Letter regarding in-person gatherings from Bishop Hutterer & Synod Council Executive Committee
April 28, 2020
Disciples of Christ in the Grand Canyon Synod,
Christ is risen! Christ is risen, indeed! Alleluia!
As we journey through this Easter season, I am beginning to hear the question: when can we gather again?
In the midst of changing restriction policies across the three states of our synod, when and how will we worship in person as church? Some ask with concern, hoping that we not gather in person too soon. Others ask with excitement, because they miss the face-to-face community.
As of this date:
• In Arizona, Governor Ducey’s, “Stay home, Stay healthy, Stay connected” is in effect until April 30.
• In Nevada, Governor Sisolak’s stay at-home order is in effect until April 30.
• There are no statewide stay-at-home policies in effect in Utah. Changes to local policies are being considered within the context of nationally recommended protocols.
While we desire to return to something “normal,” science and medicine remind us that the reopening of our country, states, and communities will include a progression of steps, leading to a new life rhythm for all of us. Many protocols currently encouraged—including remaining home unless necessary, social distancing, and the wearing of masks in public—will need to remain in effect for the time being.
It’s important to recognize that the only reason the rate of infections has begun to plateau, or even lessen, is because we have adhered to these protocols. We make these sacrifices for the sake of caring for our neighbor and out of consideration for the most vulnerable among us. Thank you for doing that. We know it has not been easy. However, now is NOT the time for us to lessen our caution, lest there be a second wave of infection, perhaps worse than the first.
For this reason, and based on the information available to us at this time, we —your Bishop and Synod Council Executive Committee—strongly recommend that no in-person gatherings be held by congregations or ministries in our synod through at least the end of May. Towards the end of next month, we will assess the situation and update this recommendation. It is very likely there will be continued restrictions on our ability to gather through much of the summer, if not into the fall.
As always, we encourage you to pay close attention to advice from the CDC and local public health officials.
We are church together and we know this is hard. We have before us a choice as Christ’s Church. We can endure the next month and beyond, and weep about what we have lost in our life as church. Or, as we give attention to our grief, we can also live into the invitation to trust that the Holy Spirit is making things new in ways we may not clearly see at this moment.
Knowing that we may have these many months before us, we can explore new dimensions for how to be church in this time. We can expand the ways we use technology and other resources to foster authentic community. We can partner within conferences and geographic areas to support each other. We can celebrate those who may never have set foot in our churches, or those who left our churches, and how they have been listening to online offerings as they long for Good News. We can experiment with new ways to embody Christ’s love for those most impacted by this pandemic. We can continue to ask what it means to meet and serve our neighbors and world at a time when we can’t be with them in person.
In short, we have burned the canoes. Together, we are walking through the mountains. We walk with the Holy Spirit’s promise that we will become the church God intends us to be. God always provides ways when living through challenging and chaotic circumstances. Let us embrace this opportunity to respond with faith, hope, and openness to trust the Spirit is leading—trusting that nothing is ever wasted in God’s economy, not even during a pandemic. This is the time for us to rise from a posture of emergency operations and pivot into one of creating and investing in vital ways of being church in this new season.
As we move forward together Communicating Jesus, Connecting People and Creating Possibilities, there are both short-term and longer-term steps we will need to consider.
Let’s learn together through this time, sharing best practices and new ideas, confident that the God who created us in love and binds us together as Christ’s Church and will lead us every step of the way.
Christ is risen! Christ is risen, indeed. Alleluia.
Rev. Deborah K. Hutterer, Bishop
Mr. Erik Rehms, Treasurer
Mr. Roger Bailey, Executive Committee
Ms. Sue Jensen, Executive Committee
Mr. Paul Gryniewicz, Vice-President
Rev. David Brandfass, Secretary
Ms. Barbara Carl, Executive Committee