An Update on Worship During the Pandemic

A Letter from Bishop Benfield

The governor of Arkansas and the Arkansas Department of Health have issued revised guidance for worship as we enter the holiday period, with the goal of attempting to control the spread of the coronavirus. The governor’s latest guidance recommends that churches not use a choir, but instead use a soloist who stands at least twelve feet from anyone else. Additionally, the use of wind instruments is not recommended. Masking of the entire congregation is strongly recommended.

The governor’s original directive is consistent with the recommendations I have previously offered. Both the governor’s guidance and my recommendations relate to worship. Other meetings, such as those for staff, vestry, or visits with parishioners, need to follow safety guidelines that include masking, social distancing, and the best ventilation possible in spaces as large as possible. In any case, shorter meetings are preferable to longer meetings.

The diocesan recommendations for when to worship are as follows:

  • Indoor, in-person worship appears to be an acceptable risk in your county if the seven-day average of active cases is less than 14 per 10,000.
  • Outdoor, in-person worship appears to be an acceptable risk in your county if the seven-day average of active cases is less than 35 per 10,000.

This office calculates the average active cases based on daily updates of active cases from the state of Arkansas. The levels of 14 and 35 are calculate to be consistent with similar “new case” cut-off levels as presented by, a resource used by a number of dioceses and other entities.

The diocesan requirements for how to do in-person worship, whether indoors or outdoors, are as follows:

  • Hand sanitizer is available for everyone to use.
  • When worship services are indoors, as many doors and windows as possible are kept open.
  • Everyone needs to be masked during the service. The only exception is when people are actually receiving Holy Communion. People who are speaking may remove their masks while speaking, provided they are at least twelve feet from other people.
  • Everyone needs to be socially distanced, which includes each household being at least six feet from any other household, and each person with a speaking part being at least twelve feet from other participants when speaking.
  • There is no congregational singing.

Faithfully yours,

Larry Benfield
Bishop of Arkansas


Keep Calm and Stay Informed

As COVID-19, the new coronavirus, spreads in the U.S., what should our churches be doing? We will keep an updated page of news and resources to help answer your questions.

Learn More

  • Public worship services, meetings, and in-person gatherings to be determined by county and state data. [see chart]
  • The bishop will begin making visits to congregations as soon as it is safe to do so in each community.

Contact Us

It’s easy to get in touch with us by email, phone, and mail. Or stop by for a visit.

Find anything you’re looking for.

Enter a name, a city, a ministry or a keyword, and we’ll point you in the right direction.

Congregations Around the Diocese

Leadership Transitions in the Diocese

St. Theodore’s, Bella Vista

See All Leadership Transitions

Give to the Bishop’s Fund

The Bishop’s Fund assists people who need financial support, assists congregations that have special needs, and assists organizations that work to spread good news.

Learn More About the Bishop’s Fund

Leave a Legacy

Including the Diocese of Arkansas or your local congregation in your estate plan can be as simple as adding a few words to your will. Contact James Matthews to learn more.

Learn More About Planned Giving

The Communiqué

Sign up now for our weekly e-newsletter.