COVID-19 and Worship: Critical Situation Update
The bullet points to take away from
this already too long email:
- The next two Sundays, March 15th and March 22nd, plan to attend worship via stream at 9:00AM and 11:00AM
- Email or text (203-258-0165) me your prayer requests
- Services will be streamed at 9:00AM and 11:00AM from:
- I will send out a pdf of the bulletin.
- All church gatherings and public worship at the church are canceled and necessary meetings are asked to take place via teleconference. I can set that up for anyone who needs help.
- The church campus, except for the vital ministry of Meals On Wheels is shut down to the public.
- MNL is now canceled for the rest of the semester.
In More Depth:
Okay, I have a spiritual understanding when coming to mountains in my life, I prayerfully push forward as hard as possible and try to be open to the direction of where God is leading me as I pursue what I feel is right. So it is that I have pursued not letting go of gathering on Sunday mornings for worship. Some of you have patiently been urging me to consider alternate directions, and I have pursued side streets to act as a work around, but there comes a point in time when I question the soundness of my priority in the face of God pushing me in other directions: it is practical atheism to continue to pursue my way when God maybe has another way for me to go.
The above is my round about way of saying that I surrender: for the next two weeks public worship is suspended. Here are the reasons (see the communications below):
- The Bishop has asked all churches to aid in the leveling out of the coronavirus by using alternate means of worship for the next two Sundays.
- Dutchess County has declared a state of emergency and suspended all "large" social and communal gatherings.
I said that were we asked not to meet, well, we would not. The Bishop asked and I originally said, well, no. Now the County Executive has asked. How many times do I say no to the boat claiming that God will provide a helicopter as the water rises?
There are now more confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Dutchess County. Not meeting in public for 14 days will allow us to slow the spread dramatically and also to see who has the virus. So, this is the way we sacrificially care and show that we care for others, and we trust that God will provide and protect us as we walk not so much by sight, but by faith.
Let me know if I can answer any questions you may have, though I fear I am not as trusting in my logical progression as I used to be.
Yours Faithfully In Christ,
March 13, 2020
M E M O R A N D U M
TO: Church Leaders in the New York Annual Conference
FROM: Thomas J. Bickerton, Resident Bishop
RE: A CRITICAL UPDATE FROM BISHOP THOMAS J. BICKERTON
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” John 14:27
To Church Leaders in the New York Annual Conference:
As all of you know, we are currently being called to serve in ways that require exceptional leadership and spiritual guidance to create and manage our COVID-19 (Coronavirus) response plans.
As one of the most diverse Conferences in the connection, there is rarely a “one-size-fits-all” response to any matter. However, in this instance, there is need for a uniform response.
The recent news that the World Health Organization has declared COVID-19 a pandemic and also the growing number of our churches that find themselves in the eye of this storm, means that we as leaders, must make difficult decisions.
This is one of those occasions where I, as your Episcopal Leader, must act immediately to protect our congregations and communities. Given the clear word from health officials across the country and our own local authorities, I am asking that all United Methodist Churches in the New York Annual Conference not hold public services of worship for the next two weeks.
There will be a separate advisory issued today with information for churches in need of guidance on streaming services, Zoom video, conference call options and grants that will be offered by the New York Annual Conference in order for local churches to acquire necessary licenses to conduct worship services and meetings remotely. We will also provide guidance for you to consider as you engage with groups that rent/utilize your facilities.
The need to minimize and “flatten the curve” of infection and curtail the spread of the Coronavirus is at a critical stage. Together, we must act to lessen the burden on health care personnel, systems and our people.
This clear reality has given rise to the need to make this decision. It has been made only after careful conversation with several informed people and deep personal reflection within myself. While this is a matter that will affect all of us emotionally and spiritually at the very core of who we are and what we do as called servants of Christ, it is a decision that must be made for the good of all the people we serve.
