March 17, 2020
Yesterday, March 16, President Trump issued guidelines recommending that gatherings across our nation be limited to 10 people or fewer. Maryland Governor Larry Hogan and D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser have ordered people in their jurisdictions to follow the CDC's recommendation that events of 50 or more people, including religious activities, be canceled or postponed. "These emergency orders carry the full force of the law," Hogan said.
Given the gravity of these measures, the Baltimore-Washington Conference is reiterating its intentional efforts to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.
Following the recommendations of government officials and the Centers for Disease Control, I am directing churches throughout the BWC to refrain from gathering in their buildings through Sunday, March 29. Information about future measures will be announced Wednesday, March 25. The Conference worship team is currently planning an online conference-wide Easter worship experience, which can be used by local churches if they desire to do so.
I am so grateful for the Maryland and D.C. churches that overwhelmingly and creatively lived into last week's directive to not meet in church buildings for worship. I also now strongly encourage our West Virginia churches that have not done so to err on the side of caution and refrain from gathering. There are several reasons for this:
- The only way to prevent transmission of this virus is to limit contact;
- Persons may be carrying the virus while they are asymptomatic, which means they may transmit the disease before they realize they have it; and
- We run the risk of overwhelming our health care systems if we transmit the virus to one another.
Changes in Feeding Ministries:
In addition, as churches throughout the BWC continue to be the beloved community in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, many of you are continuing to care for the poor and vulnerable. As you do this important work, we ask that you implement established cleanliness precautions to limit the transmission of disease.
Even as you practice social distancing and ensure cleanliness and good hygiene, the experts suggest you provide meals and other items in bags. These can be distributed to those in need in an open or outdoor location, limiting hand-to-hand contact, perhaps even using a drive-up setting.
Notes explaining that you are doing this to ensure their safety, as well as prayers for their continued well-being, can also be distributed to your guests or clients. If you find that you are unable to continue this ministry, it would be helpful to provide a referral to nearby government or nonprofit organizations that can offer assistance.
Rescheduling Clergy and Laity Sessions:
In compliance with the gathering limits, we are changing our plans for April 18, in Ranson, West Virginia. The Pre-Conference Briefing session will still be on April 18, but it will be held as a webinar. Those who have already registered will receive a refund. Refunds will be provided within two weeks. The clergy and laity sessions will be held at Annual Conference as typically scheduled.
May the grace of the Lord, Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
Blessings and Peace,
Bishop LaTrelle Easterling