Dear Members and Friends of the Desert Southwest Conference,
There are very critical concerns being addressed in our communities these days. This update is written in a time of increasing numbers of cases of COVID-19. Medical staff and facilities are being taxed perilously close to the maximum. All of us are asked to do our part in bringing about a solution to the spread of COVID-19.
I am reminded of a passage from I Corinthians that reminds us that God creates us and places us in community with one another. From the Message: “The way God designed our bodies is a model for understanding our lives together as a church; every part dependent on every other part . . . If one part hurts, every other part is involved in the hurt, and in the healing. If one part flourishes, every other part enters into the exuberance.” (I Corinthians 12:25-26)
We rejoice that the medical community knows more today about how to better treat COVID-19 patients. We also now understand that wearing a mask inhibits transmission of the virus and can be a major factor in reducing the number of persons that become infected. At the same time, we now know more about which situations allow transmission of the virus, and that the list of vulnerable persons encompasses a much wider age range than we first thought. Those being infected include both young and old and transmission also can occur when a person does not exhibit symptoms of the disease.
For this update, there is no change in our Desert Southwest Conference response to the COVID-19 pandemic. We will continue the suspension of in-person worship and gatherings with the exceptions detailed in my update issued two weeks ago on July 1. To request an exemption, please contact your District Superintendent. Other exemptions are being studied but are not being allowed as of yet. The next update will be published on Wednesday, July 29, 2020.
If you have not already begun to work with a team of leaders in your congregation to create a re-opening plan as well as a companion congregational covenant, please do so. The plan and the covenant are essential to re-opening when the time is right to do so. Guidance for this is on the conference website found here.
At the risk of sounding redundant, please observe safety measures. You can help stop the spread and help us recover from this pandemic sooner. Please:
- Wear a mask and wear it correctly;
- Observe social distancing of 6 feet or more;
- Wash your hands and sanitize commonly used surfaces frequently;
- If you do not feel well, stay home;
- If you can continue to work remotely do so.
Like you, I long for the day when we can return to in-person gatherings without concern about COVID-19. And yet, I also celebrate the strength, persistence and the depth of faith of our congregations and pastors. I give thanks for the ingenuity of the human mind and heart as I see adaptations. Not only wonderfully moving worship services, but new ways of connecting have been evident. Those congregations who said farewell to pastors and welcomed new pastors did so in new and creative ways. It may not have been “business as usual,” but the celebrations of farewell and welcome seemed extraordinarily creative and meaningful.
As United Methodists, we are reminded of the ways we are a connectional church and how we are called by God to care for one another in mutuality. When we hear statistics of so many who are dealing with the Coronavirus, of the frontline workers who are being stretched to the limit, to the concerns of parents and children, and the sorrow of those who have lost loved ones, we share their pain and sorrow. We care for others and therefore, are called to share in the actions that will contribute to the end of the pandemic. As we do so, we are living into the reality of the word from I Corinthians: “If one part hurts, every other part (of the body) is involved in the hurt, and in the healing.” Let us all be part of the healing because we do not want others to hurt. And “If one part flourishes, every other part enters into the exuberance.” What joy we will all share when the day comes when we are released from the hold that the Coronavirus has on our lives.
I am holding you in prayer! Please keep praying.