In the midst of the challenges associated with cancelling public services of worship, I strongly urge all our leaders to explore ways to continue providing words of hope and guidance when conveying the steps that must be taken in response to this crisis. Our role as spiritual leaders who provide a message of hope and possibility does not nor should not be quarantined. This is a time to explore and utilize new and creative ways of sharing the gospel in spite of the current circumstances around us.
In your planning, a key consideration is the responsibility we have to open our doors in creative ways and respond to the needs of the poor and marginalized. As the crisis escalates, we know that the least among us will arrive at a point of critical need.
We must maintain or begin to establish outreach ministries that are needed to assist our communities. I am asking that all of our churches and leaders explore ways that will allow us to serve as “Responding Stations,” able to receive the needy and offer essentials such as food, water, supplies and comfort.
I urge you to consider that not everyone in your community is able or willing to make the best or most prudent decisions in regard to this pandemic. And I am also sure that not everyone will understand the need for this decision to be made. However, these challenging days demand of us to take extraordinary actions. In light of this, I pray that you, as a leader, will take on the task of caring for the welfare and health of the congregation under your care and the community to which you have been appointed.
United Methodists have historically stood as a connectional church. Friends, we are in this together. As such, let us remember to pray for one another as we work to provide hope and healing in response to this virus.
The Journey Continues,…
Thomas J. Bickerton
Dutchess County Announces State of Emergency
For More Information Contact:
Colleen Pillus, (845) 486-2000
Poughkeepsie … Based on an increase of confirmed cases of Coronavirus/COVID-19 with three confirmed and an escalation of residents in mandatory and precautionary quarantine, Dutchess County Executive Marcus J. Molinaro declared a State of Emergency for Dutchess County, effective at 2 p.m. today. The State of Emergency expedites the County’s sharing of resources and ability to better respond to this rapidly evolving situation.
The State of Emergency is issued pursuant to Section 24 of New York State Executive Law and is enforceable by local, county and state law enforcement agencies. Dutchess, Orange and Ulster counties have each issued emergency orders since confirming multiple cases of Coronavirus/COVID-19 over the past several days.
County Executive Molinaro said, “As Coronavirus has emerged as a pandemic, reaching countries on each hemisphere, we in Dutchess County have prepared for the inevitability we would be touched by this emerging health situation. Today’s declaration is the next step in providing Dutchess County the resources necessary to best respond. This declaration does not limit travel, but we urge residents to limit contact with those who are sick and stay home if sick.”
County Executive Molinaro is taking the following steps:
- Suspending all large social and community gatherings, including County-sponsored events, to allow adequate social distancing, effective March 13th;
- Suspending all visitation at Dutchess County Jail, effective March 13th;
- Postponing all Civil Service Exams, effective March 13th;
- Suspending all classroom and extracurricular functions for 14 days, including extra-curricular activities, effective March 16th. Schools may remain open to administration, staff, and staff functions. This order does not include private daycare facilities, Head Start or other daycare programs, unless there is a direct need based on school facility logistics; and
- Closing the Dutchess County Office for the Aging’s eight Senior Friendship Centers, effective March 16th.
BCH Commissioner Dr. Anil Vaidian, an infectious disease specialist with more than 20 years’ experience, said, “We have long predicted Dutchess County would be affected by COVID-19, and we have put into practice our weeks of planning. We are dealing with an unprecedented situation, but I am confident that steps we are taking today will keep our community healthy and safe. Closing schools and limiting large community gatherings is a preventative measure that is intended to reduce the spread of COVID-19. We continue to ask residents for their cooperation – practicing proper hygiene, disinfection, social distancing and the like – to help mitigate the spread of this virus.”
Dutchess County has established a website, www.dutchessny.gov/coronavirus, as well as a hotline, (845) 486-3555, to provide residents the most current information regarding Coronavirus/COVID-19.
This is an evolving situation, and County leaders will continue to work to inform residents with the most current information and ongoing updates.