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The Arkansas Conference of the United Methodist Church will use a $50,000 grant from the United Methodist Foundation of Arkansas to reopen the denomination's churches and adhere to safety and sanitation guidelines established as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

The denomination announced the grant Wednesday at First United Methodist Church in Conway. Wayne Clark, the foundation's president and CEO, said the money would be used to purchase masks, sanitizer and cleansing solutions for every United Methodist church in the state -- a conference comprising 635 churches and more than 130,000 Arkansans.

It marks the first time the foundation has provided a grant that will affect every United Methodist church in the conference, Clark said.

"We want to do what we can, for our part, to bring people together safely and to get back to worship," Clark said.

[CORONAVIRUS: Click here for our complete coverage » arkansasonline.com/coronavirus]

Since the coronavirus pandemic, the foundation has made grants to the church's pantries to help hungry families, Clark said. Two other grants have been made to the conference's center for communications that will be used to provide 200 new websites at no cost for area churches for the next 24 months, and provide streaming services and audio and visual equipment to congregations that need it.

Amy Ezell, spokeswoman for the Arkansas conference, said Wednesday that the foundation also has awarded a $10,000 grant to 200,000 Reasons, the conference's initiative focused on ending childhood hunger in the state.

Bishop Gary Mueller, leader of the church's Arkansas Conference, is also a member of the Governor's Economic Recovery Task Force and has been helping develop guidelines for faith communities as they begin to return to worship.

"The grants are going to make a tremendous difference in helping churches open safely when it's time to open them," Mueller said.

Masks and other personal protective equipment are set to be available at every church for those who arrive at United Methodist churches without them, along with hand sanitizer and disinfectant needed to clean hands and surfaces.

"We want people to be safe," Mueller said. "That money is getting translated into helping churches open safely and, I daresay, keeping some people alive."

Metro on 05/21/2020

Print Headline: Methodist churches get aid in reopening

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