Bishop and Cabinet request North Alabama Conference United Methodist Churches continue the suspension of in-person worship services and gatherings until at least May 18 and possibly later. Postponement of 2020 North Alabama Annual Conference until August 16-17.
I am so grateful for the amazing ways in which clergy and laity of the North Alabama Conference are responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. Many of our United Methodist Churches have adjusted to the “sheltering-at-home” situation by offering on-line worship services, Bible studies, Sunday School classes and small group meetings. Others are enjoying conference call or drive-in worship services. Meetings are happening by conference calls, Google Meet, Zoom and other platforms. Children and youth ministries are occurring through creative and innovative approaches. Pastoral care is being offered in safe and intentional ways by clergy and laity alike. Churches continue to reach out to their communities through food banks and collaboration with community agencies while simultaneously practicing social distancing and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) health guidelines. And there is so much more.
That brings me to two important updates that have been prayerfully discerned by the Cabinet, other Conference leadership and me. Both of these updates are based on the priority of the health and safety of our members and others as our state moves toward reopening businesses that were closed to mitigate COVID-19.
- The Cabinet and I request that all North Alabama Conference churches continue the suspension of in-person worship services and gatherings until at least May 18. As the coronavirus situation in our state and country continues to unfold, it is possible that we will extend this to a later date.
We are assessing the situation week-by-week to determine when it is safe to resume worship services, using as guidance the wisdom of our local, state and national health authorities. Thank you for understanding that this request to continue suspending in-person worship services and gatherings is made out of concern for the health of our community and church members.
- The North Alabama Conference is postponing the 2020 Annual Conference session scheduled for May 31 through June 2 at the Von Braun Center in Huntsville, Alabama. The meeting will instead be held on August 16 & 17, 2020, at the same location. We have determined that hosting a shorter, two-day Annual Conference at the Von Braun Center in Huntsville is the most responsible and considerate choice for our laity, clergy, churches and conference in light of current health and financial uncertainties. More specific information will be sent soon to clergy and laity who attend Annual Conference.
We pray that by August everyone's efforts to curb the pandemic will have been effective. We will continue to follow the guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and the Alabama Department of Health as we look toward this new date.
The Cabinet, Annual Conference Planning Team and other Conference leaders are being proactive with contingency planning in the event that it is not safe to gather in large groups by August. We not only will be prepared to adjust the date once again if necessary but are also exploring a variety of possible ways to safely conduct the business of the Annual Conference and resource our churches if August large group gatherings are deemed by health authorities to be unsafe.
I am thankful for how our clergy and churches are “pivoting” together to continue to provide quality ministry and share Jesus Christ during this challenging pandemic. Our resiliency says much about our faith in Christ and commitment to the transformation of the world. Though for now, we are unable to safely gather in person on-site, we continue to be the church in meaningful and powerful ways.
As always it is a privilege to serve as your bishop.
North Alabama Conference