COVID-19 Update – November 4th, 2020

Grace and peace friends,

     I hope this week finds you well in the midst of upheaval. I wanted to take a moment to share our updated COVID-19 plan and what you can expect from Gethsemane UMC this winter. We had a good summer with outdoor worship, movie night, and a great concert! It was life-giving to see so many of you gathering safely, which was easy when we could be outside. But looking toward this long winter gathering safely will not be as easy. So here is where we are at in Minnesota with the data from the Minnesota Department of Health:

This is the worst the pandemic has been so far in Minnesota. Community spread: 8.1% of people tested are testing positive this week (6% last week). Red Lake is up to 15%, other areas up to 10%. Most people don’t know where they got COVID, meaning community spread is rampant. 8 of every 100 people have COVID; it has spiked to 10-15% in some counties.

From: Margie Higgins, MDH

This data tells us that the main factor spreading the virus is the community. We have an opportunity to continue stopping the spread by being smart and safe with how we do or do not gather. Last week, Bishop Ough dialed back the Minnesota Annual Conference’s phase to orange. Which means that:

– In-person religious events are limited to 10 people indoors.
– Groups should meet virtually, if possible.
– High-risk individuals (those over age 60 and/or with underlying health conditions) should continue to stay home and be given options to participate in the life of the church through virtual means.
– Francine, Jake, and I are encouraged to work from home as much as possible to limit the possibility of community spread.

“Doing no harm, acting for the common good, and protecting the most vulnerable among us is how we love our neighbor. What this means: I’m asking you to limit your in-person gatherings to 10 people or fewer while wearing masks and maintaining social distancing. Group gatherings have been the most significant source of the spread of COVID-19 in recent weeks. We have the power to help change the trajectory of this pandemic.

Yes, the orange phase is more restrictive than what the governor’s office currently allows. I understand the challenge this places on our churches, but given all the data before us, I believe this is the most prudent course of action. At a very minimum, I request you adhere to the governor’s guidelines and closely watch the data in your community. If your school district is not holding in-person classes, then the church probably should not be having in-person worship either (this link always has the latest county-by-county 14-day case numbers, along with associated recommendations for school districts; it’s a good tool for us to use to help guide our decision-making). We trust you to make decisions, in consultation with local officials, that will protect the vulnerable, our neighbors, and each other and still provide meaningful spiritual leadership to your community. Thank you for the creative, adaptive spirit you bring to our common work of healing a broken world in these critical days.

Remember, the church is not closed! We will continue to be creative in how we minister in these unprecedented times, and together we can make it through this pandemic. Our actions now will save lives. And isn’t that the business we are ultimately in? Salvation—life for all people!”

From: Bishop Bruce Ough

I am always trying to find creative, safe ways for all of us to remain connected as the body of Christ:
This month I am doing a series of testimonies with some of our members asking them what they are thankful for at this moment in time! You can check those out on Sundays at our Facebook page or in this newsletter.

– Every day at 2p I offer a Psalm up as a prayer on our Facebook page.
– We are also Praying Together every Wednesday at 2p, so if you have any prayer requests we will lift those up on Wednesdays. You can contact Francine to get a text reminder for all of us to pray together!
– For advent, I am in quarantine so that I can have several small, intimate Advent services. I am hoping to have one family or family groups/pods RSVP and meet me at the GUMC sanctuary where we will celebrate the four weeks of advent in one worship service.
– And beginning in January, I am hoping to have a short, bi-weekly prayer service in our sanctuary every Sunday for those of us who want to attend something on Sundays. More information and how to RSVP will be available as we approach the New Year.
– Our accompanist Jake was hired as a full-time 5th grade teacher in October, his weekly playing is on hiatus as he gets his feet on the ground navigating hybrid/distancing learning.
– I am also open to any ideas or suggestions you have! We are all trying to navigate through this pandemic together, so if you have an idea of a safe way to gather, I am open to it!

