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.From: Bishop Bruce Ough
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!”
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