March 21, 2020
Dear Colleagues and Friends:
This is a time of anxiety and worry for many people, so we wanted to get you as much information as we could. We are still working through some details, but we wanted you to know some basic information as soon as possible. We will all be reaching out to our teams this weekend, and feel free to reach out to any of us with your questions. We are isolated, but we want you to know that you are not alone!
Due to the order to cease non-essential operations, we will be completely closing the Illinois Great Rivers Conference Center, the Illinois Area Office, the Conference Camps and all District Offices. As permitted under the Governor’s Executive Order, the Finance and Administration Team will continue to be in the office in a reduced manner to complete some minimum basic operations. However, other staff (including Area Office personnel, Directors, Coordinators, Superintendents and District Administrative Assistants) will be working remotely to serve the needs of the local church. All staff can still be reached through their “igrc.org” email address and are standing by to serve you.
It is our intention that all United Methodists in Illinois will be fully in compliance with the Governor’s Order. The Executive Stay at Home Order can be found at: https://www2.illinois.gov/Documents/ExecOrders/2020/ExecutiveOrder-2020-10.pdf. We encourage you to familiarize yourselves with its provisions and seek to obey them.
After reviewing the provisions of the Governor’s order, it seems the intent is to keep everyone safe. The Governor has allowed that churches producing online worship may do so in the church building, but such a group must number 10 or less and practicing social distancing of 6 feet or more between participants. Also, pastors are not to conduct office hours nor be in the church for extended periods of time. Picking up a book or file is one thing; conducting office hours is another. Technology is available to allow such responsibilities to be done from home and the Governor's Order is very clear: stay home. We want to provide the strongest Christian witness of our cooperation with the Governor’s Executive Order for as long as we are under that order.
The conference leadership team stands ready to resource you and your congregation during this difficult time.
We encourage you to continue to reach out to members of your churches, local communities, and each other to minister the Good News and serve the most vulnerable and needy. Observing the CDC guidelines for your own safety and the safety of others is vital. But there is much ministry that can still be done from our homes and in ways that comply with the Stay at Home Order. Call on our conference leadership team to offer resourcing and answer questions.
Most importantly, our hope rests in the Lord Almighty, Emmanuel, God-with-Us. In the words of the Psalmist:
We are ever reminded that God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change, though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea; though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble with its tumult. There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High. God is in the midst of the city; it shall not be moved; God will help it when the morning dawns. The nations are in an uproar, the kingdoms totter; he utters his voice, the earth melts. The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. (Psalm 46:1-7, NRSV)
Remember, during this time of the Stay at Home Order, we are isolated, but we are not alone! God is with us and we have each other as members of the Body of Christ within The United Methodist Church. That’s the beauty of the connectional church. Keep the faith. Care for your own well-being so you can continue to serve others. Trust God. And extend the Gospel of Jesus Christ wherever you are.
Bishop Frank J. Beard