COVID-19 Response

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.

Blessings,
Pastor David Hodd
952-250-9986
gumcpastor@comcast.net


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 gum.church 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.

Shalom,
Pastor David Hodd


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.

Shalom,
Pastor David Hodd
March 13th, 2020

Resources:
www.health.state.mn.us/news/pressrel/2020/covid031320.html
www.minnesotaumc.org/covid-19-preparedness
www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html