Synod Assembly in the Time of COVID
West Virginia-Western Maryland Synod

Current Mitigation Protocols

No general mitigation protocols have been ordered by civil authorities with jurisdiction over our assembly venue.
  • A Time of Change
  • Planning for Synod Assembly 2021
    • Changes to the Plan
  • Executing the Plan
    • Venue
    • Communications
    • Reserving the Right to Postpone or Cancel
    • Agenda
  • The Aftermath
    • 2021
    • 2022
    • 2023
  • Where We Stand
A Time of Change

The COVID-19 pandemic brought many changes to church life, changes to Synod Assembly among them. Synod Assembly 2020 was canceled. Synod Assembly 2021 was delayed because of a COVID-19 spike, finally being held in October 2021.

Planning for Synod Assembly 2021

Synod Assembly 2021 posed the greatest challenge ever faced by this synod in planning and holding an assembly. Initial plans for the Synod Assembly 2021 were laid out by SAPComm and accepted in principal by Synod Council at its October 2020 meeting. At the time, both risk mitigation and pandemic psychology were forefront in the Synod Council's thinking. The following assumptions drove planning:

  • An easing of government restrictions and recommendations could not be expected, meaning social distancing, masking, attendance caps for indoor venues, and food service requirements (e.g., no buffets) would all still be in place;
  • There would be a general uneasiness on the part of potential voting members with respect to hotels/motels stays;
  • Potential attendees would be dissatisfied with the cost and quality of boxed meals and/or would be uncomfortable with social dining (if even allowed by the government or venue); and
  • The sine qua non of the Synod Assembly is the conduct of business.

With these assumptions, the following planning goals were accepted:

  • Synod Assembly should be in a high-ventilation context (e.g., an pavilion, amphitheater, field house, etc.);
  • Synod Assembly should be as short as possible (with a proposed agenda including only those items of business required under the governing documents of the synod and RONR);
  • Synod Assembly should be planned to be held over two non-consecutive days and arranged such that it may adjourn sine die at the end of the first day if the work of the assembly is completed or the assembly deems the second day unnecessary;
  • Synod Assembly should be held within a reasonable distance to the travel-calculated geographic center of the synod; and
  • Synod Assembly should be held in proximity to multiple dining options with an extended lunch hour.

Changes to the Plan

SAPComm, as it monitored the situation, concluded that an open-air assembly, social distancing, and mandatory masking were no longer necessary but, thinking it prudent to maintain flexibility for response to possible variants and new waves of the coronavirus, chose to retain some of the planning parameters. Synod Council reviewed SAPComm's work, settling on some details and leaving others to the committee for further work.

Executing the Plan

                County 4H CenterVenue

The Mon County 4H Center at Mylan Park in the greater Morgantown was selected as the venue. It met the criteria for distance and also offered easy access from I-79 (click here for Google map). It provided a sizeable open-air pavilion with a large enclosed space should it be needed. It also offered easy and relative quick access to numerous dining and lodging options. That it proved inexpensive and the staff very accommodating were added benefits.



Uncertainty necessitated a new communications channel. While a last-minute cancellation or upgrade in COVID-19 precautions could be communicated through our usual means (the synod website, Facebook, and The Bishop's Roadshow), a dedicated email list with automatic enrollment as part of assembly registration was created. For rapid notification, text messaging (SMS) was added to the synod's communication resources and provided as an option for registrants (click here for more info).

Reserving the Right to Postpone or Cancel

Synod Council reserved the right to postpone or cancel the Synod Assembly in response to a COVID-19 outbreak. At the same time, it was recognized that federal, state, local health department, or venue response to an outbreak could preclude gathering as planned.


The Synod Assembly was designed to be held over two non-consecutive days with two meetings on the first day and an adjourned meeting the following month. The primary concern was the number of ballots that might be required for the election of a bishop. With the requirement for distribution of CVs after the second ballot, Q&A after the third, and teaching time after the fourth, it was deemed impossible to conduct more than the first and second ballot on the first day of the assembly (without working well into the night). If the election were completed in the first two ballots, and the assembly's other work was done (or the assembly ordered it), the assembly could adjourn sine die, eliminating the second day. If not, the assembly would adjourn to a future time and place, and the intervening weeks would provide additional time for various election procedures (and any other assembly work that might be needed).

An admittedly draconian approach to the agenda was taken. Apart from the report of the vice president, only those items required by the governing documents of the synod and the parliamentary authority were included on the agenda. Given that our various affiliated agencies and institutions would not have planned time at the podium, compensatory features were added to the reporting and exhibiting protocols.

An extended lunch was included in the program to allow attendees to leave the site to dine.

A short mass was held after the Synod Assembly adjourned. The mass had to be held because of a bylaw.

The Aftermath


Synod Assembly wrapped up in one day. While not a perfect assembly—what assembly is ever perfect?—feedback was generally positive. Weather forced the assembly inside, but the space proved adequate for social distancing.


As planning for Synod Assembly 2022 began, Synod Council was of the opinion that the same site and pattern should be used. Synod Council, in its 9 April 2022 meeting, determined that Synod Assembly 2022's COVID mitigation policy would be whatever the standard was according to the CDC, WV State, and Mon County Health Department, and, where there was conflict among them, the higher standard would prevail. No decision was made about on-going COVID mitigation.


Synod Assembly 2022 was greeted with excellent weather. The assembly met in the outdoor pavilion (picture at right). Several expressed particular approval of the open-air venue. Synod Council deemed it reasonable to attempt replication for 2023 (though not without debate).


Synod Assembly 2023 was once again inside because of weather. Although it began as a beautiful day, the forecast for the afternoon was ominous and proved accurate. The agenda was again proposed with limits to only the required reports and business (with the exception of the reports of the vice president and the churchwide representative as had been done with Synod Assembly 2022). A motion from the floor, however, successfully amended the proposal to include 30 minutes for reports from select agencies and institutions.

Where We Stand

As we prepare for Synod Assembly 2024, we look forward to meeting again in a one-day format (with option for an adjourned meeting) at the Mon County 4H Center.

Having reviewed past orders by Synod Council (and having no superseding orders from the Synod Assembly), the following has been determined:

  • Prior mitigation protocols have expired.
  • In the absence, of mitigation protocols, federal, state, and local laws are followed, the most stringent having force.

As always, Synod Assembly planners will monitor conditions and announce any changes in safety measures ordered by civil authorities.

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This page was last updated 20 January 2024