I realize that we have been sheltering-in-place for what seems like a long while.  With the coming of summer weather, people want to get out and have the freedom to go wherever they want.  I can understand the temptation to disregard all of the protocols in place to keep us save from COVID-19, because these represent to some undue restrictions on our natural freedoms.

However, John Wesley would have a lot to say about all of this.  One of Wesley’s key questions in the Band meetings was, “What known temptations have you encountered, and how were you able to overcome them?”  If we couple this with his first rule “Do no harm,” it leads to the undeniable conclusion that we cannot give into the short-term temptation to expose ourselves and others to the coronavirus, and thus invoking greater harm on others just because we want self-indulgent freedoms.

Likewise, the major question from many of you is when we will be able to open our churches for live in-person worship services.  With the Governor Newsom’s new phases articulated, our churches haven’t been specifically designated into one of the stages as of yet, and this is probably because of the huge differences in the size of churches.

So, we need to reflect on Wesley and avoid the temptation to open our churches too early for the sake of doing no harm.  However, this doesn’t mean we do nothing.  Good leadership means not only managing the current crisis, but also thinking and planning ahead.  With this in mind, we need to start making plans for a phased in reopening.

Specifically, we need to start measuring our pews and sanctuaries and figure out how many people we can hold with 6 feet of distance between parishioners.  When we have an approximate number, we then need to figure on possible multiple service times to accommodate how many we might expect.  Of course, we recommend that people over 65 and those with underlying medical conditions not attend in person and this will mean continuation of some form of virtual worship experiences for those folks.  Since there is some evidence that singing spreads the virus more readily, we should not include choirs and public singing.  What type of musical expression can we safely use in their place?  We will have to be creative with how we share Holy Communion and perform Baptisms with social distancing.  We will have to figure out a way we can disinfect our sanctuaries on a regular basis.  These are just some of the myriad of issues that we need to think through now, leading up to a phased in opening.  I would love to hear from you as to how you are planning for your next steps.  Just sent me an email with your thoughts at bishop@calpacumc.org.

Some of you have specific questions about the Sabbath Worship service for May 17.  We want this to be helpful for you in whatever form it will take.  The purpose is to give our clergy, worship teams and laity a break from the hard work of production on this Sunday, or any other Sunday you so designate.  The worship will be a complete service if you wish to show it in its entirety.  There will be special music, scripture, prayers, a children’s sermon and a full sermon.  It will be available for everyone in the evening of May 15 and be in a Vimeo format at calpacumc.org/sabbath.  You can download it or have your church members go to the link.  For any questions contact your District Superintendent who will be taking part in the service.

Finally, for inspiration for the week:

“Seeds of faith are always within us; sometimes it takes a crisis to nourish and encourage their growth.” — Susan L. Taylor

Be the Hope,

Bishop Grant J. Hagiya
Los Angeles Area Resident Bishop