We are receiving many questions about COVID-19 and how our churches and ministries should respond. We will work to keep this post up to date at new information comes in.
- Current Episcopal Guidance
- Where To Find Up To Date Information
- How To Limit Spread
- Alternative Ways to Gather
- Find An Online Church
- Online Giving and Financial Assistance
- How To Talk About This
- Annual Conference, General Conference, Jurisdictional Conference
- Arizona Stay at Home Stay Healthy Declaration
Recommendations for suspending in person gatherings at Desert Southwest Conference churches and fellowships.
The Bishop has issued guidance to pastors to continue to suspend all in person worship, gatherings, and activities at all churches and fellowships in the Desert Southwest Conference until further notice. The Bishop, in consultation with conference leadership, will continue to evaluate this recommendation and will communicate with the DSC every Wednesday with further instructions and guidance.
- The conference is making these recommendations based on the guidance of the CDC, state and local health organizations, and government officials. We recommend that you check with your local health department and government agencies to know what the specific conditions and guidance is for your area.
- Different health and government agencies have had different recommendations. The conference leadership is monitoring the changing situation and is maintaining this date based on these various recommendations.
- Please pay special attention and take care when working with vulnerable populations such as older adults and people who have chronic medical conditions like heart disease, high blood preasure, diabetes, and lung disease.
Desert Southwest Conference Office staff will be working from home throughout this time of suspension. The physical building will be closed, but the conference will still be receiving mail, phone calls, and emails. Our staff is working tirelessly to make sure you have the resources you need to continue your mission and ministry during this time.
Church Offices should be closed at this time and staff should be permitted to work from home whenever possible. If a staff person or pastor must be on campus we recommend that they follow the CDC guidelines for being out – such as wearing a mask – and that people only be on campus/in the building one at a time.
Recording Worship and Drive In Worship the recommendation is that people should not meet in person. If you are doing drive in worship we recommend you find an alternative way of worshiping in order to support the best social distancing practices of keeping people at home. In terms of recording worship in small groups, we strongly advise against this practice and recommend that people record separately.
Memorial services and weddings are going to be very different during this time. Postponing these services and celebrations is best. There is no safe way to gather any number of people for such an event. Pastors, please call your District Superintendent if you have specific concerns regarding memorial and wedding services in your congregations.
Schools and daycares in our local churches should follow the recommendations of their local school districts in consultation with state guidance.
Food banks and pantries should follow the guidance provided by state and local officials
Shelters and clinics must follow CDC guidelines for mitigation and disinfecting and if they cannot we recommend they close.
12 Step Groups and Other Recovery/Support Groups there are many alternatives to meeting in person. The conference recommendation is that these groups suspend in person meetings and churches support organizers in finding alternatives to in person meetings.
Who has the authority to suspend church activity?
- Bishop Hoshibata will continue to offer updated recommendations based on the most up to date information.
- Pastors, in consultation with Bishop’s guidance, their DS and churh leaders, have authority to make a determination about the suspension of church activities for the health and wellbeing of their congregations.
- We recommend pastors consult national, state, and local officials and guidelines in making such a decision.
- We recommend pastors consult with church leadership in making such a decision.
Can we still do communion at this time?
This is a good time to turn to our other means of grace: scripture, prayer, and fasting. The safest guidance regarding communion is not to offer it at this time. Remember that we pray for daily bread and give thanks when it is offered. Take time to give thanks to God for the meals you have, say a special grace when you share a meal with family.
Where should I find the most up to date information?
We recommend the following sources:
- The Center for Disease Control and Prevention
- The Arizona Department of Health
- Arizona Governor’s Office
- The Nevada Department of Health
- Nevada Governor’s Office
- The World Health Organization
- The Desert Southwest Conference Website
- The Desert Southwest Conference Facebook Page
- Global Ministries of The United Methodist Church
How to limit the spread
The Arizona and Nevada governors and health departments are recommending strong social distancing measures, including asking people to stay at home, and insisting that groups of people not gather.
According to the CDC the best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to this virus. Here are the CDC recommendations:
- Clean your hands often. Wash with soap and water for at lest 20 seconds especially after you have been in a public place or after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing. If soap and water are not available use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Cover all surfaces of your hands and rub them together until they feel dry. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth especially with unwashed hands.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick. Put distance between yourself and other people if COVID-19 is spreading in your community (Arizona and Nevada are experiencing community spread). Practice social distancing, maintaining at least six feet between you and others when you are out in public.
