Congregational Care and the Coronavirus

This is an emerging, rapidly evolving situation and we will provide updated information as it becomes available, in addition to updated guidance here. Click here to find daily situation summaries from the CDC. 

Pandemic Task Team Updates
July 10, 2020-- COVID-19 and In-person Gatherings

Greetings my brothers and sisters in Christ,

As many of you are aware, top state health officials have expressed concerns about the critical impact that COVID-19 is having in Mississippi. Thursday morning, Dr. Thomas Dobbs, the state health officer declared that hospitals are running out of beds at an alarming rate and health care facilities are having to send people out of state for care. Gov. Reeves created an executive order that will go into effect next week including restrictions for no more than 10 people gathering indoors and no more than 20 gathering outdoors in the following counties: Hinds, DeSoto, Madison, Harrison, Rankin, Jackson, Washington, Sunflower, Grenada, Claiborne, Jefferson, Wayne and Quitman. Additionally, everyone must wear masks while shopping or at public gatherings in these counties.
Although the governor’s order does not apply to churches, as your episcopal leader, please adhere to this request for all churches in the Mississippi Conference to cease and desist all in-person gatherings at church—including drive-in church services—until further notice. As the body of Christ, it is incumbent upon us to rise to a higher standard and not to a lower one. What’s happening in our state, our nation and around the globe is a serious matter. Children of God, sheltering in place is not a new concept for the body of believers. Similar to a time when Moses told the Israelites that God said to stay in their homes under the cover of the blood of the lamb until the angel of death passed over—that is the reality of the times we are living in right now. There are several biblical references to quarantine, especially for persons exposed to illnesses like leprosy. They were told not to defile the “camp of those in whose midst I dwell” –Numbers 5:3, just to name one. Remember to love one another as you love yourself.
Praying your soul prospers as does your health,
Bishop James E. Swanson, Sr.

June 25, 2020-- Daily Prayer Focus in Resuming In-person Worship

In light of the recent surge in new cases of COVID-19, Bishop Swanson is encouraging and urging congregations and pastors to prayerfully discern whether or not it is in the best interest of the congregation to have in-person worship. If you choose to have in-person worship, Bishop Swanson is requesting that you follow the guidelines released through conference communications May 8, wear masks, practice social distancing and make sure that plenty of hand sanitizer is available. Click here to view a safety scale and questionnaire developed by a fellow United Methodist, Dr. Stephen Shirley in consultation with his church leadership to aid you in evaluating returning to in-person worship service.  

All of us are struggling with the process of resuming in-person worship in these days. Some have already resumed while others will not resume for some weeks yet. We are wrestling with when and with what it will be/feel like once we come back into the buildings that mean so much to us. We know it will not be the same. We are afraid of what might be lost. We are afraid of the unknown—of what this new normal will be like. It is in moments like this that we are called to prayer.

So, here you will find a resource that can be utilized in many ways—in personal devotional times or in more corporate ways. However they might be used, the intent is to remind us that we are people of faith and that prayer is a powerful way to connect to the Triune God who has walked with all people through difficult days in the past, and continues to do so today. May these verses and prayers be a blessing for you in this time. Click on the image below to view this prayer focus online, or you can download the color version or the toner-friendly version in PDF format. 

May 18, 2020--New Conference Office Visitation Policy

In these days, as the staff of the Mississippi United Methodist Conference Office, seek to do our part in being faithful to God and to the guidelines we have been given by health and government officials, Bishop James E. Swanson Sr., along with a task group has asked us to remain in compliance with the recommendations for local churches and remain vigilant through at least the end of May.  So, in order to comply, we will be following these protocols:

  1. Please call for an appointment prior to coming to the building so that you can see the person you need to see in a timely manner.  Everyone will not be in the building every day so that we can manage the number of people present at any given time.
  2. When you arrive in the parking lot please call us at 601.354.0515 to let us know you have arrived.
  3. Stay in your vehicle until you receive a call that the person with whom you have an appointment is ready for you.
  4. Please know that we will be wearing masks to protect you so we encourage you to do the same for us.
  5. Hand sanitizer will be available for your use as you enter and leave the building. 
  6. If you need to drop something off please call the receptionist 601.354.0515 and follow her instructions.

May 8, 2020--Church In-person Gathering Guidelines

These In-person Gathering Guidelines have been created for you with considerations ranging from worship and small groups, to meals and funerals. They have also been thoroughly vetted and aligned with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), White House and Mississippi Department of Health gating criteria, which has been categorized into three phases. In using these guidelines to navigate your local church’s resuming in-person gathering process, acknowledge what role your congregation’s membership size, demographics, surrounding community and other ministry contexts may play in your adaptation of these recommendations.

In-person Gathering Guidelines
Color version PDF
Ink and toner-friendly black and white version PDF

This page was created to be a resource for clergy and lay of best practices and conference updates in this continuously-changing time we're living in. Here you will find resources pertaining to:

Check this page, your district websites, conference social media and emails for the latest updates as new developments are announced. 

320 Briarwood Drive
Jackson, MS 39206
or use our contact form
Sign up now
The Mississippi Annual Conference—empowered by love, generosity, justice and apprenticeship—forms spiritual leaders, faith communities and connections so more disciples of Jesus Christ transform the world.