Pastor Veronica Webber Smith of Immanuel, Killeen, made me aware the afternoon of March 27th about this new directive from Bell County Public Health that changes instructions for stay-at-home. It very subtly allows for more than 10 people not related or living together to gather for worship. Although it discourages it. The below has been sent to our HOT conference pastors through our conference deans. https://www.kxxv.com/your-hometown/bell-county/bell-county-public-health-provide-update-on-covid-19-directive-4
I am saddened that our public officials have taken this step. It speaks to me of a misunderstanding of religious freedom and the Christian’s first duty to serve their neighbor. That said, our role is to remain non-anxious presences in our communities, model Christian living for neighbor, and my strong recommendation to congregations is that they do not worship in person at this time. While I cannot direct congregations to do that the pastors/authorized leaders of those congregations should understand that a decision to hold in-person worship in their congregation against my recommendation will be noted by my office. If needed I would be happy to meet with the council of that congregation via electronic means to explain to them the reasons why the faithful decision at this time is to remain apart and use the creative forms of worship you have been to keep physical distance yet encourage spiritual and social solidarity.
On Monday we will be releasing a new notice to the synod that my strong recommendation is that congregations recognize the wisdom in suspending in-person worship indefinitely. We will be providing ongoing resources for worship for Palm Sunday/Holy Week/Easter and beyond at www.ntnl.org/resources/covid-19