lewis
A PDF version of this letter is available here.
Houses of worship will be back. Churches, synagogues and mosques will reopen — but they will do so when it is safe — not when they are pressed to do so for partisan political benefit.
Who is able to determine when it is safe for people to gather to pray? Certainly not politicians. No, the only advice that is meaningful comes from the scientific community, from epidemiologists, from doctors, and from virologists.
The vast majority of religious leaders understands and respects the meaning of expertise. They look to those with knowledge for guidance on issues related to that expertise.
The 17,000 clergy members who comprise The Clergy Letter Project originally came together to celebrate the compatibility of religion and science, recognizing that each has something critically important to offer. They challenged the fact that scientific expertise was being cast aside by some in the name of religion, understanding that this was an affront to the principles of their faith while undermining the very nature of science.
Now, in the face of a deadly pandemic, some politicians are attempting to use religion to advance their narrow special interests. These politicians are telling (perhaps demanding is a more appropriate word) clergy to open their houses of worship, to demonstrate that we’ve defeated the pandemic before us, despite the very clear warnings being offered by the scientific community that to do so is to risk increasing the toll of death and misery.
These politicians misunderstand virtually everything meaningful about religious belief.
They don’t recognize that religion doesn’t need a physical building or sanctuary to remain alive and thrive.
They don’t recognize that religion is every bit as much about community as it is about physical closeness.
They don’t recognize the strength that has been present as religious communities come together virtually to pray, to demonstrate compassion, to mourn, and to look to a better future.
They don’t recognize that at the core of all religions is a deep belief in the well-being, both spiritually and physically, of all people.
They don’t recognize that religion and science are not at odds with one another and that religious leaders can celebrate the knowledge science offers.
And they don’t recognize that the vast majority of clergy do not see themselves as pawns in a manufactured culture war.
This is a widespread movement, far bigger than The Clergy Letter Project.
Two examples will demonstrate the depth of feeling within the religious community.
Clergy members from Memphis representing a wide array of faiths have produced a powerful video explaining why they will not open their houses of worship until it is safe to do so. Heed their powerful words:
We make our decisions based on love, morality, and the best of medical science, not expediency. We love the vulnerable and the lonely, those on the front lines of healing and supply chains, so until it’s safer, many of us are delaying face to face gatherings for praise and worship, for Shabbat, for jummah, for holy eucharist.
Clergy members from Virginia have written a letter to Governor Ralph Northam urging caution. They said, in part:
Many faith leaders will also experience great pressure to reopen for worship, hold funeral services, and other physical gatherings…. In the beginning months of this pandemic, religious gatherings contributed greatly to the spread of COVID-19. We’re fearful a premature reopening will only exacerbate this problem. We want to be part of the solution, even if it means sacrificing our preference for in-person gatherings a little longer for the sake of others.
Yes, there are some religious leaders who have a different perspective, who believe their faith protects them from the virus. Unfortunately, we are increasingly seeing that some of these very same religious leaders, along with their parishioners, are falling ill and dying.
It is important to recognize that this small but vocal minority does not represent the vast majority of the religious community. That majority has a different perspective, one that embraces life, demonstrates empathy and compassion, understands the value of science, and treasures the community arising from close friends.
These religious leaders are taking the steps necessary to keep people safe, to find ways to feed souls and stomachs during a challenging time, and to remain above the needless and damaging politicization of religion.
I’m proud to call many of these religious leaders my friends.