Dear Leaders and Partners in the Gospel;
Earlier today, I held a conference call with our rostered ministers to discuss the current COVID-19 situation and the church’s response. I want to thank all of the pastors, deacons and chaplains who joined the call today and took part in the chat. I am grateful for your leadership and am proud of how you are navigating these waters as we work together for the sake of the world.
During that call I shared the following:
1. I strongly recommend that all congregations stop face-to-face worship for the next 8 weeks, in accordance with the latest CDC social distancing guidelines.
2. I urge rostered ministers and councils to work together to develop strategies to share the Gospel and care for our neighbors, while keeping people safe. Do not make decisions alone. Access resources from the Southern Ohio Synod website for Ohio Department of Health guidelines and ways to do on-line worship.
3. Connect with your local health departments to find out how you can serve in your communities, while staying within health guidelines.
4. Please keep giving to your congregations to support your rostered ministers, staff and the various ministries that continue but in a different way. Our Stewardship Team, led by Pr. Michelle Terry and Director of Evangelical Mission, Pr. Katie Kerrigan, is crafting a communication with ways you can continue to give, even when you’re not physically together.
5. To keep our staff safe and all of you, all staff travel has been suspended at least until the end of March. Meetings with congregations and individuals will be held via telephone, Go To Meeting, FaceTime, etc. There will be no in person meetings at the synod office. Please reach out to us by phone and email as we are still here to support you and our work continues.
6. We are looking into ways to worship together, while not physically being together, for Easter. We will share with you our plans as soon as we know what the next few weeks hold in this ever-changing crisis. We encourage you to do your own planning and to use your creativity.
I am saddened that these decisions had to be made, but it is important that the Bishop’s office, and each of you model for the watching world what it means to be a community of faith. We work together to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ, to serve, and to lead. It is time for us to be light in this present darkness.
You will only be receiving communications from us that are pertinent to the current COVID-19 outbreak and our ongoing presence as the hands and feet of Jesus. So, please check your emails regularly for messages from our Communications Director, Susan Barton-Nonno and me. Also, check our Facebook page and our website. All COVID-19 related communications are on our homepage. We are compiling relevant and reliable information for you and will be updating it as quickly as possible.
At the bottom of this note are links to our communication channels so you can save them and check them regularly.
Psalm 27:14 says, ‘Wait patiently for the Lord. Be brave and courageous. Yes, wait patiently for the Lord.’ This is what we are called to do today and over the next several weeks…wait patiently on the Lord for the Lord is still at work and be brave and courageous, because God is our strength.
Remember to pray for each other, for our medical professionals, first responders, teachers, students, administrators and government officials. Please also pray for the Bishop’s office and your congregation leaders—may we lead well.