A little less than an hour ago, President Trump declared that he deems churches and houses of worship ‘essential’. He called on governors to allow them to reopen this weekend. The President’s statement changes nothing about the guidance I have offered up to this point. We are in the process of reopening, but must do it carefully and in stages so no more lives are lost.

I have provided a timeline of dates that I highly urge you to follow, especially since we have seen a spike in COVID-19 cases in Arkansas in the past week. I also have indicated that I expect all United Methodist Churches to treat Governor Hutchinson’s excellent guidance that he issued on May 4 as a directive. This means that any churches opening at any time must be able to fully comply with this guidance. If they cannot do so, it is not time to open yet. If someone tests positive for COVID and has attended any event in any church, that congregation needs to cease in-person activities until it can safely do so again.

The Arkansas Annual Conference has excellent resources available on the Conference Website at arumc.org/covid19. It provides new updates and webinars on a weekly basis. What is more, in partnership with the Methodist Foundation of Arkansas, the Conference is making PPE masks, hand sanitizer and disinfectant available to every church early in June. It is a difficult time. But I have great hope for the future because Arkansan United Methodists are people of deep faith, who will continue to make disciples for Jesus Christ, who make disciples equipped and sent to transform lives, communities and the world.