The Kentucky Conference COVID Re-Entry Team has been monitoring the current Coronavirus status in Kentucky and have the following recommendations for churches throughout the Conference.
It is important to note that conditions are far worse than they have been at any point in 2020. As a team composed of pastors and devoted laity, the Kentucky Conference Re-Entry Team shares many of the concerns that churches have throughout the Conference. We are concerned about losses of momentum. We are concerned about the financial well-being of our churches. We also share concerns about community perceptions that United Methodists lack faith because we have taken a life-advocating approach to our worship services. We also realize that people need the Lord and the community of the Church more than ever.
The great challenge of the pandemic is continuing to be the Church in ministry to the world while protecting the lives of our local church families. We also realize that people are isolated and lonely right now and we have a duty to care for them. Finding the balance between caring for people’s health and their spiritual lives is difficult. However, we all want to do good and do no harm.
For the foreseeable future, the KAC Re-Entry Team recommends that churches continue to monitor this map. If your county is red, we recommend that your church suspend in-person worship and provide online worship and discipleship opportunities. When your county is orange, remember to use caution with your local church re-entry team. We recommend that pastors utilize your local church re-entry team to monitor local conditions and make decisions that are best for your church’s situation. If you have not yet formed a re-entry team for your church, it is not too late to do so.
Below you will find a variety of ideas on how to celebrate Advent and Christmas in your local congregations. In the weeks ahead, the Re-Entry Team will sponsor various Zoom webinars to share resources on how to continue doing effective ministry during the surge in COVID cases. These webinars will focus on practical resources you can use to help you in the coming months. The webinars will be advertised through the Kentucky Annual Conference website as well as through your district superintendents.
Finally, you will find below a list of ideas from the Northern Kentucky District on how to celebrate Advent and Christmas.
- Consider connecting with other United Methodist Churches in your area that are doing online worship. If pastors or staff need a vacation or break from ministry activities, your colleagues can share their video sermons, worship, or music for use in your church. These “virtual” pulpit exchanges can give you a time of well-needed sabbath.
- Consider a Blue Christmas service for your church this year on Dec. 21st. The service will allow people the freedom to be sad and reflect on the magnitude of Emmanuel in their lives during this difficult time. The Re-Entry Team will share resources about a Blue Christmas Service on the Conference website.
- Adapt the “Trunk or Treat” model to an Advent theme for your children’s ministry.
- Decorate your church property more than usual, rather than the inside of the sanctuary, to bring people joy as they pass the church campus.
- Encourage parishioners to place signs on their cars to bring people joy and the message of Christmas.
- Have your church sponsor a “Joy Tree.” Folks from your church and community can be encouraged to come and decorate the tree throughout the season of Advent and Christmas with ornaments that bring them joy.
- Your church can also sponsor a “Blessing Tree” where people can leave notes of blessings or ornaments of blessings for others in the church or community.
- If your church has an FM transmitter, you can transmit a recording of the Christmas story so that people can drive in and listen to the story while enjoying the church decorations or outside nativity.
- Consider a living nativity, with the characters appropriately distanced outside. Mary, Joseph, and Jesus can be portrayed by a family in the church. The shepherds and wise men can be portrayed as being “on a journey” and distanced from one another as they go to worship Jesus.
- Deliver pre-packaged meals or Christmas treats to families in your church. Make a special effort to deliver goodies to shut-ins.
- Celebrate Los Posados. This is a festival that celebrates Mary and Joseph's journey to Bethlehem. It runs from Dec. 16-24. Learn more here!
- Celebrate Christmas Eve services outside. The service can be planned around the journey of Christ to Earth as Emmanuel, the journey of Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem, and the journey of the shepherds to worship Jesus. Participants can experience and reflect on the discomfort of being outside and journeying as they walk in the footsteps of the shepherds, Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. Singing Silent Night and using electric candles can be used in the services to experience the wonder of worshipping Jesus outdoors.
- To celebrate Epiphany, consider “stepping into the shoes of the magi” and delivering gifts of sweets, cookies, and small gifts to lonely persons in your church or community.