Updated March 17, 2020 A page of Frequently Asked Questions about actions The Virginia Conference of The United Methodist Church is taking to protect congregants and to continue ministry during the COVID-19 pandemic has been created. Many of these precautions are expected to remain in place for some time, until this crisis is clearly over. This document is also updated periodically. Click here to view the page.
If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?
— Psalm 11:3
Ours is a faith that is built to shine in hard times. As the Bishop and Cabinet of the Virginia Conference, we recognize that these are hard times and share with you what we believe.
We believe that God does some of God’s best work when the going gets tough. At the center of our faith is a Messiah, crucified yet raised from the dead to show how God’s love and power work. So, when our world is facing pandemic…when our congregations are refraining from in-person worship…when people are retreating into isolation for the common good…when we are overwhelmed by fear and foreboding…what is Christ’s Church to do?
We believe that now is the time for us to be the Church, for the sake of the world. Now is the time to bear witness to the God who is able to make all things new, who redeems even the most desperate of situations, and whose grace is always sufficient. Now is the time to let our light shine in the midst of the world’s despair, to bring healing in the midst of brokenness.
Because we believe this, we want to ask you to join us in acts of living faith. We encourage every congregation, every pastor, every church member to:
- Draw near to God for the strength that God alone supplies, through daily prayer and Scripture reading, taking time to let God’s love fill us, reassure us, replenish us.
- Reach out into the world as agents of good news. Practicing social distancing does not mean we are relationally distant, even if our touch comes via the phone or supplies and notes dropped at the door. People need to know that they are not alone, that there is someone who will walk with them, listen, understand, care, help, and pray with them.
- Be creative in worship by exploring digital media, home-based devotions, and other means.
Finally, this is a great opportunity for us to ask people to give. Our ministries have not shut down; they are simply taking new forms to meet the needs of this crisis. In such a time, we are reminded why we are the church and why we give. Of course, we are sensitive to those whose incomes are imperiled by the crisis, and can communicate with them that we value all that they give through their prayers and acts of love for God and others. We can also encourage all of our financial supporters to keep giving to the church even though we are not meeting in person, either through online platforms or through old-fashioned mail. Beyond this, we can challenge ourselves and others to deepen our generosity for this season, giving more so that the church will be strong to meet these challenges and opportunities.
In hard times there are usually three responses: there are those who run toward the trouble, those who hunker down to wait it out, and those who run away. As your Virginia Conference Cabinet, we believe it is time to run toward the crisis because that is where we believe Jesus is. It will take all the gifts that God has given us, spiritual, physical, and financial. And it will take all of us.
There are very real structural and financial challenges in front of us but, as the Church of Jesus Christ in hard times, we discern even more very real spiritual opportunities. We give thanks for your generosity, for your willingness to try new and uncomfortable things, and for your perseverance in enabling the church to move with God into a new chapter in ministry in these unprecedented times.
Bishop Sharma D. Lewis and the Cabinet of the Virginia Conference
• The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is updating information daily at https://www.cdc.gov/
• National Institutes of Health: https://www.nih.gov/health-information/coronavirus
Beloved members of Hinton Avenue’s extended community:
Much is changing quite rapidly and I know that you are doing everything you can to remain informed. First and foremost, let us keep our prayers focused on those suffering this virus, those who have lost lives and loved ones, those working tirelessly to provide medical aid and support, and all those others battling illnesses whose needs for care and levels of anxiety must not be lost to our attention.
Following federal and state recommendations limiting public gatherings, Bishop Sharma Lewis has reiterated her request that we cancel public worship services on March 22 & 29. In addition, it is important that we each stay home and stay well, not only for ourselves but for the sake of the most vulnerable among us. ALL gatherings and activities at church should be considered cancelled until further notice.
That said, it is important that we remain gathered in spirit and we are blessed with any number of technologies that allow this as never before.
Please DO plan to join online broadcasts of our service each Sunday at 11 am here at www.hintonavenueumc.org or on Facebook
Please DO post to this page and to one another’s pages to let us know how you are doing and how you are coping with this time of separation.
Please DO contact me IMMEDIATELY if you begin to show symptoms of COVID-19 or if you believe you have been exposed to the virus in any way.
Please DO call and text one another to check in and let me know of any urgent pastoral needs.
Please DO remember your church’s financial needs continue and give accordingly. You can set up automatic payments from your bank, mail your check to the church office, or give online using PayPal.
Please DO prioritize your own spiritual and emotional health that we may be a source of encouragement and support for others during this extended period of uncertainty.
With God’s help, we will get through this, and we will know that in time of trouble we were blessed to be a blessing to others in our lives and our community.
I give thanks to God for each and every one of you.
In Christ’s Peace,