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 November 30. For the most up-to-date numbers and overall trends, please click on your county below.
(click for graph)
Arkansas Stuttgart 35.0
Ashley Crossett 49.5
Baxter Mtn. Home 43.1
Benton Numerous 31.8
Boone Harrison 50.3
Carroll Eureka Springs 53.9
Chicot Lake Village 45.5
Cleburne Heber Springs 23.7
Columbia Magnolia 31.1
Craighead Jonesboro 62.2
Crawford Van Buren 45.7
Crittenden W. Memphis 47.2
Desha McGehee 28.3
Drew Monticello 36.4
Faulkner Conway 34.1
Garland Hot Springs, HSV 37.8
Greene Paragould 90.6
Hempstead Hope 20.4
Independence Batesville 24.0
Izard Horseshoe Bend 39.0
Jackson Newport 246.1
Jefferson Pine Bluff 28.3
Lee Marianna 29.2
Little River Foreman 32.5
Mississippi Blytheville, Osceola 47.5
Ouachita Camden 60.1
Phillips Helena 30.3
Polk Mena 70.4
Pope Russellville 43.8
Prairie Tollville 26.3
Pulaski Numerous 40.2
Saline Benton 41.2
Sebastian Ft. Smith 43.6
St. Francis Forrest City 32.5
Union El Dorado 22.9
Washington Fayetteville, Springdale 47.7
White Searcy 39.8

* 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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