Dear United Methodist friends,

Grace and peace to you in this challenging time for the entire human family.

This morning, I was in Zoom conferences with faith leaders, public health professionals and several episcopal colleagues. In addition, with you, I received the directive of Governor Cooper for schools to remain closed through mid-May.

I urge you to continue the compassionate practice of not gathering for worship, funerals, weddings, studies, and other groups for the next two months.

Resources abound on our conference website and beyond to help us and to engender our own creativity in leading groups, classes and churches.

Public health leaders are working tirelessly for us, for our families and our neighbors, for our communities and our state and our nation and our world. We give thanks for them and their selfless service. I urge you to help lower the number of people exposed to COVID-19 and to protect your family and also those you may never meet or know. Social distancing, or as a friend re-phrases, distant socializing, is the best way to slow the advance of COVID-19.

I continue to work with the Cabinet, the Conference Staff, and elected Conference Leadership to garner resources for all our life together. I am inspired by your leadership, your creativity, your compassion and your perseverance.

Today, I connected with our heritage anew, remembering John Wesley’s concern for public health. The double blessing of physical and spiritual health was – and is – a central dimension of Methodist ministry. Like our spiritual forebears, we are convinced that God wants to give us both inward and outward health. Realizing that the least resourced people of his time were without medical care, he recorded his reflection: At length I thought of a kind of desperate expedient. I will prepare, and give them physick myself. The urgency of our founder resonates in the creative and life-giving responses you are offering.

Let us make holy use of this unwelcome time, going deep in our reflection, going wide in our concern, going carefully in our ministry.

Thank you for the work of healing grace that you offer in this time, in your community, leading your church.

With gratitude to God for all our life together,

Hope Morgan Ward

References from “John Wesley on Holistic Health and Healing” by Randy L. Maddox, William Kellon Quick Professor of Wesleyan and Methodist Studies at Duke Divinity School, available on-line.