Dear Florida Conference Clergy and Laity:
We are praying for each of you as we enter into the days of Holy Week and Easter, the celebration of the Resurrection.
As the Governor has issued a safer at home order for the state of Florida for the next 30 days, we offer the following updates:
- We urge all churches to not hold public worship services through the end of April. Church is not canceled, but will use virtual platforms as you have been doing. We applaud your creative efforts! We invite you to fully engage with people through technology, and the Conference has supported this work through mini-grants for this purpose and coaching to learn basic skills
- We ask you to abide by the spirit and law of this safer at home order. Encourage people to limit all activities outside of their home to only those things that are deemed essential. We love our neighbors as we seek to model what it means to flatten the curve. We know that some of you have already lost people in your churches from this virus. We stay home with hope that it will save lives. We are praying for all our people who are on the front lines of this pandemic.
- Many of you have asked what exceptions can be made since religious services are deemed as essential in the safer at home order. We ask you to practice shared leadership and be in consultation with your local officials and your district superintendent. If a handful of people need to go to church to record/stream services, this is acceptable as long as strict social distancing is practiced. It should involve as few people as necessary and stay within the state and federal guidelines. One or two staff or volunteers may need to occasionally ensure that essential financial matters are handled. According to CDC guidelines, a small gathering of less than ten people practicing social distancing is appropriate at a graveside service. Food pantries and ministries can continue in limited safe ways. Limited childcare services that follow the guidelines are permitted. We discourage drive in worship services, as the numbers often exceed the recommendations of safety.
- Bishop Carter has recorded a sermon for Easter, entitled “Easter, COVID-19 and the Contradiction of Resurrection Faith.” It can be shared with your local church on Easter Sunday, and will be posted on the conference website that morning. To request a link to the sermon click here.
- We encourage all who are able to continue to give generously to the work of God through your local church. This is especially important during the month of April.
For a substantial list of resources related to COVID-19 and the mission of our churches, please click here.
We also wanted to give you an update on our Annual Conference meeting scheduled for June. The Cabinet and planning team have decided to make our June meeting virtual. We will share reports online and gather for a few hours virtually on Saturday morning June 6th in order to care for essential items of business (i.e. clergy session, budget, leadership nominations, etc.). Details will be forthcoming. We are also planning an in person gathering on Saturday, September 19th in Lakeland to recognize our retiring clergy, share in our memorial service, and celebrate commissioning and ordinations. The September gathering will not be required but all are welcome to attend. Please mark your calendars now for this significant event.
The epidemiological models describe this as a very difficult month for the state of Florida and the nation. We find hope, peace and reassurance in Jesus Christ. We draw strength from his presence in our lives, and in our connection with each other.
May the peace of God, which surpasses all human understanding, be with you in these days.
Bishop Carter and the Florida Cabinet