ARUMC Stage 2.5 GuidanceUpdated Guidance from Bishop Mueller

ARUMC Stage 2.5 Guidance
Updated Guidance from Bishop Mueller

September 13, 2020

Greetings in the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ!

I continue to be grateful for the outstanding and responsible leadership you have given your congregation and community since early March. The Covid-19 pandemic has stretched and stressed you, unleashed your creativity and exhausted you, and been difficult and demonstrated that being the Body of Christ matters more than having Church. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

I am writing to offer you my latest guidance concerning indoor in-person gatherings.

As you know, ARUMC Stage 2 has allowed for a maximum of 50 people utilizing the “36 sq. ft. bubble”. I now believe it is appropriate to implement ARUMC Stage 2.5. This keeps all previous guidance in place, including mandatory “36 sq. ft. bubbles,” masks, and sanitation. However, there will no longer be a maximum number of people allowed to gather. Rather, the size of the room will now determine the number of people that can attend indoor in-person gatherings.

  • Calculating the number of “bubbles” in rooms. Calculate the number of “bubbles” you can fit in a room by taking the square footage of a room and dividing it by 36, which provides for 6 ft by 6 ft physical distancing. This is the maximum number of people who can attend in-person events in this room.

  • Calculating the number of “bubbles” in sanctuaries and worship centers. This involves two separate calculations. First, calculate the number of 36 sq. ft. “bubbles” that can be fit in the area where worship leaders are located. This is the maximum number of pastors, liturgists, musicians, and worship leaders who can fit in the chancel or on the stage. Second, calculate the number of “36 sq. ft. bubbles” that can be fit into the sanctuary or worship center seating area. This is the maximum number of worshippers who can attend worship at any one time.
  • Adjusting your calculations for family units of two or more. You will have to make two adjustments because of families that want to sit together. The first is to create a bigger “bubble” to accommodate more people. The second is to make sure you have six feet in every direction between “bubbles.” You may want to create bigger “bubbles” as you plan for in-person events. This adjustment may result in fewer “bubbles” in the room, but allow more people to attend.

I continue to pray for you. Let me know what the Conference Staff, District Mission Strategists and I can do to support you as you make disciples of Jesus Christ, who make disciples equipped and sent to transform lives, communities and the world.

Grace and peace,

Gary E. Mueller
Bishop

Bishop Gary Mueller Issues Updates To ARUMC Stage 2 Safety Guidelines

MEDIA CONTACT:
Amy Ezell
amy.ezell@arumc.org
501-324-8000, ext. 30

July, 29, 2020 – Little Rock, AR:  In accordance with the guidelines issued by Governor Asa Hutchinson, the Arkansas Department of Human Services, the Arkansas Department of Health and the CDC, Bishop Gary Mueller has issued updated guidance for ARUMC children’s, youth and campus ministries effective immediately.

“With the COVID-19 numbers continuing to stay dangerously high, the Arkansas United Methodist Churches will remain in ARUMC Stage 2 and follow all guidelines that were provided in June 2020. With assistance from my task force, it was deemed necessary to update the ARUMC Stage 2 guidance for three particular ministries,“ stated Bishop Mueller. “Again, due to safety concerns, I want to urge all churches to continue to go slow with reopening and meeting maximum gathering numbers.”

The updated guidelines for ARUMC Stage 2 for ministries with children can be found here. The updated guidelines for ARUMC Stage 2 for youth ministries can be found here. The updated guidelines for ARUMC Stage 2 for in-person campus ministries can be found here.

The Latest Church Reopening Guidance from Bishop Mueller (05/29/2020)

Dear Sisters and Brothers of the Arkansas Conference:

Greetings in the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ!

I give thanks to God for all the ways laity and clergy have continued to proclaim the Gospel, reach out to those in your congregation who are isolated, feed hungry people and help those who are struggling because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Like you, I have noticed that Covid-19 has become a political issue in recent days. This saddens me greatly. Now is not the time for people of faith to argue about political perspectives. It is the time for us to focus on keeping people safe. Yet doing so is no simple task. On the one hand, the virus still has the capability of surging and killing thousands more. On the other hand, more than 40 million people have lost jobs and are rightly deeply concerned about the welfare of their families. Those of us who love Jesus have a wonderful opportunity to work together to responsibly address both of these tragedies.

Here is my latest guidance concerning the safe reopening of your church.

