Bishop Jones Encourages Churches to be a Calm Presence as they Prepare for COVID19

Date Posted: 3/6/2020

By Lindsay Peyton - En Español

As coronavirus, or COVID-19, continues to spread around the globe, fears about the outbreak have also grown. Since the first diagnosis in China in December 2019, the virus has spread to 37 nations todate, including places where United Methodists reside. Bishop Scott J. Jones is asking congregations in the Texas Annual Conference to be aware and to take precautions – and to pray for individuals affected by COVID-19.
“I urge our leaders to be a calm presence, yet to also be prepared should a widespread outbreak affect our communities and local churches,” Bishop Jones said.
He encourages church leaders to prepare by completing the CDC Faith Based and Community Organization Pandemic Influenza Preparedness Checklist. 
In addition, Jones recommends that congregations consider in what form they can provide emotional and spiritual care for the sick. He also suggests that churches develop a plan in case worship services are interrupted. For example, he said that online worship and giving can always continue. Churches can also post resources on their websites for members.
“This is the time where we as United Methodists are reminded how important our responsibilities are as spiritual caretakers and to be partakers of accurate information,” the Bishop said. “As we pray and shepherd our churches during this time, please also remember our faithful and compassionate response to our sisters and brothers across the world.”
In the meantime, churches can consider ways to amend worship to make it safer during this time.For example, congregations can keep hand sanitizer onsite and think of alternatives to shaking hands or hugging across the pews.
Staying healthy is, after all, in the DNA of the UMC. John Wesley wrote both about physical and spiritual health. The Houston Methodist Hospital, a leader in medical care, is also preparing for the coronavirus.
Marc Boom, CEO of Houston Methodist Hospital, said that one of the most effective measures to combat a potential pandemic due to the COVID-19 virus is accurate and timely information.
“As health care workers we have a responsibility to educate ourselves on COVID-19 so that we can best serve our patients should illness from COVID-19 emerge in our community,” he said.
Houston Methodist has created an FAQ about coronavirus, and Phillips also suggests following the Centers for Disease Control guidelines.
Phillips said that, as of today, 11 states have confirmed cases of COVID-19.
“Remember to practice great hand hygiene,” he added.“Also encourage your friends and family to follow the CDC’s prevention recommendations such as washing your hands, covering your cough or sneeze and avoiding touching your face.”
There are a number of precautions to take, including:
  • Wash your hands often, with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Keep a distance socially, especially if someone is sneezing and coughing.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue, or even your elbow, when coughing or sneezing.
  • Get care immediately if you have a fever, cough or difficulty breathing. Try calling ahead for an appointment to limit exposure to others.
  • Stay informed. There are a number of reliable resources, including the WHONational Institutes of HealthCenters for Disease Control, and Global Health Tracker.
Staying calm is on top of the list, Bishop Jones added. He said that now is the time to assess and prepare in case an outbreak occurs in the Texas Annual Conference.
He added that feeling stressed is normal in a time of crisis. Talking to family, friends and church members can help. He asks that individuals maintain a healthy lifestyle – through nutrition, exercise and proper amounts of sleep.
On an international level, the UMChas helped with the crisis in China since early February, when the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) issued an emergency grant to Amity Foundation in Nanjing, China.
The grant immediately enabled infection, prevention and control (IPC) measures tolimit the spread of respiratory diseases in affected areas.Funding for all continued assistance is being provided through UMCOR’s Global Health fund.
To learn more,including ways to donate, visit

Resources for Spiritual Connection in a Time of Social Distancing

Additional Resources

Conference Call with Methodist Hospital
On Friday, Bishop Scott Jones joined Methodist Hospital CEO Dr. Marc Boom, Dr. Charles Millikan, other experts and many of our pastors for a conference call on the impact of COVID-19 and the steps we are taking as a conference to keep members informed and safe. Please take a moment to listen to the conversation and share.

Worship Planning and Design With Social Distancing Webinar (Rio Texas Conference)
COVID 19 Preparedness (Tennessee Conference)
Resources from UMC Discipleship
Worship and more:
·       Hymns in times of crisis
·       Articles from Discipleship Ministries  and
·       Financial Leaders
·       Hygiene and Communion
·       UMPH grants use of Book of Worship and (resources by seasons)
·       Worship beyond storms (prayers that can be modified)
·       Worship Series and Planning and
·       Resources for Children and Families
Communications / Online Worship:
·       Crisis Communications
·       Launch Online Experiences     and
·       Web Ministry Permissions
·       Communicating Changes in Worship
·       Web Ministry – Start & Sustaining it beyond the crisis

Children Ministry:

Online / Streaming Options :

How to share church closure and online worship options in an Emergency / Communication Practices:

Some congregations may have general cancellation policies for weather or emergencies.  Critical information includes timely communications.  The Administrative Council, Trustees, Single Board would normally develop it.  Here are a few general practices that can be modified for our current times:

·    Article about UMCOR support:
·    National Institutes of Health
·    World Health Organization (WHO)
·    Updates for Emory
·    Global health tracker
·    Vanderbilt Global Health Support and Emergency
·    The DM Library has past articles regarding swine flu and serving communion:
·    What to do in worship (2009):

Resources compiled and shared by Rev. Dr. Jacqui T. King and Discipleship Ministries