We are all interested, and even anxious, to see how our state and nation are going to begin to re-open in the coming days as we come out of this lock-down. Will we be safe? Will the economy revive and re-energize? And I know that you are interested too in seeing how the church is going to begin to re-emerge and re-open.

We have had a strong online presence through our worship and children's church online, Facebook Live messages and other postings, and increased email and postal mail communication. Our student (youth) ministry, church committees and some small groups and classes have been meeting via ZOOM. We've learned how to do some things that we hope will continue as part of our ongoing ministry after this is all over.

From the start of this, there has been the need for constant willingness to change and adapt. That same flexibility will be essential as we think about a transition to a new phase.

Yesterday, we received an email from our Bishop, Julius Trimble, with his latest direction for re-opening the United Methodist Churches in Indiana. I have attached his email so you can read it for yourself. He writes that he and the leaders advising him believe it is wise for churches "to plan in-person worship no sooner than June 14."

At first, for many of us, this may seem to run against the grain of what the state of Indiana, and other states, are doing to gradually allow the opening of businesses, including churches. But seeing the estimates for the rise in infection rates and deaths as the states re-open, and knowing of our Bishop's love for the people of Indiana and his concern for our health and safety, I can understand how he would recommend the latest reasonable time to return to church for in-person worship.

One of my concerns is similarly the health and safety of the members and friends of Southport United Methodist Church, and I have no desire to return to in-person worship before we are ready.

The Bishop has suggested that his recommendation is not a "one-size-fits-all" for churches and that each church must discern its own plan. His language allows some latitude for the outside possibility that a church might decide it is ready to re-open before the Bishop's recommended date. While I do not foresee that happening here at Southport UMC, we will have that conversation with the Bishop and District Superintendent in coming days if that seems appropriate.

Our staff has been working diligently on a Plan to Re-Open, whenever that is.

For now, we should consider that we will continue with our current format of online worship and other forms of staying connected until at least June 14. Even when we return to in-person worship, we must all be prepared for the fact that it will still be some time before we return to the kind of interaction with each other that we were used to before the Coronavirus.

I will keep you posted on all the latest developments. We will figure it out and move forward together.

Grace and Hope to you,

Pastor Duane

** Click here for a link to the Bishop's message.