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Bishop Hagiya’s Update on Public Health (March 16, 2020)

We find ourselves in daily changing circumstances, and we want to thank all of our California-Pacific Conference clergy, laity and churches for remaining faithful, even as the ground shifts beneath us.

Ironically, even as we are being instructed by our local authorities to limit exposure and not meet in groups larger than 10, this is a time when people need the church and our Christian faith more than ever. We must find new ways to communicate and stay with our people, and this is when Christianity is at its very best: when dire circumstances force us to innovate and create new ways for us to share our faith.

Therefore, with these latest guidelines, we are instructing all of our churches in the California-Pacific Conference not to hold public worship services.

We firmly suggest that those over 65 years of age, or who have underlying health conditions, stay at home and not attend church worship services or meetings. We also suggest that church gatherings over 10 people not meet, and if you do meet for Bible study or meetings, that you allow a safe distance of 6 feet between people. We hope that you can livestream or use internet meetings (Zoom, WebEx, Skype, etc.) for worship, bible study, and church meetings. Multiple resources have already been shared with our clergy in local churches.  For questions or additional assistance, please call upon your District Superintendent or our Director of Communications and Innovation, James Kang (

For our clergy, we care about your safety.  But, this is larger than us as individuals, as we must ensure the safety of our congregations and shut-ins. We are recommending that you do not physically visit nursing homes or the elderly to limit their exposure, unless it is a close to death experience or hospice situation where they would like to see you. We recommend regular phone calls to all of our parishioners, and you can expand upon this to organize phone/email trees whereby church staff and leaders can connect regularly with your congregation.

We want to remind you that this is the time for non-anxious presence and a grounding in our faith in God in Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit. We need to be calm in the midst of the swirling storm around us, and assure people that God is here for us and will steady us. If you are afraid or unsure, please call us personally for prayer or counsel. We need to be more available to each other, even as we are limiting our physical presence due to the call for social isolation.

I will remind you that during the second great epidemic that ripped through the Roman Empire around 260 A.D. that Dionysius (Bishop of Alexandria) wrote in his Easter letter that non-Christians pushed sufferers away and fled to the country side in reasonable fear for their own lives. Christians, though, lived with an Easter conviction of another world. They had a contempt for death. Their names were written, so they believed, in heaven. “Heedless of danger,” writes Dionysius, “they took charge of the sick, attending to their every need and ministering to them in Christ, and with them departed this life serenely happy, for they were infected by others with the disease, drawing on themselves the sickness of their neighbors and cheerfully accepting their pains.” [1]

It led people of this time to conclude: “Look at these Christians: they are not afraid of their own death, and they take care of the sick without fear.”[2]

According to historian Rodney Stark (an agnostic himself), this was one of the reasons for the rise of Christianity as a world religion – the hallmarks of what we were known as in the ancient world.

I have been struck by my own local neighborhood email exchanges that there have been many offers from each other to run errands and help out if neighbors cannot get out, or are afraid of social exposure. This is the same spirit of that which I reference from above. We Christians should be leading that effort, as we care and serve others in need.

Not as lethal as the great plague, COVID-19 still presents a grave danger for those at risk, but for us Christians we have a far greater counter, our faith in God in Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit.

Be the Hope,

Resident Bishop Grant J. Hagiya & The Appointive Cabinet
Los Angeles Area
The United Methodist Church

[1] Rodney Stark, The Rise of Christianity, p. 83  
[2] Festival Letters, quoted by Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History 7:22m 1965 ed. Taken from Stark, IBID, p. 82