Update: With Ohio Governor Mike DeWine’s stay at home order on March 23, the Church House is closed to all staff through April 6.
The executive officers of the United Church of Christ, heeding the advice of world health experts, are temporarily shifting the denomination’s national staff into a work-from-home mode because of coronavirus disease, COVID-19. Beginning Monday, March 23, to mitigate the risk of community spread, the Church House building in Cleveland will be effectively closed, with most employees reporting in virtually. Only essential finance and UCC Resources staff will regularly report to work on a scaled-back basis to ensure continuity of those services in this time.
“It is important to note that this is a health and safety preventative measure as there are no reported cases of COVID-19 in the workplace,” said Alisa Lewis, director of human resources. “We are living in unprecedented times, and because of what we still don’t know about coronavirus disease, we are unable to communicate the length of the work-from-home deployment.”
However, as Lewis pointed out, it is important to note that the national offices are open for business and will continue to respond to Conferences, congregations and UCC partners as usual. Church leaders will follow the Centers for Disease Control recommendations.
“We do know two things,” said the Rev. John Dorhauer, UCC general minister and president. “We can slow the spread of this global pandemic if we act together now. And we will continue to work together, uninterrupted, to serve our churches and congregations. We will be staying connected through online technology and in this time of high uncertainly we will do our best to provide the resources that are most useful, despite the challenges of social distancing.”
Several ministry teams have already created resources to help congregations respond to the ever-changing challenges posed by COVID-19, found on the Coronavirus and the Church page, managed by the Office of Philanthropy, Technology, Information and Communication (OPTIC).
But this public health crisis has curtailed business travel and has also prompted a number of on-site gatherings at the Church House and beyond to be cancelled or postponed.
The United Church of Christ Board will meet via Zoom March 26 and 27. The April 3-4 Common Global Ministries Board Meeting has been cancelled, with the next meeting scheduled in November. Ecumenical Advocacy Days, and the UCC pre-event in Washington, D.C., April 24-27, have been cancelled. Because of Centers for Disease Control protocols, registration for NYE 2020, July 22-25 at Purdue University, has been suspended. According to the Faith INFO team, the gathering will be moving to a digital series of events under the UNITE theme.
Other national ministry offices are taking similar work-at-home precautions, including those of The Pension Boards and United Church Funds in New York City, the Capitol Hill office of the UCC in Washington, D.C., and the Insurance Board and the Council for Health and Human Service Ministries, also at the Church House in Cleveland.
“Our prayers are with the people in our congregations as they navigate being the church slduring this pandemic,” Dorhauer said. “We are exceedingly grateful for the pastoral outreach of our clergy and our chaplains. With God with us, we can get through these challenging times together.”