COVID-19 -- Updates & Resources

News Article August 9, 2021

UPDATED 8/8/2021:

Updated masking recommendation:
Due to the increasing Covid-19 spread verified by the data revealed on the CDC’s Community Transmission Map (see below), the Bishop and Cabinet are strongly recommending the wearing of masks at all indoor ministry activities, including worship.  We also recommend that pastors and church leaders consider offering outdoor worship and alternative ministry activities to protect children and other vulnerable persons.
 
County Transmission Data
Beginning Aug. 6, 2021, NCDHHS will transition to using the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s COVID-19 Community Transmission Map to monitor COVID-19 activity in North Carolina counties. This map is updated daily and uses a combination of total cases per 100,000 population and percent positivity in the last 7 days to measure the level of community transmission in counties. Key metrics from the CDC and North Carolina are showing increasing COVID-19 spread. Getting vaccinated as quickly as possible is critically important to slow the spread of the virus.
 
CDC guidance recommends that everyone wear a mask in all indoor public spaces if you live in areas of high or substantial levels of transmission as defined by the CDC Community Transmission Map until more people are vaccinated and viral transmission decreases. As of Aug. 4, that is 98 out of 100 counties.
 
The data in the CDC map should be used by individuals, businesses and community organizations, and public officials as a tool to understand how their county is faring and to make decisions about actions to take to slow the spread of the virus.
 
There are critical actions we can all take to slow the spread of COVID-19, regardless of the level of community transmission in your county. Individuals, businesses, community organizations, and public officials all have a responsibility to take these recommended actions, in addition to following the requirements in existing Executive Orders and NCDHHS guidance.
 
Counties in high and substantial areas of COVID transmission according the CDC need to do even more to slow the spread of COVID-19 in their communities; counties should encourage vaccination and follow all CDC and NCDHHS guidance for slowing the spread of COVID-19.

 
 



UPDATED 8/2/2021:

With the Delta Variant becoming the most dominant Coronavirus strain in the United States, The CDC and Governor Cooper have issued new guidance regarding masks, particularly for children under 12 and others who are unvaccinated.
 
Our vital churches are blessed with the presence of multiple generations, and regard for the vulnerable is crucial. Please bring your children’s ministry team into your decision-making processes and protocols, in addition to your Trustees.

 

  1. The Bishop and Cabinet remain committed to our biblical mandate to “love our neighbors as ourselves” and our Wesleyan call to “do no harm.” Ministry encompasses not only worship but also fellowship events, mission activities, study groups, and age-level gatherings.  The well-being of our children, youth, and vulnerable populations still needs to be considered with love and care in all areas of congregational life.  Please take into consideration those who cannot be vaccinated because of age and/or pre-existing conditions when establishing safety guidelines for your local church. 
 
  1. We encourage persons to be vaccinated and respect the fact that some cannot be vaccinated because they are immunocompromised. 
 
  1. We encourage the wearing of masks at all indoor ministry activities, including worship, because of the current rise in positive test results and hospitalizations, the reports of fully vaccinated persons contracting the Delta variant, and the possibility of Covid transmission by persons who have been vaccinated.
 
  1. To protect our children, we strongly recommend you consider the following in your ministries with children:
  • Requiring all students, volunteers, staff, and visitors to wear a mask over their nose and mouth while on church property or engaged in off-site children’s ministry activities.
  • Strongly recommend that volunteers be fully vaccinated, and that churches implement symptom screening for each volunteer before the gathering.
  • Try to use outdoor spaces a much as possible.
  • Limit the consumption of snacks during an event and use individually packed items.
 
  1. One size does not fit all.  Decisions appropriate for your church setting should be made by a team of shared leadership. We encourage your Transition Teams to collaborate and communicate well.
 
  1. Please continue to use the NC County Alert System and County Vaccination Percentage as a part of your decision-making data regarding masks, social distancing, and gathering limits for indoor worship and all ministries for adults and youth.

 


UPDATED 5/18/2021:

Good afternoon Catawba Valley District,

The CDC and Governor Cooper have issued new guidance regarding masks, social distancing, and mass gathering limits for those who have been fully vaccinated
 
In response, we offer these recommendations.  One size does not fit all.  Decisions appropriate for your church setting should be made by a team of shared leadership. Our vital churches are blessed with the presence of multiple generations, and regard for the vulnerable is crucial. Most services welcome children and youth, most of whom have not been offered a vaccine yet. Please bring your children’s ministry team and your youth ministry team into your decision-making processes and protocols, in addition to your Trustees. We encourage your Transition Teams to collaborate and communicate well.
 