I know that people are fatigued. I know that people are grieving the loss of our normal routines. I am with you all in that grief. But, I consider your health, my health, and our neighbor’s health to be more valuable and sacred than our ability to be in our sanctuary together. We cannot quantify how many lives we may have saved by not meeting since March, we just need to have faith that God is working through us in our attempt to follow the Wesleyan imperative of “Do No Harm.” Please, keep our church, our country, and our entire world’s health in your prayers as we continue to look for safe ways forward. And as always, if you have any questions, comments, or concerns; I am always willing to chat.

Pastor David Hodd

Booya Update

Booya and the Jumping Jehosofats

August 13th, 2020

Grace and peace friends,

    I wanted to take a moment to talk about our usual Booya Festival. I’m sorry to say that Booya will be cancelled for 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic. With the current trend in cases, with schools reopening, and the average age of our volunteers; it would not be wise to hold our festival this year.
    So instead, we are hosting a concert featuring the Jumping Jehosafats on October 4th at 2p! The JJ’s are led by Reverend Lyndy Zabel, who used to be the pastor at Gethsemane! We will hold the concert outside near our picnic pavilion. People can spread out on the grass to practice good physical distancing, bring a lawn chair, bring a blanket, and enjoy some gospel jazz tunes.

You can RSVP through this Google form, or by
calling Francine at (651) 784-7667.

Jumping Jehosafats
Sunday, October 4th @2p

    This is also a great opportunity to help meet a need in our community. Last fall we did a drive to collect clothes, diapers, and baby supplies to help stock Foster One’s storehouse. Since the pandemic hit, Foster One has been in need of things like car seats, diapers, and clothes. And once school begins in the fall, they usually get a lot of requests for items. When you come for the JJ’s concert, please bring an item to donate! We will have a person with a mask, gloves, and sanitizer collecting the donations one at a time.

I know it is sad news that our annual tradition of Booya will not be happening. And it feels like every week this virus takes another toll on our wellbeing. But we still have an opportunity to safely come together as a community, enjoy each other’s company, listen to some great music, and be the hands and feet of Jesus.

Pastor David Hodd
[email protected]

Outdoor Worship – July 26th, 2020

Posted on July 2nd, 2020

Hello friends! I’m excited to share with you our plan for an outdoor worship gathering on Sunday, July 26th!

We plan on holding several, small services of 10 people or less that will last about 30 minutes. We will sit outside, practice good physical distancing, sing some hymns, and take pre-packaged communion together. If this goes well we plan on doing another outdoor worship in August, and maybe even September if it’s warm enough!

To see our update guidelines for worship you can check out our Facebook or our website at to see how we plan on tackling worship during a pandemic. Stay safe and I can’t wait to see you all on July 26th!

Pastor David Hodd

On Reopening the Church – June 12th, 2020

On Reopening the Church

June 12th, 2020

Grace and peace friends,

“Do no harm. Do only good. Stay in love with God. Those three rules from the late 1700s have guided the people called Methodists for centuries, and they continue to guide us now as we navigate what being the church looks like in a COVID-19 world.” We’ve been seeing a lot of things reopen lately. It is a welcome feeling to return to a semblance of normalcy! But even as things start to feel normal again, the sight of masks and smell of hand sanitizer reminds me that we are in anything but normalcy. With the reality of a global pandemic and Minnesota’s current trend of an increase and decrease of cases with a looming spike post-protest, I do not feel it is a safe time to reopen Gethsemane UMC for Sunday worship.

I am following the guidelines set by the Minnesota Department of Health and the Re-Gathering Plan created by the MN Annual Conference. Currently in the UMC’s Re-Gathering plan, “High-risk individuals (those over age 60 and/or with underlying health conditions) are highly encouraged to stay home and should be given options to participate in the life of the church through virtual means.” Since a majority of our congregation falls in that high-risk category, it does not seem safe to begin gathering again. We will continue watching what these guidelines say and will be flexible about reopening, with a safety plan in place.

There are still opportunities to connect! Next week I will be posting my first Ask the Pastor video, you can check it out on our Facebook page. You can also catch Jake’s hymns every Sunday morning at 10:30a and request songs for him to play on our website. I am also considering a special outdoor worship service on a Sunday during the summer, more information will come on that in the future.

