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Coronavirus in Oklahoma: Many Methodist churches in state will temporarily suspend in-person worship

Daily Oklahoman - 3/18/2020

Mar. 18--Many United Methodist churches across Oklahoma will temporarily suspend in-person worship, closing to combat the coronavirus outbreak.

Tuesday, the Rev. Jimmy Nunn, bishop of the Oklahoma United Methodist Conference and Oklahoma Indian Missionary Conference, asked Methodist clergy and their congregations to comply with the Centers for Disease Control recommendations to limit large gatherings, among other things.

There are 486 active United Methodist churches in Oklahoma, representing more than 220,000 members.

"As this memo is written, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) urges that no groups of more than 50 people meet for the next eight weeks. Other precautions are strongly recommended such as, working from home, distancing from others, cleanliness, etc.," Nunn said in his letter. "Many of your churches have already undertaken numerous measures to support the recommendations of scientists and government officials. Thank you for your leadership! This memo is to inform all United Methodist pastors and congregations that they are expected to follow all CDC guidelines without exception (cdc.gov)."

The Rev. Joe Harris, communications director for the Oklahoma United Methodist Conference, said Nunn's memo sent out through emails and e-blasts was not a blanket directive to shutter churches.

However, he said many Methodist churches canceled in-person worship services for the previous Sunday and he expected that many others would follow in the coming days.

"The churches that remain open will be the exception but they will have made their decision based on the government, their church leaders and the people in their congregation," Harris said. "Our main concern is to keep our people safe and to do no harm."

Oklahoma City metro area churches that canceled in-person worship services and other activities scheduled this past Sunday included St. Luke's United Methodist and United Methodist Church of the Servant. Both churches encouraged members to watch their services via livestream.

Harris said the Oklahoma United Methodist Ministry Center, which houses Nunn's office, will temporarily close beginning at 5 p.m. Wednesday.

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