COVID-19 ResponseGuidance for Clergy
Important Guidance and Direction from Bishop Mueller and the Appointive Cabinet Concerning Holy Communion
March 20, 2020
The sacrament of Holy Communion is a means of grace and an essential element of corporate worship. However, our current health crisis prevents the safe gathering of people for worship and the sharing of communion together. Thus, we need to adapt our celebration of communion in creative and appropriate ways for God’s people to continue to receive communion. We are aware that this is a departure from our United Methodist sacramental theology and, therefore, some of you may disagree with this decision for theological reasons. However, we are in unchartered waters and are making decisions while traversing an unknown landscape. The guidance and direction below will apply only until in-person worship resumes.
Communion Elements Provided by Churches – Elements Distributed to Congregants Following the Great Thanksgiving Offered by the Pastor
- The pastor offers the Great Thanksgiving over a sufficient quantity of pre-packed elements and takes communion him/herself. Just as churches often “extend the table” from a communion service by delivering consecrated elements to members who are unwillingly absent through sickness or for other reasons, these elements are then ready to be delivered to the entire congregation.
- Prepackaged elements can be purchased or assembled by churches using careful hygiene. One option is to use two communion cups for each person, one holding a small piece of bread, and another holding grape juice. Place the grape juice cup on top of the bread cup and wrap them in plastic film.
- The church makes these elements available for congregants to drive through and pick up outside the church.
- The pastor may invite congregants to pick up the elements along with a brief printed liturgy for them to use when they take them at home.
- Congregants are also invited to pick up and deliver the elements and liturgy to others who are not able to pick them up at church and maintain a social/physical distancing upon arrival and delivery.
Elements Provided by Worshippers – Elements Taken in Real Time During a Virtual Worship Service in Which Communion is Celebrated
- The church informs members in advance that communion will be celebrated during a particular upcoming virtual worship service and invites worshippers to prepare their own bread and grape juice at own home prior to the service.
- During live virtual worship offered on Facebook Live, Zoom, other social media platforms, local radio, a conference phone call or whatever live platform the church is using, the pastor offers the Great Thanksgiving, including the elements being used by the worshippers in their homes. Each person immediately takes the elements in real time wherever they are worshipping.
Reminder: Communion elements may only be consecrated by Ordained Elders, and by Licensed Local Pastors in their ministry context. Members of churches with lay supply pastors will receive communion through the method offered by the pastor assigned to their congregation for administering the sacraments, or through another authorized United Methodist pastor.
For further information about our COVID-19 Response:
Arkansas Conference of the United Methodist Church COVID-19 Response: https://arumc.org/covid19/
Recently Asked Questions Regarding Drive-IN Worship, Drive-THRU Communion and Drop-IN Ministries
March 26, 2020
- When hosting a Drive-IN worship service, how do we practice safe physical (social) distancing with attendees?
Provide clearly stated rules for worship before the event and consider posting very visible signage for drivers. Define that attendees should NOT exit their cars for any reason.
There shall be no communion offered or collections taken.
Tailgating is not appropriate.
- As a pastor, how do I maintain safety for all during a Drive-THRU communion?
Do not break any social/physical distance rules by coming within 6 feet of any person. Follow the communion guidelines as provided by our Bishop and Appointive Cabinet here. Be sure to pass elements into a car with an object that will make sure that you maintain a safe distance (6 feet). It is also recommended for pastors to use added personal protection of gloves and masks.
- As a pastor, is it okay for me to open my church for people to Drop-IN and have prayer or communion?
As stated in the guidelines offered by the CDC, the governor of Arkansas, our Bishop and Appointive Cabinet, no more than 10 people are allowed to be in a building at the same time. For highest safety concerns, our Bishop and Appointive Cabinet are recommending NO use of an indoor facility for prayer, worship or communion for ANY number of people.
March 19, 2020
We are in an unprecedented health crisis that requires us to adapt our ministries in light of health and safety concerns. Please utilize the following directives set forth:
- Funerals and memorial services shall not be held in United Methodist Church buildings for the duration of the health emergency.
- Graveside and internment services should be limited to immediate family only.
