from the desk of
Bishop James E. Swanson, Sr.
Bishop in Residence
Mississippi Episcopal Area

Greetings in the name of our Risen Savior,

I am aware that several of you desire to gather in-person for corporate worship. Other faith communities may feel a need to protect the flock—especially the most vulnerable members—by continuing to not gather physically a little longer. My hope is to give you guidance, not commandments, on preparing a tentative schedule to resuming some elements of in-person worship and other congregational activities. I am asking churches to continue their shelter-in-place on congregational activities through Sunday, May 31, 2020. This date is more of an evaluation point than a target to resume physical, corporate worship. Know that I—in collaboration with our conference leadership—have considered and will continue to examine medical precautions and healthcare data, as well as discern the best path forward for our Mississippi United Methodist churches. If for whatever reason, this date becomes too soon of a projection, we can and will adapt.

This gives all of us several more weeks to deep clean, acquire supplies and effectively communicate with all leadership, members, guests and community partnerships our plans to incrementally resume in-person gatherings. Know that my capacity and desire to enforce this and micromanage churches is not at the top of my list of priorities. What is my priority is to aid you in being a non-anxious presence in your faith-based and surrounding communities, and to expand your abilities to be light in a dark and troubled world. I’m not only requesting that you begin planning for reopening, I’m also asking that when you reopen, you continue the creative and transformative work you are doing in your newly found or better-than-ever media ministries. Word of your fruitfulness in online worship, small groups and other ministries helps us see God’s hand moving and growing us even in a global pandemic. Glory!

As you mark your calendars to prepare for possibly beginning to reopen the doors of your sanctuary, know that before next week’s end you will receive guidelines to aid church leadership in planning to return to in-person elements of our mission and ministry. In a crucial time such as this, it is essential that you check your emails, the conference website and social media regularly, and read messages in their entirety so that you will be up-to-date on the latest news.

Praying for your daily,

Bishop James E. Swanson, Sr.

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