A Letter from Bishop Benfield
COVID-19, as nefarious as it is, has had at least one positive effect: it is bringing out the best of the people in our churches. I am hearing stories of outreach ministries, such as feeding programs, that continue to operate under new and challenging circumstances, and I know that our members are making concerted efforts to contact all the people connected with our churches with a deliberateness that I have never before seen. Thank you so much for being the church even when church buildings are not the focus of our church lives.
The diocesan Executive Council met Tuesday, and we talked about the concerns that we have—and I am sure that man of you have as well. I am also trying to stay in touch with the clergy and the primary lay contacts in all our congregations. Let me share a couple of items with you.
Tuesday, the focus of my email to clergy was how to prepare for Holy Week and Easter, as well as how to focus on pastoral issues, such as how funerals might take place when we are being required to stay distant from one another. It is a situation that we will indeed face.
The focus of my email this week to church offices is how the day-to-day business of the church can continue in uncertain times. We are working as hard as we can to discover how legislation being passed by Congress might help churches keep employees paid if absences from work are required. We want to make certain that congregations have the money necessary to pay needed bills. And we want to be sure that our buildings are kept safe and secure even when people are not in them every day.
I am sure that that there will be more challenges in the coming days. We have confidence, though, that the love of God will get us through these times as we remain concerned for others and creative in our responses to whatever it is that this situation throws at us. The church has been through tougher times than these in its two-thousand-year history, and it still has a witness. And it will continue to do so long after this epidemic is over.
Bishop of Arkansas
An Update from Bishop Benfield
All of us continue to struggle with appropriate responses to the presence of COVID-19 among us, a situation that is taking us into uncharted territory as a church. I am not certain how long this virus will remain virulent among us, but I am certain that as Christians, the second Great Commandment should undergird the responses we make: “love your neighbor as yourself.” In this challenging time, we should find ways to love rather than fear, share rather than hoard.
I want us to take actions that show our concern for others, by both responding to their needs and taking actions that protect us from accidentally infecting others. Here are some pastoral steps you can take:
Your congregation needs to take the following specific actions:
Read the entire update.
What It Means and How We Do It
If you haven't already learned the phrase "flatten the curve," it refers to efforts to slow down the rate of spread of COVID-19 so that hospitals and health care services won't be overwhelmed all at once but rather can deal with new cases over an extended period of time. We flatten the curve by slowing transmission and spread by canceling public gatherings, staying at home if at all possible, and maintaining a safe distance between yourself and others if you must go out.