  1. The Bishop and Cabinet remain committed to our biblical mandate to “love our neighbors as ourselves” and our Wesleyan call to “do no harm.” Ministry encompasses not only worship but also fellowship events, mission activities, study groups, and age-level gatherings.  The well-being of our children, youth, and vulnerable populations still needs to be considered with love and care in all areas of congregational life.  Please take into consideration those who cannot be vaccinated because of age and/or pre-existing conditions when establishing safety guidelines for your local church. 
  1. We encourage persons to be vaccinated and respect the fact that some cannot be vaccinated because they are immunocompromised. 
  1. We believe it is appropriate for local churches to follow the CDC guidance and make mask wearing optional for those who have been fully vaccinated.  Fully vaccinated is defined as being two weeks after the last dose of the vaccine. 
  1. It is also very appropriate for some churches to continue to require masks for everyone knowing that some persons are not able to be vaccinated. 
  1. Making masks optional requires trust.  Churches should consider providing caution zones where people who want to wear masks can do so. 
  1. We do encourage continuing to maintain social distance of three to six feet in between different households in indoor worship and fellowship activities. 
  1. CDC guidance also indicates that fully vaccinated persons can sing in a choral group.  However, wearing masks should be recommended for congregational singing.
  1. Food, snacks, and drinks should be served by masked and gloved individuals.  Until the vaccination percentage increases, buffet lines are discouraged.
  1. Please continue to use the NC County Alert System and County Vaccination Percentage in making decisions regarding masks, social distancing, and gathering limits.
  1. The following graphic may also be helpful in making decisions for your local church and community.

 

UPDATED 3/24/2021:


Yesterday, Governor Cooper issued a further easing of Covid-19 restrictions.  The Bishop and Cabinet remain committed to our biblical mandate to “love our neighbors as ourselves” and our Wesleyan call to “do no harm.”  

We celebrate that percentages of positive test results and hospitalizations continue to show improvement while vaccine distribution increases. However, we are also aware that people across our conference are still losing loved ones due to this virus.  Thus, we continue to recommend that all local churches and other ministries follow the guidance of the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as they make decisions about indoor worship, small groups, and other gatherings.

Using Governor Cooper’s Executive Order No. 204 as a guide, the Bishop and Cabinet make these specific recommendations:

·         For those churches whose counties are not in the “red,” indoor worship may be considered using a limit of 50% capacity as long as social distancing can be maintained. Masks must be worn throughout the service.  The recommendation for not having a full choir remains in effect.  Humming or quiet singing by the congregation with their masks on is acceptable.

 

·         A 50-person limit should be maintained for all other gatherings inside the church building.  Please continue to socially distance and wear masks at these events as well.

 

·         Due to the complex nature of food service that increases risk, we continue to discourage indoor congregational meals or refreshments.  Let us be patient in restarting fellowship gatherings with food in order to continue to keep people safe.

As we continue to journey to the cross and then celebrate Jesus’ resurrection, may we give thanks for all those who are working tirelessly to give vaccinations, and may we be mindful of the over 500,000 persons in the United States who have lost their lives during this pandemic and keep all of those who mourn their loss in prayer.

FAQ for Executive Order 204

 

 
UPDATE 11/18/2020:

Yesterday, Governor Cooper released a new COVID-19 County Alert System to give individuals, businesses, community organizations, and public officials another tool to understand the community spread in their county and to make decisions about actions to slow the spread of the virus.
 
The Bishop and Cabinet urge pastors and church leaders to use this system to monitor their county and to reconsider their decision to hold indoor worship, particularly if their county is “red”.  
 
All local churches are asked to use extreme caution in response to the recent rapid spread of the virus.
 
We thank the United Methodists across western North Carolina for “loving their neighbor” by doing all that they can do to limit the spread of COVID-19. 
 
 
 


As faithful disciples of Jesus Christ in the midst of our response to the COVID-19 pandemic, we remain committed to our biblical mandate to “love our neighbors as ourselves” and our Wesleyan call to “Do no harm. Do all the good we can. Follow the ordinances (stay in love) with God.” In doing so, we seek ways to engage faithfully in worship, study, and ministry while ensuring the health and safety of our members and communities.
 
With the October 2 move to Phase 3, the Bishop and Cabinet make the following recommendations:

