Dear Members and Friends of the Desert Southwest Conference,

Much is happening in our world today. The concerns about the Coronavirus COVID-19 are changing our ways of communicating and conducting our work. While we do not want to move into a panic mode, we are clearly in a world situation where precaution is an important part of our efforts to limit the spread of the virus. Our churches are taking courageous action to care for one another and address the COVID-19 pandemic. Many of you have already changed the ways that you pass the peace and offer communion. We encourage you to continue doing those things.

With love and concern, I send you these words that reflect the conversations of the Extended Cabinet on March 12, 2020. We met to discuss the impact of COVID-19 on the people and ministry of the DSC. Our conversations centered around how to be prepared and cautious so we will prevent the spread of the virus even as we continue the good ministry in our churches.

Have a Humble Heart

We will support you as you care for and make the best decisions for one another and for yourself. In some situations, making the decision to stay at home, to work from home, to join in a meeting via teleconferencing, or seek medical care and/or stay in bed and rest is essential. It may be difficult to make these decisions but by doing so, it may lead to better self-care and protection from exposure. It may also make a difference in the ability to recover from the effects of COVID-19. In caring for yourself, you are caring for others.

Be assured that we continue to monitor the situation. Every day, there is new information about COVID-19:  how it spreads, what protections and precautions we can and must be taking, how to avoid exposure, what the symptoms of exposure are, and what to do when you are not feeling well. As the information changes our recommendations, we will communicate them to you through the website and through social media. Through all of the changes and uncertainties, let your faith in God and love for one another give you peace and hope.

As a reminder, no one group is responsible for COVID-19. Recently, the Asian population has been pictured as being the source of the virus. It is not appropriate to point at any ethnic group or people. The virus is not selective in that way. All of us are ultimately at risk of exposure, and all of us are responsible for taking precautions to hamper the spread of COVID-19.

Address Fear by Learning and Engage a Compassionate Attitude

Let’s take advantage of a wide range of resources. On our DSC website, there is an abundance of resources to help you become better educated about COVID-19. Other websites discuss preventative measures and suggestions for protection from exposure. Please visit these websites and share these resources widely.

  • Know the danger signs and know who the persons who are most vulnerable.
  • If you are not feeling well, stay home, rest, and seek medical care for assessment and treatment.
  • Work from home, especially if you are not well, or if someone in the office is not well. We are now inviting and even recommending our conference center staff to work remotely from home.
  • Keep in communication with others to inform them if you are not well.
  • Err on the side of precaution.
  • Hold one another in prayer.

The DSC staff and key leaders are changing the ways we communicate and work, learning how to make better use of technology. We have become proficient in conducting ZOOM meetings. Teleconferencing has become easier so if the opportunity presents itself and you desire to meet through ZOOM, please do so! We are working to make sure all conference meetings are ZOOM accessible.

  • Your conference leadership is actively monitoring the situation, daily.
  • We will meet to assess the efficacy of our response and will provide updates to the conference.
  • We are preparing for the possibility of professional cleaning and/or closure of the conference center, should that become necessary due to exposure here.
  • We are cancelling or postponing non-essential face-to-face meetings.
  • Essential meetings are all accessible through ZOOM technology.

In addition, we are offering resources for pastors and leaders of local congregations to help you prepare and respond. In addition, please reference your local health department for the best and most up to date information regarding gatherings in your area. Questions like these would be important to address:

  • Should we cancel worship services? How about church meetings?
  • Have we developed a church-wide communication plan to share information on changes to church meetings schedules, closures, etc.?
  • It is time to continue to implement alternatives that can slow the spread, like not passing offering plates.
  • How are you addressing staffing needs if a member of your staff or clergy leadership become ill?
  • How do we learn how to offer worship using technology? Where is an online community where I can connect with other United Methodists who are exploring and interested in online worship?
  • How to conduct ministry meetings via video web conferencing? Many platforms are being offered at no or reduced cost like Microsoft Teams, Google Hangouts, ZOOM.

Finally, please keep praying. Hold in your prayers those who are recovering from COVID-19, those who have been exposed, and those who are caregivers. Be mindful of the need to strengthen and uplift those who are afraid. Pray for those who are working diligently to find a cure or vaccine. Invite the spirit of God as you deal with this new challenge with faith and hope.

Let us lean on words from Psalm 91:5-6 and 15 as we move through these days together.

You will not fear the terror of the night,
or the arrow that flies by day,
or the pestilence that stalks in darkness,
or the destruction that wastes at noonday.

15 When they call to me, I will answer them;
I will be with them in trouble,
I will rescue them and honor them.

Blessings,

Bishop Bob

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