I am not certain how long COVID-19 will remain virulent among us, but I am certain that as Christians, the second Great Commandment should undergird the responses we make: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
Bishop Larry Benfield

The Latest from Bishop Benfield

17 June 2020

Reopening Our Churches

Sunday I made my first visit to a congregation since the pandemic began. It was to St. Peter’s Church in Tollville, where the congregation has done great job getting the church ready for in-person worship. On Monday I sent guidelines to congregational leaders across the diocese about how we reopen churches for in-person gatherings, for both worship and other meetings.

The guidelines ask you to look at the number of active cases in your county (below) and make a decision on whether or not you think the risk is acceptable to begin gathering again. In counties where there is currently a large number of cases relative to your population (noted in red on the chart), the congregations need to continue to meet online.

In counties with a smaller number of cases relative to population, if you decide to gather in person, how you gather needs to reflect what we now know about the virus: The spread of Covid-19 is primarily respiratory driven and seems to have some correlation with the size of the group, the length of time the group is gathered, the use of social distancing and face coverings, whether or not the group is indoors or outdoors, and the willingness of people with symptoms not to participate in person.

Two issues remain to be worked out: when to restart congregational singing and when to resume distributing Holy Communion. As soon as I have some answers, I will share them with local leaders.

Please remember that if there is a substantial surge in cases across the state, we may need to return to online gatherings. I want to thank all of you for your patience so far—and for your continued patience in the coming weeks and months as we find new ways to worship during this pandemic. Your support of your local congregations and your continued focus on helping others through this trying time mean a great deal.

Larry Benfield
Bishop of Arkansas


Previous Updates:


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Bishop Benfield



Worship Guidelines by County

Congregations that are in counties with 10 or fewer active cases per 10,000 individuals, as listed below, should consider in-person gatherings if the congregational leadership feels confident that doing so is acceptable from a risk standpoint.

The use of active cases per 10,000 individuals as a standard is based on the likelihood of encountering a currently contagious person in the county in which the congregation is located.

The data below represent the present active cases per county as of July 7 and applicable to worship taking place July 7–14, 2020.

County Church location Present active cases ACTIVE CASES PER 10,000
Arkansas Stuttgart 14 7.5
Ashley Crossett 22 10.3
Baxter Mtn. Home 8 2.0
Benton Numerous 597 25.2
Boone Harrison 10 2.7
Carroll Eureka Springs 48 17.3
Chicot Lake Village 67 59.1
Cleburne Heber Springs 36 14.0
Columbia Magnolia 19 7.9
Craighead Jonesboro 60 5.9
Crawford Van Buren 82 13.3
Crittenden W. Memphis 150 30.2
Desha McGehee 27 21.6
Drew Monticello 28 14.9
Faulkner Conway 236 19.7
Garland Hot Springs, HSV 75 7.7
Greene Paragould 22 5.1
Hempstead Hope 14 6.2
Independence Batesville 8 6.2
Izard Horseshoe Bend 2 1.5
Jackson Newport 8 4.5
Jefferson Pine Bluff 101 13.8
Lee Marianna 168 167.7
Little River Foreman 2 1.6
Mississippi Blytheville, Osceola 89 19.9
Ouachita Camden 4 1.6
Phillips Helena 50 24.5
Polk Mena 9 4.4
Pope Russellville 121 19.3
Prairie Tollville 5 6.0
Pulaski Numerous 758 19.4
St. Francis Forrest City 33 12.1
Saline Benton 116 10.1
Sebastian Ft. Smith 282 22.1
Union El Dorado 23 5.7
Washington Fayetteville, Springdale 1,106 51.1
White Searcy 21 2.7

Online Worship Services

Churches across the Diocese of Arkansas are livestreaming services via Facebook, YouTube, and Zoom. Click on the toggle button below for a complete list.
 

Other Resources

CDC and State Resouces

Ideas for Social Distancing

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