Below you will find information and resources to help guide your congregation or faith community through the process of returning to in-person worship in the midst of the current pandemic. Congregations are asked to form a Healthy Church Team to develop plans in accordance with the Technical Assistance Manual (TAM) for Stage 2. Plans can be submitted for approval to your District Superintendent.
Bishop Sharma D. Lewis announced the cessation of in-person worship in the Virginia Conference due to COVID-19 in March of 2020 after significant prayer and thoughtful consultation with experts in the religious, legal, and scientific communities. Her closure of our churches was done with the singular goal of saving lives and keeping individuals and their communities healthy, as we did our part as United Methodists to help stop the spread of the novel coronavirus.
In late April, Bishop Lewis formed a work group to develop plans and procedures for resuming in-person worship, maintaining the same goal of keeping individuals and their communities healthy and safe. The Work Group on Return to In-Person Worship and the Mission & Ministry Work Group, which was created in September 2020, utilize professionals and resources from a variety of disciplines in order to develop the resources you will find on this web page. These are dynamic documents that will be updated with information gleaned from churches around the Conference as we walk together and learn from one other in these difficult and uncertain times. Contact your district superintendent if you have questions about these documents.
Learn more about the work of this group and the Mission & Ministry Workgroup with this Town Hall from September 24. View Town Hall…
New Mission & Ministry Workgroup Web Page
The Bishop’s newly-formed Mission and Ministry Workgroup continues to diligently meet to develop policies and guidance to help Virginia Conference faith communities do ministry in this time of COVID. While the development of the primary document is still in progress, members of the workgroup would like to share some timely resources they believe will be of use to local churches.
Click here or on the logo to the left to visit
Clergy, healthy church teams, and church members have shown grit and resilience throughout the Virginia Annual Conference as we continue to worship during the pandemic. Many churches have made successful, even inspiring returns to in-person worship. For others, it remains most appropriate to worship exclusively online or via telephonic services. The wonderful thing is that we are worshiping safely during this particularly challenging time. We are all looking for wisdom and best practices. On Thursday, December 3, from 7:00-8:00 p.m., these issues were part of an online forum with Bishop Sharma Lewis, Chancellor Steve Brown, District Superintendent Alex Joyner, and four pastors who have been conducting in-person worship. View recording above.
Technical Assistance Manual
Dec. 11, 2020 — On Thursday, December 10, 2020, Gov. Ralph Northam issued Executive Order 72. Under this order, any gathering at a church, unless it is to provide essential services for low-income residents (e.g., food pantries, homeless ministries with persons being lodged at the church, etc.), is limited to 10 individuals. That means Sunday School, Youth Groups, Board of Trustees meetings, live nativities, etc. Other groups that use the church building are also limited to 10 or fewer people.
Requirements related to non-worship gatherings can be found on the Mission and Ministry Workgroup web page: http://doc.vaumc.org/News2020/Nonworshipgatherings.pdf. These requirements are consistent with this Technical Assistance Manual.
Technical Assistance Manual for Local Churches (PDF) Updated 12/11/20 This manual is to be used by churches in planning in-person worship from June 21 and going forward.
Technical Assistance Manual for Local Churches (Word) Updated 12/11/20
(The Handbook used for Stage 1 for in-person worship has now been archived. Please review the Technical Assistance Manual at the link above for planning in-person worship from June 21 and going forward. If you do need information previously found in Stage 1 Handbook you can gain access by requesting from firstname.lastname@example.org).
Technical Assistance Manual in Spanish (PDF)
Technical Assistance Manual in Spanish (Word)
Ash Wednesday Resources 2021
Given the continuing pandemic restrictions, churches and worship leaders are exploring different methods for observing Ash Wednesday, which in 2021 will arrive on February 17. We note that the Ecumenical Consultation on Protocols for Worship, Fellowship, and Sacraments is recommending that “no gatherings in any indoor venue take place for either Shrove Tuesday or Ash Wednesday in the United States.” Click here to view/download information.
Guidance for Healthy Church Teams on What to Do in a Covid-19 Resurgence
Nov. 25, 2020 — Click here to open pdf
A Conversation with DS Alex Joyner and Chancellor Steve Brown
Nov. 17, 2020 — The Rev. Alex Joyner, Eastern Shore district superintendent, and Mr. Steve Brown, Virginia Conference chancellor, converse about the conference’s return to worship and questions churches may have as the nation and world continue to navigate COVID-19 using best safety and health practices.
Click here to view video
Click here to read transcript of video (pdf)
Town Hall Hosted by the Eastern Shore District
Click hear to listen to the video that covered multiple subjects related to the pandemic.
Revised Executive Orders from the Governor
Nov. 14, 2020 — The 25-person limit effective November 16, 2020 does not apply to places of worship. EO-63 requires wearing face coverings and this applies to religious services. EO-67 does not restrict the numbers that can attend religious services to the 25-person limit if a number of requirements are met (the ones already in the TAM). However, the 25-person limit does apply to things related to churches that are not religious services. That means Mission and Ministry programs and anything else that is not a service is limited to 25 or less.
Requirement to Wear Face Covering While Inside Buildings–EO-63 (pdf)
Phase Three Tightening of Certain Temporary Restrictions Due to COVID-19–EO67 (pdf)
View Town Hall from September 2020
View a Town Hall from September 2020 where information was shared about the In-Person Workgroup and the Mission & Ministry Workgroup. Watch event…
Updated Statement on Online Holy Communion During the COVID-19 Pandemic by Bishop Lewis and the Cabinet (Sept. 2, 2020)
Back to In-Person Work Group Statement on Holy Communion (pdf) (Updated 6/1/20)
Screening/Health Acknowledgement Forms
The Health Acknowledgement Form is the document referenced in the Handbook for Local Churches.
From the Bishop: Manual, health form updates (7/9/20)
COVID Health Acknowledgement Online Form Instructions (pdf) (Updated 6/16/20)
Health Acknowledgement form can be completed at https://evc.vaumc.org
Paper versions of the form are also available below.
English: Health Acknowledgement Form (PDF) (Updated 6/18/20)
English: Health Acknowledgement Form (Word) (Updated 6/18/20)
English: Health Acknowledgement Poster pdf
Spanish: Health Acknowledgement Form (pdf) (Updated 6/18/20)
Spanish: Health Acknowledgement Form (Word) (Updated 6/18/20)
Spanish: Health Acknowledgement Poster pdf
Korean: Health Acknowledgement Form (pdf)
When to Test for COVID, by Dr. George Moxley
FAQ on What to Do if I Have Been Exposed to COVID-19
Masks and Face Covering Guidance
Click here to watch videos of Bishop Lewis and Dr. Moxley discussing the important of wearing a mask.
Guidance on wearing a mask fromthe Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) (pdf)
CDC: Community Use of Cloth Masks
Recording and Streaming
Remarks on Singing by the Rev. Leigh Anne Taylor
Caroling – Worship Design Studio: Park, Porch, & Sidewalk
Childcare and Preschool Requirements and Guidelines (pdf) (Updated 5/21/20)
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“I hereby command you: Be strong and courageous;
do not be frightened or dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”