Dear United Methodist friends,

We continue to pray and witness in the name of Jesus Christ, our Great Physician, and Healer, as we receive updates regarding the spread of COVID-19 in North Carolina.

I urge you to cease public worship and other gatherings in your church through the next two weeks in order to protect your church family and the community in which you live and serve. Bishop Paul Leeland makes today this same request to the churches in Western North Carolina.

Public health leaders help us realize that we are on the cusp of a significant increase in the contagious virus. Social distancing is the most effective means of slowing the spread of the disease.

“For social distancing to be effective, it must begin early—so early that it may feel unneeded and silly. If we wait until its need is obvious, it is too late. The faith community has an important role to play in slowing the speed of disease transmission. Large gatherings of people are a petri dish for spreading the infection. For a period of time, I strongly urge our religious communities to suspend traditional services and gatherings and find other ways to practice and sustain our faith. Our witness and our example may save many lives, especially the lives of those at risk in our own congregations.” – Dr. Wes Wallace*

Where small groups or classes are essential to wellbeing, be vigilant as such groups meet in cleansed spaces, seated with distance between participants, with particular care for those who are older or who have health vulnerabilities.

Thank you for your creativity as we continue to strengthen the church through our prayers, our presence in expanded ways with one another, our gifts, our service, and our witness. We will share radiant examples of your ministry in this new and challenging time in order to foster creativity and to encourage one another.

May the Church of Jesus Christ rise anew with courage and creativity in this time of challenge, shining as light in a wounded, fearful world.

With gratitude for your ministry,

Hope Morgan Ward

Hope Morgan Ward