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze or use the inside of your elbow. Throw used tissues in the trash. Immediately wash your hands or sanitize your hands after coughing or sneezing. with soap and water for at least
- Stay home if you are sick, except to get medical care. If you are sick you should wear a face mask when you are around other people. If you are not sick you do not need to wear a face mask unless you are caring for someone who is sick.
- Wear a cloth face covering or mask of some kind.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily. This includes tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, handles, desks, phones, keyboards, toilets, faucets, and sinks. Click here for disinfection guidance.
Alternatives to gathering in person.
There are many ways to stay connected to people regardless of where you live.
- Phone calls are a great way to connect and we recommend inviting a group of volunteers to split up your church directory and make calls to check in with the members of your community and share updated information.
- Mail out a weekly devotion and or sermon with reflection questions.
- Set up texting groups.
- Radio and podcasting are other ways to reach people during this time.
- Here is some excellent information for electronic giving.
- Consider using a conference calling or digital meeting platform such as zoom, facebook live, or livestream.com.
- The Conference is offering 50% discount with Zoom.com for interested pastors. If your church wants to take advantage of this discounted rate contact Christina Dillabough at
- Here are some resources to help equip your church to do online gatherings:
Online Worshiping Communities
We strongly recommend partnering with other churches if your church does not currently offer, or have access to resources to worship online. Click the button below to find a church in your area offering online worship, or learn what other churches are doing.
Financial Assistance During COVID-19
- Partner with churches to share resources.
- Electronic giving is critical to continuing the mission and ministry of the church during this time, click here for a PDF regarding electronic giving.
- All churches are impacted. Available financial resources are a function of what the churches can contribute to the Conference in terms of apportionments. The churches are the Conference, and apportionment giving is significantly down.
- There are no significant designated funds available and no capacity in the operating budget to provide financial assistance to the churches. Each district does have a small leadership fund that they can use for targeted assistance as they see fit.
- CFA will monitor the Conference’s financial situation each month. They likely may have to implement additional budget reductions sooner rather than later.
- Each church does have business interruption insurance coverage through Church Mutual (CM). The CM official position on COVID-19 claims is attached. The coverage is limited to $100,000 per church. Link to the CM information on COVID-19.
- Online giving resources
How shall we talk about what is happening.
- Begin with grace. Much is still unknown about COVID-19, but as United Methodists we are called to do no harm, do all the good we can, and attend to the means of grace. This means that our first priority in any situation is to do no harm, and in the case of COVID-19 that means limiting the spread of this illness through person to person contact and surface to person contact. This is why we are calling for a suspension of all in person church gatherings regardless of size
- Take it seriously. COVID-19 is a serious health threat that has disrupted the lives of billions of people around the world. It is not a hoax or a scam. Leaders and public officials making decisions regarding closures and suspensions of public activity are doing so in the best interest for the common good. Please pray for those making such decisions.
- Be informed. Misinformation at a time like this leads to harm, we recommend using your state health department resources for COVID-19, CDC guidelines, and conference resources.
- Be calm, a peacemaker. While COVID-19 is a serious threat, Jesus calls his disciples to know and pass peace. There are enough anxious voices out there, the church is here to call people to focus on the work of God, the kingdom in the midst of this crisis. Times of solitude and retreat (time for God centered meditation) have been a deep part of the Christian tradition, this is one of those times. How might you take this chance to foster deeper relationships with members of your community through phone calls, letters, or digital communication? In the words of an ecumenical leader “if in this time we cannot be with each other, can we at least be for each other?”
Will there still be General Conference, Annual Conference, Jurisdictional Conference?
Desert Southwest Virtual Annual Conference
June 12-13, 2020
Friday, June 12th, 10:00am-noon will be the Clergy Session
Friday, June 12th, 1-3pm will be the Laity Session
Saturday, June 13th, 9am-4pm Plenary Session
There will be several opportunities for individuals to test the technology we will be using stay tuned for these tests. Individuals will need to have access to a phone line, or computer (desktop or laptop), tablet, or smartphone in order to participate.
We invite everyone to join a critical online Pre-Conference Briefing May 26th, 6:30-8:30pm
General and Jurisdcitional Conference
What do we call General Conference now? Postponed General Conference 2020.