  1. Governor Hutchinson has indicated he is delaying the start of Phase 2 reopening because we have reached a second peak in the number of Covid-19 cases that can still go even higher. I agree with the Governor’s action. Therefore, I highly recommend delaying the beginning of ARUMC Stage 2 – which allows 50 or fewer people to gather utilizing the Governor’s May 4 safety guidance for places of worship – from the middle of June until at least June 28. I will keep you updated in the coming weeks.
  2. It is imperative that you treat Governor Hutchinson’s May 4 Guidance as a directive that must be followed, regardless of when your church initiates any in-person gatherings of any size. This is non-negotiable – for me and for the State of Arkansas – because unsafe in-person gatherings literally put people’s lives at risk.
  3. Your church must involve your Board of Trustees in any decisions about reopening any in-person gatherings. Additionally, you must inform your District Superintendent about your plans for safely reopening prior to publicizing any in-person gatherings.

We will be dealing with the impact of Covid-19 for a long time. I know you are weary and, at times, overwhelmed. Take good care of yourself. Do no harm. Treat each other with extravagant grace. And pray. Together, we will get through this.

Grace and peace,

Gary E. Mueller
Bishop

Statement by Bishop Gary E. Mueller Regarding Churches Being Classified as “Essential”

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.

Methodist Foundation, Arkansas Methodists Announce PPE Grant PartnershipNearly $60,000 Will Be Used To Keep Congregations Safe When Gathered

Methodist Foundation, Arkansas Methodists Announce PPE Grant Partnership
Nearly $60,000 Will Be Used To Keep Congregations Safe When Gathered

LITTLE ROCK, ARK. (May 20, 2020) – Standing in front of a large shipment of newly purchased personal protective equipment, Bishop Gary Mueller and Methodist Foundation for Arkansas President and CEO J. Wayne Clark announced a grant that will allow all 635 churches across the Arkansas Conference to gather together safely once again.

This is the first grant that the Methodist Foundation has ever presented that affects every local church in the Conference.

Rev. J. Wayne Clark, President and CEO of the Methodist Foundation for Arkansas

Rev. Wayne Clark shared, “I am grateful the Methodist Foundation for Arkansas can help every United Methodist church in Arkansas get back to a healthy environment to worship. With the standards in place for every church to provide facemasks and hand sanitizer before they open for in-person worship, finding these supplies can be challenging,” stated Rev. WayClark.

Clark added, “A special thank you goes out to the Arkansas Conference who will purchase and distribute these supplies to all the churches. Our Methodist forefathers and foremothers who deeply loved the church, have made it possible for the Foundation to ‘pay it forward.’”

This grant will provide local churches with the necessary equipment to keep everyone safe during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Hand sanitizer, cleaning supplies and face masks will be distributed to all 635 United Methodist Churches in Arkansas over the next few weeks.

Bishop Gary Mueller of the Arkansas Conference 

Bishop Gary Mueller, who is on the Governor’s Economic Recovery Task Force shared how thankful he is for these grants.

“We are doing everything we can do to equip our local churches to open their doors for in-person events when the timing is right. We have provided our own guidance tools that reflect the guidelines from the CDC, Governor Hutchinson’s office and the Arkansas Department for Health. Without this grant from the Methodist Foundation for Arkansas, many of our churches would not be able to secure the appropriate supplies needed to open their doors. We are extremely grateful.”

200,000 Reasons Receives $10,000 Grant 

In addition, the Methodist Foundation for Arkansas has announced the awarding of a $10,000 grant to 200,000 Reasons, the Arkansas Conference initiative to end childhood hunger in the state.

Through this grant, 200,000 Reasons is offering grants of up to $1,000 for food and meal distribution ministries that are finding a greater demand for food during the pandemic. In addition, the grant award can be used to provide safety items to clients of a UMC feeding ministry, including masks, supplies to make masks, hand sanitizer, and/or other disinfectant items as well as print resources about COVID-19 and safety measures.

To apply for the grant, visit https://arumc.wufoo.com/forms/feeding-ministries-response-to-covid19-grants/. The deadline for grant applications is May 31. Additional questions can be sent to Mary Lewis Dassinger, Project Coordinator of 200,000 Reasons at mdassinger@arumc.org.

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The Arkansas Conference of the United Methodist Church is one of the 54 annual conferences that make up the United Methodist Church in the United States. Founded in 2003, the Conference, as part of the South Central Jurisdiction of the United Methodist Church, is responsible for coordinating more than 600 United Methodist churches and over 300 clergy throughout Arkansas to fulfill its trajectory “to make disciples of Jesus Christ, who make disciples equipped and sent to transform lives, communities and the world.” The Conference also supports a number of United Methodist-affiliated ministries in the state of Arkansas. For more information, visit arumc.org.