Worship
  • We recommend that if you choose to return to indoor worship, you limit attendance (including all worship leaders and tech assistants) to 30% capacity or 100 congregants, whichever is less.  Masks and social distancing should be mandatory.
    • If you offer indoor worship, continue online or conference call options for vulnerable persons for whom it is not safe to come to the church building.
    • Continue hosting online, drive-in, or outdoor worship services while following CDC, NCDHHS (state), and local guidelines, including handwashing, wearing masks, and observing physical distancing rules as appropriate.
    • Most experts recommend no congregational or full choir singing. (See chart on the back of this document)
Preschools, Children & Youth
  • Generally, most of our preschools, childcare, children and youth ministries follow public school guidance. We urge you to stay current as to the plan of your local school system. The CDC and NCDHHS have guidelines for the reopening of preschools and childcare facilities.
    • Maintain 25 maximum with social distancing and masks for any indoor groups.
    • Outside children and youth activities are an option.
    • Consider creative online, mailed or no-touch drop-off children and youth activity options to keep children and youth engaged, making sure to honor the On-Line Safety section of the Safe Sanctuaries Policy.
Mission & Outreach
  • All outreach to vulnerable populations (food distribution ministries, homeless, etc.) should be done with appropriate physical distance and sanitation practices, including no sit-down meals until public gatherings are safe.
Church Staff
  • Working remotely or on a staggered schedule is recommended.
  • If staff (paid or unpaid) work on-site, you must use the guidelines for size of gatherings, social distancing, masks, gloves, etc. Their presence on-site should be done with minimal overlap. We recommend a daily health-screening and temperature check for on-site staff and volunteers. (Legal and Liability Issues)
Disciple Formation
  • Groups should meet online as much as possible.
  • Indoor meetings should be 25 or less and must follow Safe Sanctuaries policies and all CDC Guidelines for physical distancing.  Only prepackaged food should be served or shared during these gatherings.
Leadership Teams & Committees
  • Groups should meet online as much as possible.
  • Indoor meetings should be 25 or less and must follow Safe Sanctuaries policies and all CDC Guidelines for physical distancing. Only prepackaged food should be served or shared during these gatherings.
Funerals
  • Use same guidelines as for WORSHIP
  • Discourage reception or greeting line.
  • No bulletins.
  • No congregational singing.
  • Online streaming of service for others to participate virtually is encouraged.
Weddings
  • Use same guidelines as for WORSHIP
  • Consider an outdoor reception or greeting of guests of no more than 50 persons. Seated indoor receptions should be limited to the lesser of 100 people or 30% of the stated fire capacity. (No standing indoor receptions or buffet lines.)
  • No bulletins.
  • No congregational singing.
  • Online streaming of service for others to participate virtually is encouraged.

 
For further information on recommended safety measures for indoor worship, please refer to pages 4ff in the Guidelines for In-Person Worship & Ministry during Covid-19 and to this Toolkit from the NCDHHS.
 
Levels of Risk


 
 
  
 
 
From: https://www.bmj.com/content/370/bmj.m3223 . As you read this article, it is helpful to remember that 1m = 3 feet 3.37 inches and that 7-8 m is approximately 23-26 feet.



 



Download the Guidelines for In-Person Worship & Ministry During COVID-19 - Updated September 4, 2020

Find additional resources for continued ministry and church operations during COVID-19 here

 

 

 

Conference and District Offices are closed but working remotely. The best way to reach  our  District staff is by email (see our district home page), or by calling our main office number (704-865-3580). 


Message from Bishop Leeland 
 

Conference and District Event Cancellations:

Virtual / Online / Live-Streaming / Communication Resources:

  • Virtual Ministry Resources at wnccumc.org - Your ministry can and should continue through this season of social distancing due to the COVID-19 virus. This page is a comprehensive and growing list of links to help you!

  • Social Media Resources - Courtney Guadagno, Director of Communications & Technology at Christ UMC in Greensboro, is sharing tips and resources as you look at using social media for your local church.

  • Church Development Offers Assistance for Streaming Worship & Online Giving - In order to facilitate continued worship during this time, our Western NC Conference Church Development office is offering the resources to help churches transition to online streaming and online giving.

  • Help People Find Your Livestream - Join our conference Virtual Church List. We're compiling a list of churches who are utilizing livestreaming to continue ministry to their communities (and the community at large!) during this time of social distancing. You're livestreaming your services, studies, and even bedtime stories, and we want to join you!

  • Ten Tips for Meeting Online - Nice little article from a virtual church group...basics of hospitality and community as you meet online in settings like ZOOM, etc.

  • The Fellowship of United Methodists in Music and Worship Arts has launched a crowdsourced Pandemic Response Worship Resourcing page. Great information and resources for worship leaders who are rapidly adapting to offering worship experiences online.

  • OneLicense.Net - Creative Solutions to Growing Concerns - COVID-19 - Licensing for online use of music and hymns. Should soon have the full recording of a webinar shared on March 19, 2020.
     

Online Giving Resources:

  • Getting Started with Online Giving: Resources from WNCC Treasury Services and WNCC United Methodist Foundation - As churches continue to meet online, WNCC Treasury Services and the United Methodist Foundation have produced this resource that provides several options for online giving.  While many of our churches already have online giving procedures in place, we know many do not. We hope these options will prove helpful for you.

  • Electronic Recurring Giving: Needed Now More Than Ever! - An EXCELLENT recorded webinar by Discipleship Ministries done on March 19, 2020. Slides & downloadable resources are available to help you move your church forward on electronic recurring giving.
     

Missional Network / Community Resources:

Bible Study / Additional Resources:

  • The Passions of Jesus, a six-week, video-driven Lenten study developed by the Western North Carolina Conference of the United Methodist Church, is now available for download.

  • Amplify Media: Amplify is a streaming service from UMPH/Cokesbury that offers resources for all ages. They offer a free 14--day trial for their full library, but everyone can view a limited library of free resources right now. Included are Adam Hamilton's UnafraidDeep Blue Spring 2020, Adult Bible Studies Spring 2020 and selections from their Lent 2020 catalog. Read more here.
     

Thoughts for Leaders:

 

United Methodist Church Resources:

Use of Church Facilities by Outside Groups during COVID-19: