From the Bishop & Cabinet: Church Matters

10/19/2020

Dear South Georgia Conference Family,

The Cabinet and I write to you with gratitude and respect for the way you have navigated the past eight months. The global pandemic, reckoning with racial justice, and the rolling restart of local churches - any one of those alone would be a huge challenge. Yet, you have faced them all with a perseverance and passion that comes from Christ our Lord. 

While we continue to pray for a successful vaccine, we also recognize that we must plan for several more months of this unprecedented season. You already know that Thanksgiving, Advent, and Christmas will be different in 2020. However, many of you are focusing on the question, “How can we reach more people than ever this year?”  The Holy Spirit is at work giving us fresh visions and dreams for ministry!

We draw your attention to the way John Wesley’s General Rules continue to provide the guidance we need:

1. First, do no harm.
Acting with an abundance of caution, you have helped lower the rate of infection by using masks, frequent hand washing, and appropriate distancing. Protocols are in place for sanitizing church buildings and providing safe movement for people. Some are offering services designed specifically for medically fragile persons. Thank you for continuing all of these best practices. 

2. Second, do all the good you can.
You have done this in a myriad of ways: adding online worship, Bible study, and prayer times; helping schools, hospitals, and nursing homes; and now you have resumed in-person worship and other gatherings based on your own awareness of conditions in your community. Close collaboration between pastors and lay leadership is absolutely essential to effectiveness in the local church. One important area for this collaboration is in addressing the question of what happens if a member of the church tests positive for the coronavirus.

3. Third, attend upon all the ordinances of God.
In addition to worship, Bible study, and prayer opportunities - both online and in-person - we have reacquainted ourselves with the early Methodist tradition of the Agape meal when Holy Communion is not feasible. With the resumption of in-person services, many churches are utilizing best practices to offer Communion in ways that reduce the likelihood of spreading infection. We commend the intentionality with which our clergy and laity are developing ways of serving Holy Communion that are safe and yet do not diminish the profound meaning of the sacrament. 

For all the interruptions and uncertainties of 2020, one thing emerges with great clarity: church matters. Local churches are the glue of every community. What you do makes a difference. Thanks be to God that you have been strategically placed to be an ambassador of Jesus Christ in such a time as this.

Alive Together at the Table,

Bishop R. Lawson Bryan & the South Georgia Cabinet