March 20, 2020
Dear IGRC family and friends,
The decision to suspend all in-person worship and gatherings in an effort to assist in halting the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) creates a new set of challenges for all of us. We really are building the bridge as we are walking across it. One new challenge we are facing is addressing ministry needs in contexts that are not the same as our traditional ways of doing ministry. Several of you have raised concerns regarding the Sacrament of Holy Communion. This letter will provide suggested guidelines that should prove helpful.
Please know that your Bishop, Conference Staff, District Superintendents, Administrative Assistants, and support staff are all available to assist and help. While we are available, we do want you to know that all in-person meetings at the Conference and District levels are either postponed or being held virtually. We strongly urge all of our IGRC churches to do the same.
During this unprecedented time of this coronavirus (COVID-19) global pandemic, the Church is needed more than ever. Each church and ministry have a unique opportunity to serve as conduits of grace, mercy, and love, as we do what Christ has commissioned us to do. God put us in our communities to offer Christ in crisis and to be a shining beacon of hope in the midst of these dark times.
As difficult as it is to suspend in-person worship and to practice social distancing, it is necessary to do so in an attempt to save lives. As we hear the news of increasing cases of infection throughout our state, it becomes more apparent that these measures will not end quickly. This means that churches need to plan creative ways to worship and share the good news. We give thanks for so many other ways for us to connect while being physically apart. The CHURCH has never been and will never be the buildings in which we worship.
By now you have heard the news that the Commission on General Conference has released a statement announcing the postponement of General Conference 2020. Please pray for Commission members as they work to schedule new dates. It is premature to make any decisions about our own Annual Conference at this point. I will be meeting next week, via teleconference, with our College of Bishops to discuss plans regarding the North Central Jurisdiction (NCJ) - Conference.
As you explore and use new technologies to engage in virtual worship, please ensure you are conducting your worship legally as there are some different laws for livestreaming. If you are uncertain and need direction, please contact the Conference Service Center. Remember that you can
provide pastoral care by phone calls, cards, and letters. You are encouraged to connect with members and with each other in as many ways as you can. Make sure that your church leaders develop a plan for your church to care for the community while practicing social distancing.
Please be reminded to encourage Christian stewardship and to make every effort to continue paying your church’s financial obligations. Urge your people to be faithful in giving and wise in spending.
Do not be afraid because the Lord IS with us and I’ve read the back of the book – WE WIN!
Bishop Frank J. Beard
Extending Christian Hospitality During the COVID-19 Crisis
(This is only to be viewed as temporary.)
The sacrament of holy communion is essential to Christian worship. Because of the pandemic that we are currently facing, and the limitations that it imposes, we are offering an alternative way to share in this means of grace. This virtual communion service is a symbolic way of allowing the body of Christ to share in the Lord’s Supper. This will allow people of your congregation and online community to participate in Holy Communion from their homes as you lead online worship. This, however, is not a license to continue this practice when life returns to normal. Within our Wesleyan heritage, we must remember the place of Elders, Deacons and Local Pastors licensed for sacerdotal (priestly) ministries.
Specific Guidelines for the Practice for Online Communion:
(It is the position of this Bishop, that this privilege is for a season and that there will be a return to traditional practices in accordance with our liturgy as soon as possible.)
Instructions for Leading Online Communion
“We believe the Sacraments, ordained by Christ, are symbols and pledges of the Christian’s profession and of God’s love toward us. They are means of grace by which God works invisibly in us, quickening, strengthening and confirming our faith in him.”
“We believe the Lord’s Supper is a representation of our redemption, a memorial of the sufferings and death of Christ, and a token of love and union which Christians have with Christ and with one another. Those who rightly, worthily and in faith eat the broken bread and drink the blessed cup partake of the body and blood of Christ in a spiritual manner until he comes.” The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church, Paragraph 104: Article VI – The Sacraments, pages 73-74.
With this in mind, people of your congregation and online community may participate in Holy Communion from their homes as you lead online worship.
Scriptural setting -
Holy Communion is celebrated in the context of worship. When you worship online, you are part of the context. When a Scriptural context has not been presented, read one of the following Scriptures, (Matthew 26:26-30; Mark 14:22-26; Luke 22:19-20; 1 Corinthians 11:23-29), along with the following directives:
The Confession and Pardon, as well as the consecration of the bread and the cup provides the opportunity for the whole community to participate in the broken body and shed blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. Please be sure to consecrate the elements prior to using.
The Holy Bible
The United Methodist Hymnal
Bishop Tracey Smith-Malone, East Ohio
Bishop Gregory V. Palmer, West Ohio