Where can I go from your spirit?
Or where can I flee from your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, you are there;
if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there.
If I take the wings of the morning
and settle at the farthest limits of the sea,
even there your hand shall lead me,
and your right hand shall hold me fast.
If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,
and the light around me become night,”
even the darkness is not dark to you;
the night is as bright as the day,
for darkness is as light to you.
In this season of Lent, our spiritual journey has become more intense with all the news of the Coronavirus (COVID 19) swirling around us. Our scripture reminds us that God is present with us and among us, no matter where we are, no matter what happens in our lives – in our greatest celebrations and the in our most difficult challenges. As we live through this unsettling time of facing the unknowns of the virus, let us remember to keep our faith in God’s presence central in our daily spiritual practices. Let us remember to live each day with the grace and healing care alive in our self-care and in our actions. Let us pray for all whose lives are affected by the virus. Let us also find ways to reach out to people in our communities with care in whatever ways we can – in care for all the vulnerable people and the people made more vulnerable due to the repercussions of this virus.
As United Methodists, we are connectional. We can witness to our faith and support one another even while we are being asked to practice social distancing. While gatherings are being cancelled, we can still love God and our neighbors in new and creative ways.
We can still connect with each other.
This article contains many resources:
- Worship and Gathering Resources and Ideas: How to create online worship, post sermons on Facebook or YouTube and ideas for other ways to stay connected as a church, along with a list of churches who do livestream so, if you cannot, you can refer your members to participate in worship from home;
- Offering and Finance Resources: Our Finance office is offering a way to securely collect donations if you do not have capability to do that through your own online giving;
- Public Resources and Guidelines: Links where you can find technical and scientific information to assist your congregation in its responses;
- Stay Connected with One Another: A way to post your church’s recommendations and notifications on our Conference website, so we can share and learn from each other.
Of course, basic health guidelines continue to be the most important:
Key Health Guidelines:
- Wash your hands
- Stay home when you are feeling ill
- Wash your hands thoroughly for 20 seconds
- Cover your face when sneezing and coughing
- Wash your hands with soap or 60% alcohol hand sanitizer
- Clean and disinfect all food prep and serving areas, bathrooms, doorknobs, hand rails and other common area surfaces
- Wash your hands after contact with public places
- Drink water or hot liquids every 15 minutes
- Wash your hands
Resources for Community and Faith-Based Leaders – CDC safety guidelines for churches
Consider greeting others with a bow rather than a handshake, or learn how to say Peace be With You in ASL
In response to growing concerns about the Coronavirus, the Wisconsin Conference Cabinet has put together the following guidelines and resources for churches. It is important to be both proactive and caring in our preparations and response.
Pastors and church leaders are the people responsible to decide whether to hold or cancel worship and other gatherings. You are encouraged to follow state guidelines and local school closings when making the decisions (see Resources and Guidelines section below for links). UPDATE 3/16/2020: we are strongly suggesting that we refrain from publicly open worship services minimally until April 5, Palm Sunday. It may mean we need to suspend worship this year through Easter. Read Bishop Jung's letter
Ways to Stay Connected
- If the church leadership decides not to meet for worship services, churches are encouraged to livestream sermons if possible. You can also post connections to other churches who livestream their worship.
- Consider posting or emailing devotionals, prayers or other ways of connecting with parishioners; perhaps covenant to pray together at a designated time each day
Develop other ways to connect and gather for bible study, pastoral care and even church meetings:
- ZOOM is a free resource that can provide “face-to-face” meeting time for three or more people for up to 40 minutes
- Offer pastoral care via telephone or through email
- Consider ways to reach out in mission to those who are vulnerable in your community
- Five Ways to Be the Church When Church is Canceled
- UMC Support: Livestream Your Ministry (PDF)
- Ask the UMC: How Can We Livestream Worship Legally?
- ResourceUMC: Taking Your Worship Online: A Guide for Beginners and Everyone Else
- Wisconsin Council of Churches: Resources for Streaming Worship
- Michigan Conference: Using Facebook Live (PDF)
- One License Offering Free Licenses through April 15
- Tips for Sensory Rich Live Streaming from Dr. Marcia McFee (video)
For churches that currently don’t have electronic donation capability and would like to offer this as an option to their members during this period of unrest and potential church closings, the Conference will offer the use of our VANCO online giving site and absorb the processing fees for the next 2 months. On our main home page, where there was a DONATE NOW button, there is now a DONATE TO YOUR LOCAL CHURCH. If you would like to have your church listed as an option, please contact TreasurerOffice@wisconsinumc.org or call 608-873-7320. Provide your church name as your members would know it and your GCNO (General Church Number). Your donors/members may pay from their bank account or a credit card. The Finance office will send the donations to your church within 2-3 weeks, with the donor identified.
- Discipleship Ministries: 10 Ideas for Church Financial Leaders Amid the COVID-19 Crisis
- GCFA: Everything You Need to Know About eGiving
- GCFA: Creative Funding Ideas to Recoup Losses
State Guidelines and Latest Updates
- Wisconsin Department of Health Services
Outbreaks in Wisconsin
- Track current Wisconsin investigation details.
- Updates will be posted by 2 p.m. on weekdays.
Communicable Diseases Memos
- The latest DHS updates to policy and guideline recommendations, listed by issue date
As of March 12, the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) recommends that all non-essential gatherings of 250 or more people be cancelled or postponed statewide to help protect Wisconsinites from the spread of COVID-19, particularly those who are most vulnerable to infection and severe disease. DHS supports the decisions of any event organizers that elect to cancel or postpone events with less than 250 attendees in order to protect their communities. Organizers should consider the following:
- Potential for attendance from older adults, individuals with underlying health care conditions, or other vulnerable groups
- Potential for attendance from individuals from a wide range of geographic areas across Wisconsin, the United States, or other countries
- The setting of the event, particularly if it involves sustained interaction between attendees in close physical proximity
Additional Government Resources
- Center for Disease Control
Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction
- These resources are mainly geared towards schools, but there are several resources that churches may find helpful
Let us stay connected to help support and resource one another. Submit your church's policies, resources, or planned livestream services through the form below if they can be shared throughout the Conference.
Submit Form: Church Resources and Livestreams
These will be posted as they come in.