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

29 July 2020

Responding Creatively

This year continues to present us with a combination of challenges that are unprecedented. There is the confluence of a long-overdue awareness of racism as an ongoing evil, a toxic political climate, and a frightening virus. The church, as always, is called to respond with compassion. Compassion in 2020 means that we must find new ways to relate to one another. We must work to heal the communities in which we live by responding creatively to old prejudices and ways of thinking.

In its own way, how we respond to the Covid pandemic as worshipping communities is going to rely on creativity as well, and it may serve as practice in how to think creatively about other, larger issues. Currently, only a handful of churches are meeting in-person for worship; most congregations continue to gather virtually. I continue to work with individual congregations whose leaders call me to discuss how best to worship and how to conduct special services such as funerals, weddings, and baptisms, even in areas where the infection rate remains high.

Given the likelihood that the virus will continue to be active for some time, we need to think about how congregations can meet safely in-person, and what such worship might look like. What we are coming to understand is that the primary way the virus is apparently transmitted is through the air when people are close to one another but not masked. The chance of transmission is far lower outdoors than indoors, and lower in shorter gatherings than in longer ones.

Even in counties where the active number of Covid cases is higher than ten per 10,000 residents, congregational leaders can consider how worship outdoors might be possible. For example, during these hot summer months, is it possible to meet early in the morning, very late in the evening, or under a covered outdoor area even if it is a location other than the church building? Could Communion be distributed on the front steps of the church? Could people sit in chairs under trees or in their cars?

No matter what each congregation decides, here in the diocesan office we want to continue to offer support to congregations in suggesting activities and ministries that can take place virtually, to advise congregations on what types of worship have an acceptable level of risk, and to plan for 2021 as both the diocese and congregations work on budgets and programs that will support the important work that our church is called to do to meet the serious challenges that face us as a society.

Larry Benfield
Bishop of Arkansas

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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 August 3 and applicable to worship taking place August 3–10, 2020.

County Church location Present active cases ACTIVE CASES PER 10,000
Arkansas Stuttgart 39 20.8
Ashley Crossett 90 42.3
Baxter Mtn. Home 14 3.4
Benton Numerous 382 16.1
Boone Harrison 75 20.1
Carroll Eureka Springs 33 11.9
Chicot Lake Village 252 222.3
Cleburne Heber Springs 16 6.2
Columbia Magnolia 41 17.0
Craighead Jonesboro 171 16.8
Crawford Van Buren 133 21.6
Crittenden W. Memphis 148 29.8
Desha McGehee 34 27.2
Drew Monticello 41 21.8
Faulkner Conway 167 14.0
Garland Hot Springs, HSV 227 23.4
Greene Paragould 167 14.0
Hempstead Hope 46 20.5
Independence Batesville 221 59.7
Izard Horseshoe Bend 13 9.7
Jackson Newport 11 6.2
Jefferson Pine Bluff 243 33.2
Lee Marianna 18 18.0
Little River Foreman 70 55.0
Mississippi Blytheville, Osceola 229 51.2
Ouachita Camden 19 7.6
Phillips Helena 44 21.6
Polk Mena 17 8.3
Pope Russellville 221 35.3
Prairie Tollville 21 25.1
Pulaski Numerous 642 16.4
Saline Benton 158 13.8
Sebastian Ft. Smith 484 38.0
St. Francis Forrest City 143 52.5
Union El Dorado 73 17.9
Washington Fayetteville, Springdale 477 22.0
White Searcy 56 7.1

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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