Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Some European United Methodist Churches Faces New COVID Restrictions

Just as the United States has experienced a sharp upswing in the number of COVID-19 cases this fall, many European countries have encountered their own spikes in cases. In some instances, this spike has triggered a new wave of social restrictions in European countries. These social restrictions have included, for some, limits on the number of people allowed to gather for worship services or a temporary outright suspension of group in-person worship.

Countries where the government and/or the local unit of The United Methodist Church have suspended in-person worship, at least in significant portions of the country, include Switzerland, France, Austria, Slovenia, and Norway. In some other countries, such suspensions have gone into place but have not (yet) been announced via the annual conference's public internet presence. Moreover, even in European countries where in-person worship continues, it often does so with size limits, and online worship continues to be an important option offered by local churches and/or the annual conference.

Most European countries had strict limitations on public gatherings, including worship services, in the spring that were relaxed over the summer, when the number of COVID-19 cases in most European countries was quite low. This new wave of restrictions, however, seems less comprehensive and less wide-spread that the restrictions in the spring. The restrictions are, in general, also more temporary, with expiration dates within a few weeks or a month, as opposed to the spring restrictions, which in some cases were indefinite when announced.

Whether the different nature of these fall worship restrictions is a feature of having learned about the virus since the spring or just a sign of growing tired of the pandemic, this fall lock down will not be quite the same experience for United Methodists as the spring lock down was. Still, COVID-19 continues to disrupt church life for many United Methodists around the globe.

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