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February 2, 2021

A CALL TO THE PEOPLE OF GOD  From Philippians 2:1-4a (NRSV) “If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus . . .”

Compassion and humility are very critical to the work of those who are responsible for the vaccination of the general population. The process is not perfected, but like all of us United Methodists, we are going on to perfection to care for others with love and hope for an end to this pandemic.

In the continuing battle against the spread of COVID-19 as well as the mutations of the virus, I want to express my appreciation to the efforts of many persons who are continuing to exercise caution on opening our churches for in-person worship and gatherings. I also am grateful for continuing to insist on the safety measures that have been determined in your Comprehensive Re-Open Church Plans.

VACCINATION INFORMATION FOR CLERGY  Dr. Cara Christ, Director of Arizona Department of Health Services, shared important information today regarding the faith community and the COVID-19 vaccines in the state of Arizona. The webinar was moderated by Ms. Maria Fuentes, the Director of the Governor’s Office of Youth, Faith, and Family. The webinar was arranged primarily to respond to questions about the vaccination process pertaining to clergy. Here are some important take-aways:

1- Clergy who are not eligible for vaccination under other designations for category 1a who are engaged in ministries that require them to be in direct contact with the vulnerable public fall under the classification of “essential workers,” and are eligible to apply for a vaccination under category 1a.

Other clergy who are not in direct contact with the vulnerable public will be covered under category 1b. People in this category will be eligible for a vaccination sometime toward the end of February or beginning in March. The Arizona Department of Health website will detail this shift.

For some clergy this means that they feel this is a call to get the vaccination to protect their parishioners, and to free them to do in person visits. For other clergy it means self-selecting to wait until teachers and first responders and elderly persons can receive vaccinations. Dr. Christ encouraged people to think about roles – if your task is mostly administrative, rather than face to face contact, then you may want to wait to get a vaccination later. She also reiterated that anyone who has other health-related issues such as diabetes or respiratory conditions are eligible now.

2- All persons being vaccinated are being asked to provide some photo ID – a badge, letterhead, pay stub. Churches may also provide a document with the person’s photo and name. Information will only be used to verify that the person registered and the person receiving the vaccine are one and the same. Some vaccination sites handle matters of ID differently, so please be prepared to handle this with grace. There is no one standard for verifying status. Again, please be patient!

Dr. Christ stated that the goal is to vaccinate as many as possible to protect as many as possible. To that end, no proof of residency or citizenship is being required. Everyone who receives the first dose will be guaranteed a second dose. Sign-ups for the second dose will be possible during the brief waiting period immediately after receiving the first dose.

Improvements have already been made on the website. Dr. Christ understands that many are frustrated but asks us to please be patient. If anyone has difficulty with online registration, phone assistance in Spanish and English is available. See the website for details. Additionally, if anyone wants to volunteer to assist at the two state sites, you may sign up on the website.

If there is another person in the car with you at the two state sites, IF SUPPLY ALLOWS, that person will be vaccinated also. However, I would ask clergy not to load up cars with friends and be mindful and considerate of those who are in the first tiers who may not otherwise get the vaccine.

I am very grateful for the care and compassion of both Ms. Fuentes and Dr. Christ. Please check for up-to-date information on the availability of vaccines as well as locations to receive vaccines and how to register, by checking the websites of the specific counties for Nevada, and the Department of Health for Arizona residents:

NYE COUNTY, Nevada

LINCOLN COUNTY, Nevada

CLARK COUNTY, Nevada

ARIZONA

NEW MASKING DIRECTIVES. Our ability to manage the COVID-19 pandemic has been complicated by the newness of the virus. We are constantly learning new things about the virus, and the virus itself renews itself by mutating. Consequently, there is a plethora of new information about how to avoid spreading the virus. The latest information recommends the stringent use of masks and now the use of double masks. I ask you to keep checking the CDC website for the newest information and recommendations for selecting and use of appropriate masks.

PPP LOANS – ROUND TWO.  This is information from our Conference Treasurer, Randy Bowman. As you may be aware, a second round of Paycheck Protection Program loans has recently been approved by our federal government. If your church did not receive a PPP loan in round one, you may want to consider applying for one now. If you did receive a PPP loan in round one, you still may be eligible for another PPP loan in round two if you meet certain criteria. Here are a few of the details about round two of the PPP loans:

  • First and second-time applicants will both be considered for eligibility.
  • The requirements for first and second time borrowers are different.
  • Second-time borrowers must meet three criteria:
    • Have 300 or fewer employees;
    • Have sustained a 25% drop in revenue any quarter in 2020 as compared to same quarter in 2019;
    • Provide proof that the full first-time PPP loan is exhausted.
  • Second time borrowers will be capped at $2 million.

For more information, visit the Small Business Administration website.

WORSHIP FOR THE EASTER SEASON.  Even with COVID-19 restrictions in place, the task of planning for the Lenten season culminating with Holy Week and Easter takes a great deal of time and energy. For churches interested, the DSC will be offering a worship service for a Sunday after Easter. Rev. Stuart Salvatierra, one of the pastors at St. Mark’s UMC in Tucson will be spearheading the task group to plan the service. Details will be forthcoming.

PLEASE KEEP PRAYING!  As of this moment, I am aware of 24 clergy of our DSC who have had COVID-19 or who are currently dealing with the disease. In most, but not all cases, the symptoms have been “mild”, and the clergy have returned to working with some minimal residual effects. However, a few of our clergy have experienced hospitalization, or more severe symptoms and others are finding that there are long-term challenges because of COVID-19. Regardless of if the symptoms are “mild” or more severe, it is important that we continue to observe safety precautions, especially as variant strains emerge.

There are persons in our family circles and loved ones who are similarly battling or have battled COVID-19, as well as those families who grieve the loss of a loved one to this pandemic. My deep appreciation for all that is being done by laity and clergy to keep tracking statistics, researching new scientific discoveries, as well as leading our congregations in safe practices. I hold you in prayer and ask that you hold one another in prayer as well.

In Christ,
Bishop Bob

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