May 6, 2020
Dear Members and Friends of the Desert Southwest Conference,
A week ago, I posted my update regarding the directive to suspend all in-person worship and gatherings in churches and ministry settings in the Desert Southwest Conference. Since then, in consultation with many sources and in conversations with persons with scientific and medical expertise and experience, I have determined that we must continue the suspension.
This is not a simple nor is it an easy decision. I am convinced that the COVID-19 status is not yet in a place where we can begin to hold in-person worship or gatherings of any size, including small groups to produce worship.
1. The CDC guideline of a “Downward trajectory of documented cases within a 14-day period” has not yet been met in Nevada or Arizona. For the past 14 days, since April 22, the statistics are alarming. In these 14 days:
a. In Nevada, the number of confirmed cases has risen from 4208 to 5594; and the number of deaths from 189 to 276.
b. In Arizona, the confirmed cases increased from 5769 to 9305; and the number of deaths from 249 to 395.
(Source: AZ and NV Departments of Health)
2. Although the states have begun to relax some restrictions, the medical and scientific communities express deep concern that it is too early to let our guard down. The nature of our church gatherings is of personal connections and care. Our congregations represent the vulnerable age group of people over 60 years of age, and our rituals and practices of singing, hugging, shaking hands and other close contact are ways COVID-19 is spread.
3. New information about the nature of the novel coronavirus is being discovered daily. We do not know enough about the virus to effectively avoid infection or illness or death.
4. The latest information tells us that the virus does not discriminate as we first thought and we are all vulnerable.
5. Research is being conducted but we still do not have a vaccine or cure.
6. Staying at home, avoiding contact, and observing safe practices has proven thus far to be the most effective means of staying safe and slowing the rate of infection and death.
These are some of the considerations that lead me to believe that we must stay the course. This means we must continue the suspension of in-person worship and gatherings and protect our congregations and our communities. This includes no in-person small groups of any kind, including to produce the service. I know that the day will come when we will be able to be together in person. Even as we anticipate that joyful day, I strongly encourage you to take advantage of the resources offered by our Connectional Ministries staff, which is available on our website.
I will continue to monitor the situation and will inform you when the time has come to begin to move toward re-opening your churches. Any new or additional information will be shared in an update next Wednesday.
Let’s hold each other in prayer as we continue to connect even in these times of physical distancing to worship God and care for one another in the spirit of Christ Jesus.
In prayer with and for you,