March 19, 2020
NEWS RELEASE Christian Denomination Leaders Address Worship Changes In Light of COVID-19
Phoenix, Arizona, March 19, 2020 – The Arizona judicatory leaders of the Disciples of Christ, Evangelical Church in America, the United Methodist Church, the United Church of Christ, Presbyterian Church USA (PCUSA), and The Episcopal Church have jointly released the following message regarding changes to worship amid the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) outbreak.
Church is not cancelled!!!
But in-person worship is. As leaders of our respective Christian denominations, we have all had to instruct our congregations to cease in person worship and meetings.
And yet, church is not cancelled. How is that so?
Church is not a building, and church is not just worship. Church is the gathering of faithful people through prayer, through love, and through caring for the vulnerable. Church is taking on new forms in light of COVID-19. Many congregations are worshiping via live-stream, or by other electronic means. They are using old fashioned phone calls to talk to members, meetings and Bible study are taking place over Zoom. Food pantries are distributing food as cars drive by, homeless dinner programs are offering meals to go, and the prayers of the faithful ascend to a loving God whose arms bind us together even when we cannot be face to face. Since we cannot be WITH one another, let us nonetheless be FOR each other.
These are faithful decisions, made out of our understanding of the great commandments to love God and love our neighbor. In this present moment, among other things, loving our neighbor means not being physically present with our neighbors, to protect them and us from potential infection.
It is more challenging to be church in a time such as this. Our pastors and leaders are having to develop new skills, and our members are having to extend more effort to stay connected. There are financial implications of not gathering in person, and as long as this continues it will grow ever harder to continue our basic outreach ministries caring to the poor, the sick, migrants, and the elderly.
The word “quarantine” comes from quaresima, the Italian word for Lent. Ships were “quarantined” for 40 days in port before they were able to dock and unload people and supplies. So of all seasons of the year to be experiencing quarantines, this present season of Lent is very
appropriate. Just as Lent ends with Easter, so this season of quarantine will end with renewed faith in our Risen Lord—though it will likely not happen by April 12, 2020. Over the next few weeks, as the situation develops, we will discern what the right way to observe calendar Easter is; and what the right way to observe our eventual return to in-person congregational life, proclaiming “Alleluia” with shouts of joy. That day will be an Easter Day indeed, celebrating the restoration of new life, having passed through the valley of the shadow of death.
We, the leaders of our respective Christian denominations, hold you in prayer just as we ask you to hold us in prayer in the name of our Lord, Jesus Christ!
Rev. Jay R. Hartley Regional Minister and President Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Arizona
The Rev. Deborah K. Hutterer Bishop, Grand Canyon Synod Evangelical Church in America
Robert T. Hoshibata Resident Bishop The Desert Southwest Conference The United Methodist Church
Rev. Dr. William M. Lyons, Conference Minister Southwest Conference of the United Church of Christ
Rev. Dr. Brad Munroe Presbytery Pastor for the Presbyteries of Grand Canyon and de Cristo Presbyterian Church USA (PCUSA)
The Right Rev. Jennifer A. Reddall Sixth Bishop of Arizona The Episcopal Church
March 17, 2020
To Pastors, Deacons and Congregational Councils of the Grand Canyon Synod
Having prayerfully considered our current situation with respect to COVID-19, in conversation with bishops from the wider church, and in light of the quickly evolving nature of this pandemic, I am recommending that all ELCA congregations in the Grand Canyon Synod, regardless of location or number of congregants, suspend public worship gatherings, events and meetings beginning immediately until at least April 1, possibly longer.
This recommendation comes at my strongest possible urging in light of all current available information.
You have heard me say that we are better together for the sake of the Gospel, and the way we can be better together with our local communities, our nation and our world is to reduce all possible risk of transmission of this virus about which we still know relatively little and which can be lethal for our most vulnerable citizens. We must act in solidarity for the sake of the neighbor. To think “this doesn’t apply to me and my community” does not take seriously enough our responsibility to the neighbor under these circumstances.
Let me be clear: this time of social distancing – or better said, physical distancing – does NOT mean we are suspending being the church! On the contrary, this means is that we become church in new ways. It’s ironic but true that the best of who we are as church has always flourished under adversity. How will this moment invite us to reframe who and why and how we are as Christ’s Body for the life of the world?
Here are some steps we are considering implementing during this period (it may take a few days to do so):
Please share the information in this email with those who do not have/use email. We will also try to reach those in our directory who do not have email addresses listed.
Take heart, for our God is with us in all things. In the midst of all of this, we will care for one another, we will pray for one another, and we will be Christ's Church. - Bp Hutterer
I ask that you focus your ministry to be a calming and forgiving presence in the face of the fear you meet in your daily walk.
We look forward with hope and reflect on the Lenten practice of solitude, prayer and devotion.