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

March 24, 2021

Recommendations for Restarting Church Activities

I spoke with clergy and lay leaders this week regarding my latest detailed recommendations for restarting church activities, based on new guidelines issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Here are the highlights:

  • Until we reach a higher percentage of the total population vaccinated, masks need to be worn and social distancing continued at any event at which not everyone has been fully vaccinated.
  • Small group meetings (12 or fewer people) without masks are possible where everyone has been fully vaccinated. (This however does not include choir rehearsals.) You should still keep meetings short.
  • Open doors and windows as much as you can to bring in fresh, outdoor air.
  • The CDC recommends that all food that is served consist of pre-packaged, individual servings. Avoid buffets.
  • Given the CDC’s guideline not to share food, do not share the chalice at Holy Communion.
  • Continue to use masks and social distancing before, during, and after worship services.
  • If more than one person is sequentially using the same microphone, a fan trained on the microphone can help reduce aerosol droplets in the area of the microphone.
  • Paper-based materials are not considered a high risk for transmission and do not need additional procedures for cleaning or disinfection.

Childcare

Arkansas currently has a moderate risk of Covid-19 transmission, and thus any decision to commence Christian education or nursery care for children must be carefully made. Here are some recommendations:

  • All teachers or care providers should get vaccinated as soon as possible.
  • Masks should be used in both indoor and outdoor spaces by child care program staff and children over the age of 2. Masks should not be placed on children younger than 2 years old.
  • Avoid as much as possible any object that children might share.
  • Clean and disinfect more frequently your shared objects and surfaces, such as door handles, toilets, tables, sink faucets, and drinking fountains.
  • Require hand washing or use of hand sanitizer after coughing or sneezing.
  • Outdoors, routinely clean high touch surfaces made of plastic or metal, such as grab bars and railings. Do not clean and disinfect wooden surfaces (play structures, benches, tables).

Faithfully yours,

Larry Benfield
Bishop of Arkansas


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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 March 25. For the most up-to-date numbers and overall trends, please click on your county below.
COUNTY
(click for graph)
CHURCH LOCATION ACTIVE CASES PER 10,000*
Arkansas Stuttgart 5.3
Ashley Crossett 5.0
Baxter Mtn. Home 11.5
Benton Numerous 7.9
Boone Harrison 3.3
Carroll Eureka Springs 1.5
Chicot Lake Village 5.9
Cleburne Heber Springs 5.7
Columbia Magnolia 1.0
Craighead Jonesboro 6.2
Crawford Van Buren 6.5
Crittenden W. Memphis 7.4
Desha McGehee 3.0
Drew Monticello 3.8
Faulkner Conway 8.2
Garland Hot Springs, HSV 6.1
Greene Paragould 5.1
Hempstead Hope 4.9
Independence Batesville 2.4
Izard Horseshoe Bend 2.6
Jackson Newport 3.6
Jefferson Pine Bluff 5.7
Lee Marianna 2.4
Little River Foreman 4.5
Mississippi Blytheville, Osceola 4.5
Ouachita Camden 2.7
Phillips Helena 3.6
Polk Mena 3.2
Pope Russellville 3.5
Prairie Tollville 4.4
Pulaski Numerous 6.8
Saline Benton 4.0
Sebastian Ft. Smith 6.2
St. Francis Forrest City 5.7
Union El Dorado 2.8
Washington Fayetteville, Springdale 6.5
White Searcy 5.6

* As a seven-day rolling average.

View Trend Graphs By County

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.