First of all, thank you for your faithfulness in following our California-Pacific Conference guidelines and closing your sanctuaries to all in-person public worship services. Safety has to be our number one concern right now, and your patience has helped to lessen the spread of the virus. Thank you!
We have heard from our federal, as well as some state and county officials, that it is safe to return to in-person public worship. But, as your Resident Bishop, I disagree with this assessment.
I care so much for your safety that, if even one person is infected with the virus by prematurely opening our in-person places of worship, this would not be worth the risk. Therefore, I am declaring that our in-person public gathering worship services shall remain closed and our vibrant virtual worship offerings remain open until a detailed local church plan of re-opening is drafted and submitted to your District Superintendent and approved, even if your state, county or city has approved reopening. This also applies to outside worshipping groups who may rent your facility. Please remember: we never closed our churches! We simply moved to a different way of doing church.
I realize that this is disappointing news for some of you who have yearned to be back in person with your local worshipping community. I am appealing to you to be patient until that point at which we have deemed it to be safe to return to in-person worship. I am praying that this will not be a prolonged period and that we will see the number of new cases and deaths of COVID-19 diminishing in your area. A more detailed criteria and process will be outlined this coming week, so please look for this information during May 25-31, 2020.
The most important reason for in-person worship to remain closed is to do no harm and keep everyone safe. Yet, another reason to delay opening is that I have checked with our Chancellor and annual conference insurance representatives and what I learned was that any church who violates this directive is subject to being fully liable for those who may contract COVID-19. This means that the pastor and lay leadership would be legally responsible for such a liability. This is the reason that I am taking on the responsibility of declaring that we will not reopen our public in-person worship services without the proper safeguards and guidelines that will ensure everyone’s safety. If you need to blame anyone for not allowing you to reopen public worship, I accept this as my responsibility.
For any direct questions or counsel, please contact your District Superintendent. If you need to talk this over with me, feel free to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Let me close with a prayer to our Gracious God in whom, “we live and move and have our being…”
Gracious God: We ask for your divine presence and leading during this critical time period of the world wide pandemic. We pray for healing for those who have contracted COVID-19 and for those who have lost loved ones. We ask for patience and trust in your divine view, and mercy on our leaders, clergy and laity who must make difficult decisions. May your divine values of love, compassion, and care lead us to make the best decisions for our churches and communities. In Christ’s name we ask this. Amen.
Be the Hope,
Bishop Grant J. Hagiya
Los Angeles Area Resident Bishop