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

Nov. 18, 2020

An Update on Worship During the Pandemic

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 covidactnow.com, 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

Previous Updates:


Bishop Benfield

Active Covid Cases by County

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.

Congregations in counties with 14 or fewer active cases per 10,000 individuals might want to consider indoor, in-person gatherings if the congregational leadership feels confident that doing so is acceptable from a risk standpoint. Congregations in counties with more than 14 active cases per 10,000 individuals might want to consider holding gatherings online or outdoors with limited attendance. No matter whether you meet indoors or outdoors, stay masked, stay at least six feet from other people, and never allow a gathering to turn into a crowd. Note that if the rate is above 35, your county is extremely risky for virus transmission and online-only gatherings are recommended.

The data below represent the present active cases per county as of January 12. For the most up-to-date numbers and overall trends, please click on your county below.
(click for graph)
Arkansas Stuttgart 42.3
Ashley Crossett 42.5
Baxter Mtn. Home 35.8
Benton Numerous 66.2
Boone Harrison 37.1
Carroll Eureka Springs 44.5
Chicot Lake Village 32.4
Cleburne Heber Springs 69.7
Columbia Magnolia 19.6
Craighead Jonesboro 77.2
Crawford Van Buren 63.6
Crittenden W. Memphis 58.5
Desha McGehee 54.0
Drew Monticello 65.9
Faulkner Conway 65.1
Garland Hot Springs, HSV 64.4
Greene Paragould 68.4
Hempstead Hope 41.3
Independence Batesville 38.5
Izard Horseshoe Bend 62.1
Jackson Newport 35.6
Jefferson Pine Bluff 29.3
Lee Marianna 52.1
Little River Foreman 47.7
Mississippi Blytheville, Osceola 58.8
Ouachita Camden 67.0
Phillips Helena 50.4
Polk Mena 66.6
Pope Russellville 79.0
Prairie Tollville 59.2
Pulaski Numerous 77.3
Saline Benton 61.8
Sebastian Ft. Smith 61.2
St. Francis Forrest City 72.3
Union El Dorado 62.7
Washington Fayetteville, Springdale 70.8
White Searcy 51.7

* As a seven-day rolling average.

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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