We also provide the following directions as you engage in pastoral ministry with those who have lost a loved one:
- Arkansas United Methodist clergy should avoid funeral home visitations of more than 10 persons, so as to not risk the health of others.
- Pastors should personally model social distancing, which is sensitive since there is a greater likelihood of hugging, crying and kissing at funeral homes and cemeteries than in other locations.
- Pastors should allow family or funeral homes to broadcast or live stream graveside services to share with loved ones who will not be able to travel.
For further information about Funeral Services:
- Arkansas Conference of the United Methodist Church COVID-19 Response: https://arumc.org/covid19/
- CDC Covid-19 Information on Funerals: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/faq.html#funerals
- Arkansas Funeral Directors Association COVID-19 Update: https://www.arfda.com/Resources/NewsAnnouncements/tabid/95/articleType/ArticleView/articleId/185/Coronavirus-Special-Update.aspx (March 17)
- National Funeral Directors Association COVID-19 Guidance: https://www.nfda.org/covid-19
May Christ’s light shine through you as you provide comfort for grieving families during this difficult time.
Before making any hospital visits, check with the family AND the healthcare facility to confirm visitation policies. These are changing by the hour due to CDC regulations and the family will often want to offer input on whether outsiders can visit the patient.
Guidance for Pastors During Pandemic From Bishop Mueller and Appointive Cabinet
March 23, 2020
We are in an unprecedented health crisis that requires us to adapt our ministries in light of health and safety concerns. We recognize the hardships this may cause, but we must act out of an abundance of caution.
The best information we have received makes it clear that no regular in-person ministries, meetings, events, or worship services are to be held at least through the end of April, whether sponsored by the church or independent entities. This includes childcare ministries.
Here are the most current directives:
- No regular in-person gatherings of any kind are to be held at least through the end of April.
- Outdoor worship ministry events should not be held at least through the end of April.
- District Charge Conferences will be postponed and dates will be shared as soon as possible.
- No weddings should be held in any church and no weddings shall be conducted with more than the bride, groom and pastor in attendance.
- Pastors shall maintain physical distancing (6 feet) with all individuals until otherwise notified.
- Childcare workers and others who are impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic should contact their employer and check with the Arkansas Division of Workforce Services concerning potential unemployment insurance. For the latest information, go to dws.arkansas.gov.
- For information regarding feeding ministries, please click here.
Although we may not be able to meet in groups, please maintain pastoral communication with your church family through telephone, email, postal mail, social media and one-on-one visits using physical proximity distancing (staying 6 feet apart).
For more information on creative ministry ideas, click here.
Guidance principles are being assessed by Bishop Mueller and the Appointive Cabinet weekly. Decisions based on future events are ongoing.
Legal Advice – COVID-19
By Michelle Ator – Chancellor for the Arkansas Conference of the United Methodist Church, and Bishop Gary Mueller
On March 26, 2020, the Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Health, in consultation with Gov. Asa Hutchison, issued a Directive ordering that gatherings of more than ten (10) people in any confined indoor or outdoor space are prohibited until further notice. While this directive does not apply to places of worship, churches are “advised to limit person-to-person contact and maintain appropriate social distancing of at least six (6) feet to prevent the spread of this virus.”
In accordance with The Discipline, The Arkansas Conference of the United Methodist Church cannot direct the actions of the trustees of a local church. In the strongest terms, however, the Conference urges all local church leaders to make themselves familiar with Arkansas Department of Health and CDC guidelines and to put them into practice immediately, if they have not already done so. The Conference specifically recommends that in addition to all other CDC and Health Department recommendations, there be no in-person worship, programs or events at least through the end of April – or for however long the CDC and Health Department recommend precautions are necessary.
Local church trustees are reminded that The Discipline provides that subject to the discretion of the charge conference, they have supervision, oversight and care of all property of the local church. Under Arkansas law, this includes the responsibility to see that church premises are used in a reasonably safe manner. Trustees are urged to take reasonable steps maintain health of staff, members and visitors, including following current guidelines with respect to Covid-19 precautions.
The CDC and Arkansas Department of Health information can be located here:
- Beyond Washing Your Hands (Pastoral Care Advice from Methodist LeBonheur Healthcare)