Statement of Churches in the Greater Houston Area Concerning the Pace of Resuming In-Person Worship
April 24, 2020
The pastors and leaders of the undersigned churches and Christian groups continue to pray for an end to the COVID-19 pandemic. We are lifting up all those who are grieving, those who are sick, the front-line first responders, healthcare workers and others who are putting themselves at risk for the welfare of our communities.
Our congregations and organizations are working hard to find creative ways of ministering to our people and serving our communities. We are mobilizing our people to make masks to share with those who need them. We continue to reach out to our neighbors to meet their physical needs.
We appreciate Governor Abbott’s recognition of religious liberty, and that churches provide “essential services.” We also agree with our governmental leaders that the resumption of in-person gatherings for worship, study and fellowship needs to be intentionally slow and deliberately guided by medical expertise so that we do no harm as Christian communities.
We believe that in-person gatherings for worship that are larger than 50 persons should not take place in April or May. We will not have in-person worship but will continue offering worship online. In making this decision, we have the unanimous support of the leaders of the Texas Medical Center who strongly recommend these actions for all the faith communities of Greater Houston. We can see clearly at this time that resumption of larger group gatherings should not happen in the next six weeks. Deciding when to resume in-person worship for larger gatherings should be evaluated as new information about the rate of new cases and the availability of testing is available.
As pastors and leaders we have all expressed a need for better insight and more guidance as we determine next steps. Over the next few weeks we intend to share information and best practices with one another so that we can be faithful to our calling in Christ, guided by expert medical counsel and respectful to our government officials.
Bishop Andy Doyle, Episcopal Diocese of Texas
Rev. Josh Ellis, PhD, Executive Director, Union Baptist Association
Bishop Scott J. Jones, Texas Annual Conference, The United Methodist Church
Rev. Lynn R. Hargrove, General Presbyter + Stated Clerk for Administrative Process, Presbytery of New Covenant, PC(USA)