Friends, I too lament and miss gathering with you all on Sunday mornings. We, the staff at Gethsemane UMC, are working hard to create a worship experience that can still speak into your life as a United Methodist and as a member of our church. If you are in need of anything; supplies, a pastoral visit, toilet paper, please do not hesitate to ask! Never forget that you are not alone and you are missed. And that being cautious, safe, and following guidelines is the quickest way to for our world to begin to recover and heal from this pandemic.

Please feel free to contact me with any questions, comments, or concerns you have on reopening the church. I am happy to discuss it with you.

Pastor David Hodd
[email protected]

COVID-19 Update – May 11th, 2020

Update on COVID-19 Response

May 11th, 2020

Grace and peace friends,

I pray you are all staying safe in the midst of quarantining and sheltering in place. I wanted to update you all on how our response to the COVID-19 is progressing as time keeps moving forward. In accordance with the Minnesota state government, the Minnesota Annual Conference, and the guidance of Dr. Michael Osterholm, the director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota; we are working on a plan of what in-person worship will look like at Gethsemane UMC in the future.

Although, it is unclear the next time we will be able to gather together in the same room and worship. We will not be having in-person worship for the foreseeable future. Potentially until 2021. A lot of research and tragedies have enlightened doctors, researchers, and clergy on how COVID-19 spreads in closed spaces through the air. There is a story in Washington in which 45 of 61 people became ill from one asymptomatic person at a choir rehearsal.

In an article written by Dr. Erin Bromage, he shows how the disease can spread in a community:

“Just to see how simple infection-chains can be, this is a real story from Chicago. The name is fake. Bob was infected but didn’t know. Bob shared a takeout meal, served from common serving dishes, with 2 family members. The dinner lasted 3 hours. The next day, Bob attended a funeral, hugging family members and others in attendance to express condolences. Within 4 days, both family members who shared the meal are sick. A third family member, who hugged Bob at the funeral became sick. But Bob wasn’t done. Bob attended a birthday party with 9 other people. They hugged and shared food at the 3 hour party. Seven of those people became ill. Over the next few days Bob became sick, he was hospitalized, ventilated, and died.

But Bob’s legacy lived on. Three of the people Bob infected at the birthday went to church, where they sang, passed the tithing dish etc. Members of that church became sick. In all, Bob was directly responsible for infecting 16 people between the ages of 5 and 86. Three of those 16 died. 

The spread of the virus within the household and back out into the community through funerals, birthdays, and church gatherings is believed to be responsible for the broader transmission of COVID-19 in Chicago. (ref)”

It is unclear what the future holds. Dr. Osterholm outlines three possible trajectories:

  • (1) It could start to level off in the summer and we’d see very few cases for several months, which would give some the false impression that the virus is behind us. Then we’d have a major outbreak later, likely in the fall, that far surpasses anything we’ve seen to date.
  • (2) There could be “foothill bumps” with periodic flare-ups or waves; each time there is a new wave, we’d be asked to social distance until we can once again flatten the curve.
  • (3) There could be a “slow burn” with consistent cases every day until we get to the point where 60 to 70 percent of people have contracted the virus.

It pains me to see the impatience of our country as many places have yet to peak or deal with the backside of the peak that we’ve seen in places like China and Italy. Yet there are calls and protests to “reopen the economy.” When a person suffers a wound, if instead of performing the painful process of cleaning it out they keep putting band-aids on, the infection will only worsen. I feel it is my ministerial call to advocate for the deep cleansing of the wound this pandemic is causing. The cost of remaining closed, offering different ways to engage online, and enjoying Jake’s hymns from our computer screens on Sunday morning is much lower than if we open our doors too early and cost the lives of those among us whom we love dearly. Your life is more important than worshiping together on Sunday morning. If you feel differently, please, do not hesitate to call me and talk about it. I am happy to continue this conversation with anyone.

Here are some resources that I have found helpful in the last few weeks that directly influenced my decisions to remain closed for the foreseeable future.

In the coming weeks, before May 31st, you will receive a letter with our plan for returning to in-person worship and what that will look like. Again, if you have any questions or comments, do not hesitate to reach out to me.

