25 March 2020
A Letter from Bishop Benfield
COVID-19, as nefarious as it is, has had at least one positive effect: it is bringing out the best of the people in our churches. I am hearing stories of outreach ministries, such as feeding programs, that continue to operate under new and challenging circumstances, and I know that our members are making concerted efforts to contact all the people connected with our churches with a deliberateness that I have never before seen. Thank you so much for being the church even when church buildings are not the focus of our church lives.
The diocesan Executive Council met Tuesday, and we talked about the concerns that we have—and I am sure that man of you have as well. I am also trying to stay in touch with the clergy and the primary lay contacts in all our congregations. Let me share a couple of items with you.
Tuesday, the focus of my email to clergy was how to prepare for Holy Week and Easter, as well as how to focus on pastoral issues, such as how funerals might take place when we are being required to stay distant from one another. It is a situation that we will indeed face.
The focus of my email this week to church offices is how the day-to-day business of the church can continue in uncertain times. We are working as hard as we can to discover how legislation being passed by Congress might help churches keep employees paid if absences from work are required. We want to make certain that congregations have the money necessary to pay needed bills. And we want to be sure that our buildings are kept safe and secure even when people are not in them every day.
I am sure that that there will be more challenges in the coming days. We have confidence, though, that the love of God will get us through these times as we remain concerned for others and creative in our responses to whatever it is that this situation throws at us. The church has been through tougher times than these in its two-thousand-year history, and it still has a witness. And it will continue to do so long after this epidemic is over.
Bishop of Arkansas