Recommendations from Bishop Mike Rinehart as of May 27, 2020
We have known for some time that churches are essential. We also know that we don’t have to be in the building to be the church. Billy Sunday once said something to this effect: “Sitting in church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than sitting in a garage makes you a car.” We have not stopped being the church during this pandemic. If anything, we have been refocusing what it means to be the church and to love our neighbors. Thank you for your ongoing ministry.
Congregations are busy planning what must be done to hold in-person worship, and watching the cases and fatalities in their area to prayerfully determine the “hows” and the “whens”. There are many resources on the gulfcoastsynod.org website to aid you in discernment. As you think about restarting in-person worship, here are some things congregations have found helpful:
- The ELCA Considerations for Returning to In-person Worship in English and Spanish. These guidelines recommend waiting until Phase 2 (as determined by White House guidelines or state and local before inviting people back into your building. This is prudent council.
- Guidelines for Coming Back Together as a Congregation English or Español.
- Coming Back Together for Worship Resources that can be found here.
- The letter from May 6, 2020 includes some updated recommendations for returning to in-person worship.
I hope you will use Presiding Bishop Eaton’s sermon for Trinity Sunday June 7, 2020. The video will be available to view and download on May 31 at YouTube.com/ELCA and Vimeo.com/ELCA. Bishop Eaton will read the gospel appointed for this day prior to the sermon. Local decisions can be made to use the reading on the video or invite another person to read the gospel instead. This is a remarkable opportunity for our Presiding Bishop to do something that has never been done: to preach in most of our congregations on one Sunday. If you can’t use the sermon this Sunday, consider using it another Sunday in June. Bishop Mike and the Bishop’s Associates weekly sermons through May 24, 2020 – are available HERE.
Louisiana Governor Edwards has given permission for businesses and houses of worship to move into Phase 1 starting Friday May 15, 2020 in Louisiana. Just because we can does not mean we should. This is not a mandate to open. The New Orleans’ Mayor has agreed to Phase 1, but with tighter restrictions. Information regarding Outdoor Religious Services Guidelines and what type of businesses can be open has been provided. For more information from the State of Louisiana click here. Additional resources are available here or by clicking Local, US, and World Updates from the menu below.
Texas Governor Abbot has launched Open Texas – where you can find the Open Texas Checklists and schedules for opening that are regularly updated. May 7, 2020 the executive order establishes the Minimum Standard Health Protocols for COVID-19. This section is a specific Updated – Checklist for Churches/Places of Worship. For more information from the State of Texas click here. Additional resources are available here or by clicking Local, US, and World Updates from the menu below.
Sermons by the Bishop and Bishop’s Associates for the month of May are available here. Please feel free to borrow from these sermons or use the videos, dropping them into your livestream.
If you are a pastor or deacon and test positive for coronavirus, please notify the synod office as soon as possible. We need to know, and we may be able to help you get pastoral coverage.
Think about finances with your leaders. Promote online giving (for example, check out Tithely) or sending tithes and offerings in by mail. Have a frank conversation about finances with your members. Churches have salaries, mortgages, utilities and ministries to maintain. Think about best financial practices, including who will process checks that arrive by mail, always in groups of two or more. We recommend that you have an offering time in your online services us the time to share impact stories of your congregation’s essential ministries.
~ 1 Corinthians 12:20-22a