Pastor David Hodd
[email protected]

COVID-19 Update – March 19th, 2020

Update on COVID-19 Response

March 19th, 2020

Grace and peace friends,

I hope you are doing well and experiencing peace during this time of disruption and upheaval. I wanted to update you all on the current situation with the coronavirus and our congregation. In line with the orders of the CDC, the MN Department of Health, and the recommendation from the Bishop and the MN Annual Conference, I am suspending worship at Gethsemane UMC until May 17th, 2020. This is my decision in light of their recommendation to suspend gatherings of 50+ people for 8 weeks. I hope and pray that we can have a momentous, glory-filled worship on Sunday, May 17th!

That being said, we are working on creative ways for us to stay connected and in relationship through this time of uncertainty. So please, stay tuned to our Facebook page and as we work on offering you new ways to worship from the comfort of your own home!

Another important point is to remain informed. There are so many stories and misinformation being spread to create fear in people, here are some resources that offer reliable information:

Friends, these are unprecedented times. I am doing my best to protect and support our community. If you have any questions, comments, or concerns; please reach out. I am here for you. I also ask that you be there for each other. Check in with your friends, ask them how they are feeling, give them the space to express their frustrations.

I’ve been asking three simple things in my conversations with people:

  • Share a high and a low (or ask, “Where have you seen God lately?”)
  • Share a prayer request
  • Tell me about your experience

Please continue to keep our country and our world in prayer as we live into trhe resurrection this Lenten season.

Pastor David Hodd

COVID-19 Update – March 13th, 2020

Update on COVID-19 Response

March 13th, 2020

Grace and peace friends,

On Friday, March 13th, Governor Tim Walz issued a peacetime state of emergency for Minnesota. The goal is to limit large gatherings over 250 people. It is also recommended to limit, “events with more than 10 people where the majority of participants are at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19.” The majority of our church body falls under people who are a high risk for severe illness. So in the interest of everyone’s safety and helping contain the spread of the virus I have decided to suspend worship for two weeks.

So we will not have worship on March 15th and March 22nd.

I have been wrestling with the reality of the coronavirus this week as disruptions in our world come closer and closer to home. Finally, a friend told me to “accept it,” and so I have. The Management Team and I have been monitoring the situation, and will continue to make decisions in the interest of our community in regards to worshiping together. I strongly urge anyone who is at a higher risk for severe illness to stay home!

On that note, I also want to offer help. As this pandemic continues to get closer and closer to home, being quarantined is a reality we may all have to face soon. If you need help getting food, toiletries, etc., please reach out! Call the church, call Pastor David, email Francine, leave a message, send smoke signals, connect in any way you need! I am hoping to have a list of people who may need deliveries and am looking for volunteers to help make these deliveries if necessary. If you need assistance, or are willing to assist, please contact the church.

When I think about the coronavirus and our Lenten theme of incarnation, I think this moment is a time when Jesus’ call to love our neighbor as ourselves can be lived out. For some, loving your neighbor may be staying inside. For others, loving your neighbor may be helping deliver food to those who are more vulnerable to the illness.

There will also be several disruptions to our regular worship service/style for the foreseeable future. We are implementing the guidelines recommended by the CDC and Minnesota Department of Health: 
– Keeping safe distances from people
– Covering coughs and sneezes
– Washing hands for at least 20 seconds and using hand sanitizer when needed
– Encouraging people to remain home if they feel ill or have flu-like symptoms
– We will not offer communion or coffee/snacks after worship
– Passing of the Peace will not be practiced with shaking hands or hugs, but instead a wave or hand on the heart to convey the message of welcoming.
– We will not pass the offering plate through the worship service, but will instead have it set up so people can make an offering without touching the plates, or we encourage people to give online!

We are all entering a new space of ministry together! I leave you with words of a fellow pastor that helped me this week:

Dear Everybody,
Since I’ve not pastored people through a pandemic before, I don’t know all the answers. But I’m paying attention to science and praying for wisdom. Together, we’ll take courage, be patient, consider the least of these, and press onward while loving our neighbors.
– Your Pastor
P.S. Wash your hands!!!!

I hope we can continue to move forward together, please check our website or our Facebook for updated information, call your fellow members of Gethsemane to share the news, and if you have any questions, comments, or concerns. Reach out. I am here as your pastor, we are all here as the church.

Pastor David Hodd
March 13th, 2020