October 28, 2020
To all my sacred siblings in Christ in our Wisconsin Conference,
I look with deep sadness and dismay at the rising numbers of COVID-19 cases across our wonderful state and wonder when this will come to an end. As the winter months arrive, the flu season approaches, and the pandemic continues to flourish and spread, I increase and intensify my prayers for health and wellness, safety and vitality for all people. To that end, I continue to strongly recommend that our churches do not engage in in-person worship during these difficult days.
Across our Conference, we are receiving daily reports of pastors and parishioners who have contracted COVID-19 and are suffering through the disease. This impacts individuals, families, communities, and congregations, and the more we are together, the longer this terrible virus will continue to spread. I know, and I share the grief of, how hard it is not to be able to be together to worship and praise God. I am continually amazed and inspired by the creativity of our pastors, worship leaders, and teachers to provide online alternatives. Safety, health, and protecting life must be our top priorities as disciples of Jesus Christ. Setting aside our personal wants and desires to return to church is the responsibility of every Christian – the health and well-being of others is the most important thing.
There will come a day in our future when we can return to our regular engagements and encounters. On that day, we will rejoice. On that day, we will sing, and we will celebrate. On that day, we will give God thanks and praise that we have emerged from the wilderness into the Promised Land. That day is coming, but that day is not yet here.
We have not mandated that churches cannot meet following the most stringent protocols of masking, social distancing, numbers in attendance, and sanitizing guideline, but this is the closest I can come. I am asking all Wisconsin United Methodists to NOT gather in person until our state health officials tell us it is safe to do so. We are suffering, and many lives are permanently damaged or lost. It is our duty and our privilege to care for one another and not spread this terrible virus.
Please know that you are all in the prayers of your Bishop and cabinet. We care very deeply, and we will continue to do all in our power to thrive through this pandemic and get our churches open and fully functioning again.
Thanks be to God!
In Christ’s Love,
Hee-Soo Jung, PhD
Photo: U.S. National Institutes of Health