Bishop Sandra Steiner Ball, Saturday afternoon, updated the West Virginia Annual Conference on operating procedures moving forward as churches respond to the current COVID-19 social distancing policies. Part of that update included announcing the future release of guidelines to help churches discern what it means to relaunch in-person gatherings and also need to form relaunch teams to guide the process.
Churches in the West Virginia Annual Conference have worshiped through a variety of means since the statewide stay-in-place restrictions were implemented in March. That has included worshiping through live videos, recorded messages, phone calls, and parking lot services using FM transmitters. Bishop Steiner Ball said the church has never been closed during this period.
“You are just using different tools to gather for worship and to fulfill the mission and ministry of Jesus Christ,” she said.
Guidelines, Bishop Steiner Ball, will be forthcoming based upon conversations with health experts and conference leadership. It will help churches and districts to come up with adequate measures to safely reopen for in-person worship services and other gatherings. She said teams will need to work through the guidelines and be adaptable to the ever-changing reality of the pandemic and Center for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines.
The guidelines will be based upon several Biblical principles, Bishop Steiner Ball said. Among those are loving God and loving one’s neighbor, as well as two of the General Rules of do no harm and do good. She encourages individuals to behave moving forward as if they could be a carrier of the virus as a way to live out these principles. That includes practicing social distancing of keeping six feet apart from one another, not shaking hands, or giving hugs to one another.
“That is loving like Jesus calls us to love,” she said.
Relaunch teams can begin to work now on thinking through some necessary conversations prior to the guidelines being released. As the teams consider how to relaunch, Bishop Steiner Ball said that relaunching of in-person activities may take place over various phases, but will be done with an emphasis on safety.
“We need to be flexible and adjust to a new normal,” she said.