On Friday, July 10th, we received the following email from our resident Bishop, James Swanson, Sr., regarding in person gatherings for worship.
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.
· In response to this letter our leadership team and staff met by Zoom on Monday, and, in compliance with our Bishop's request, we are temporarily suspending in person worship for at least the next two weeks. We will continue to monitor guidance from the Annual Conference, our Bishop, and our District Superintendent, Rickey Haynes. We will meet as a Leadership Team and staff in two weeks to re-evaluate this decision.
· This guidance does not affect our Day Care and Preschool.
· We will broadcast live on Facebook AND YouTube both our 9:30 modern service and our 10:30 Traditions service each week as before.
· Gatherings of small groups outdoors, in groups less than 20, properly distanced, and with masks encouraged whenever there might be interaction at less than 6 feet as when arriving or departing, will be allowed for now until and if there is further guidance.
Rev. Stephen Sparks