June 10, 2020

Dear Members and Friends of the Desert Southwest Conference,

Grace to you in these times of challenge and change. As I write this update, the dreaded upward movement of the numbers of Coronavirus infections is in the news. Some are saying that this increase is due to the availability of more testing in Arizona and Nevada. However, there is evidence that the spike is caused by the relaxation of safety precautions that began on and around the Memorial Day weekend.

With more infections, we all risk more exposure, infection, hospitalizations, and potential deaths. This risk is especially high among those age 60 and older, and those who have compromising health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and asthma. At the same time, the novel coronavirus has affected persons of all ages. Persons of all races have been impacted, but ethnic communities, especially Black and Hispanic persons are experiencing higher rates of infection.

As we wait for a pattern of decline in infections and deaths, our United Methodist Churches of the Desert Southwest Conference must continue to suspend in-person worship and group gatherings of any size, including gathering for the purpose of worship planning, streaming, or recording.

As long as this suspension lasts, we must also continue the excellent online worship and communication skills we are developing. Our efforts to find ways to connect even though we are physically apart have been inspiring and encouraging. Lay persons stepping forward to assist in active ministry for Jesus Christ are making a tremendous positive impact on the church. I encourage you to remain steadfast in your generous support of the church’s mission and ministry.

Some time ago, on a visit to Payson United Methodist Church, I was given the T-shirt pictured with the message: “The Church has left the Building”. I rejoice that lay persons and pastors are no longer confined to the four walls of a physical building. Worship over the internet reaches farther and invites persons to participate in ministry in ways that we might never have imagined.

Let us help to decrease the spread of this illness by remembering to:

  • Observe physical distancing;
  • Stay home, work at home when it is possible to do so;
  • Stay at home if you do not feel well;
  • Wash your hands frequently;
  • Wear a mask when in public;
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces and objects.

The more we avoid exposure in these ways, the sooner we can be back physically again. Continue learning through resources on our website. Work on your plan for reopening to be ready for the time when the suspension of in-person gathering is lifted. I cannot promise when that will be, so in the meantime I urge you to keep checking out these opportunities for this learning and preparing:

  1. A Powerpoint presentation “Re-Opening Our Facilities,” created by the DSC COVID-19 Response Team will guide you through the Checklist that you will use for the development of your Re-Opening Plan.
  2. The DSC COVID-19 Response Team will also host a live webinar to respond to questions you may have about the PowerPoint on Tuesday June 16th at 2:30 pm. If you engage the Ministry in the Season of COVID-19 and Beyond documents and view the “Re-Opening Our Facilities,” PowerPoint and have questions, this is your opportunity to ask questions. You can register by clicking here.
  3. A third resource, hosted by Marilee Miller Clarke, offering her perspective about legal aspects of the opening of pre-schools, head start programs, childcare centers, and third-party groups hosted/contracted on UM campuses. This legal webinar will be offered on Wednesday, June 17th from 10:00 – 11:30 am and you can register by clicking here.

I will issue another update in two weeks on June 24, if not sooner.  Please keep praying and keep acting for justice in the name and spirit of Jesus who taught us to love one another as he loved us. Demonstrate that Christ-like love by caring for yourself and keeping yourself well and safe; and caring for others so they are also well and safe.

In Christ’s abundant love,
Bishop Bob

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