From the Clergy and Staff of Sterling UMC

From the Clergy and Staff of Sterling UMC

May 9, 2020

On Saturday morning, May 9, Virginia Conference Bishop Sharma Lewis released the following statement:

May the Lord be with you and keep you. It is a wonderful day to be a United Methodist. I know that Virginia United Methodists are longing for the return to in-person worship. One of our highest priorities must be loving our neighbors through ensuring the safety of those who attend our services. As we reported this week, a workgroup of church leaders, medical professionals, and legal professionals have been working hard to provide guidance to help us go back to in-person worship safely. On Friday morning, the Cabinet reviewed a draft of their work, and we are preparing a list of frequently asked questions this weekend.

Friday afternoon, Governor Northam announced that he may loosen the restrictions related to in-person worship on May 15, 2020. Our timetable, as United Methodists, will be phased.

I will allow Drive-In worship to begin on May 24, 2020 for all churches under strict guidelines that will be released by May 15, 2020. I will also authorize some test churches (we will call them “pioneer” churches) to open on May 24, 2020 with no more than 25 people in attendance under strict guidelines that will also be released by May 15, 2020. These pioneer churches will provide much needed data for the churches in our various districts on how to open safely.

Please continue to be in prayer for those who are affected by COVID-19 and those working hard to care for them. Pray as well for those who are extending themselves to serve at great risk and great cost. Whenever we return to worship, we will have stories to tell of God’s goodness and provision in this crisis.

Peace and Blessings, Bishop Sharma D. Lewis


Here at Sterling UMC, we’ll await further word from the Bishop that might apply to us. We are not in line to be either a “Drive-in” church or a “pioneer” church. But be assured that all of us miss seeing you in worship! We all miss the spiritual joy and energy that only comes when we’re together in one space. We too long for the day we can meet again in safety.

Bishop Lewis also stated earlier this week: “We are not sure that in-person worship will ever be ‘like it used to be’ because we are truly in uncharted waters with this pandemic. We will not be able guarantee complete safety from COVID-19 or any other virus. We can take the proper precautions to make in-person worship as safe as possible, and we will need our members and guests to help us adhere to our guidance and protocols. Working together, with some time and a lot of patience, we can resume the worship we long for in some fresh ways as we gather in God’s presence in person again.”

Be assured that the worship staff of Sterling UMC will continue providing online worship through June with Interim Pastor Larry Buxton. Incoming Pastor Linda Monroe, who begins her appointment July 1, will have the opportunity next month to communicate her plans for worship in July and beyond.

We pray that safe, life-affirming opportunities to be the church in worship will come soon! Please continue to pray for the vulnerable among us and to join us online for worship, prayer and inspiration.

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