June 16, 2020


Dear Friend of Shepherd of the Hills,

This letter is to apprise you of our current plan for re-opening our church. The plan was shaped by a task force of 18 persons from all across the church (Trustees, SPRC, Lay Leader, Council, Missions, Care Ministries, UMW, staff and clergy) who have been meeting virtually for a number of weeks. This group of people have read many articles about COVID-19 transmission and how to make gathering spaces safer in this time of global pandemic. They have also read the requirements of our conference and have worked together to draft a plan that meets those requirements.   A “short” version is included.

Even Phase 1 of this plan cannot begin until our Bishop gives permission. This requires a two week period of declining new cases of COVID-19. It will not be soon. New cases in our state have spiked to new heights after the reopening of Arizona and the Memorial Day holiday, reaching over 1,556 on June 10.


We are additionally challenged by the failure of our 60 ton sanctuary air conditioner, which we estimate will require approximately 90 days for fabrication and replacement. It is now on order.

One of our discoveries as a task force was how dangerous the environment of worship is as a “super spreader” of COVID-19. Because so many people gather in an enclosed space for a significant period of time, sitting in close proximity, singing and speaking, all it takes is a single asymptomatic carrier (people often do not know they have it in the time they are most contagious) to cause amazing numbers of infections. This has been shown in many outbreaks of the disease resulting from church gatherings, including funerals and choir practices.

As a community of vulnerable people (over 65), with many health challenges, we must be extraordinarily careful.

A second document is enclosed called a Covenant with and between members and friends of Shepherd of the Hills UMC. This document is also required by our conference. It is a statement of our individual and collective willingness to put aside personal preference for the greater good of our church and the community around us. Please read it carefully, as it outlines our expectations of those who participate in “in person” gatherings at SHUMC, including worship.

You may find yourself rebelling against parts of the plan or covenant. Please be assured that it is as “permissive” as we believe it can be. It is not easy. All of us miss our gatherings and our church family and long for things to be as they once were. But things have shifted fundamentally, at least for this season, and we must find a way to adjust.

Know that you are in my, and our, hearts and prayers as we move forward in a difficult moment.


Pastor Deborah