Regarding COVID-19 Action and Response

UPDATED COVID-19 ANNOUNCEMENT – 7/25/2020
 
Dear Friends,
On July 20, our C.A.R.E. Team met again to evaluate suspension of in-person worship in light of CDC, MDH, and MN Annual Conference of the UMC recommendations.
 
Until further notice we will continue our suspension of in-person worship within our building and instead, will begin offering weekly Drive-In/Outdoor worship opportunities throughout the month of August.
 
These weekly gatherings will continue to require the following of the safety measures our Team put in place for our June 28 and July 26 Outdoor/Drive-In worship service experiences. They can be found again by clicking here.
 
Here is the schedule for our weekly August Outdoor/Drive-In Worship Services:
 
Sunday, August 2 – Hymn Sing Sunday (Led by Nancy Thalacker and Tom Ervasti)
Sunday, August 9 – Camp Song Sunday (Led by Bret RempelEwert and Pr. Dale)
Sunday, August 16 – Gaither Hymn Sunday (Led by Gerry Gaudette and Sue Hanvey)
Sunday, August 23 – Special Music Sunday (Led by our members who sign up to share their special music)
Sunday, August 30 – Taize’/Irish Music Sunday – (Led by Bret RempelEwert and Beth Lunsford)
 
All Outdoor/Drive-In services will be broadcast through an FM transmitter by tuning into the 106.7FM.
 
Thank you.
 
C.A.R.E. Team
 
______________________________________________________________________
 
 
6/17/2020
 

Dear Friends,

Our Team met again on Monday, June 15 to assess, evaluate, discuss, and make decisions regarding the immediate and future worship schedule of our church in the midst of ongoing COVID-19 concerns.

We are excited to welcome everyone to First United Methodist Church’s first Drive-In worship on June 28, 2020 at 9:00am.  We are planning specific measures to assure the safety of all worshipers. Among these measures are physical distancing and wearing of masks. We will have our music worship team and Pastor Dale’s sermon delivered from the pavilion. Worshipers can tune into 106.7 FM to listen to the service.

We have established expectations to facilitate a safe Drive-In/Outdoor worship experience. Members are expected to:

  • Practice physical distancing while on the church property for the worship.
  • Worshipers can stay in their vehicle or sit outside in lawn chairs, on blankets, or on benches.
  • Worship leaders will set up on the church pavilion.
  • Masks must be worn by anyone who is not in their vehicle (until seated). Seating location options include:
    • Benches close to the pavilion – limit to one family per bench (benches will be set up with physical distancing in mind) – benches should not be moved.
    • Worshipers can bring their own lawn chairs or blankets to sit on the lawn. If you are seated on the lawn, we ask that groups maintain 12 feet of distance between themselves and other family groups.
    • If you are outside your vehicle you will need to bring your own FM radio to tune into the worship service. Worshipers will tune into 106.7 FM to listen to the service.
  • Remaining within a vehicle provides the safest option for worshipers.
  • The church building will not be open, so worshipers should not expect to be given access to the restroom facilities. The playground will also be closed.
  • We request that members do not attend the Drive-In worship if experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 or other flu-like symptoms.
  • If unable to attend or planning to stay at home, feel free to attend the worship via Facebook Live on our church Facebook page (facebook.com/lindstrommethodist)
  • Use South Parking lot entrance when arriving and follow parking instructions. Attendants will direct parking.
  • Volunteers will greet and hand out Orders of Worship when entering. Financial offerings will also be received upon entering and exiting the parking lot. All volunteers will be wearing masks and gloves.

Additionally, we are not planning for a specific date to return to full indoor worship. Additional Drive-In worship opportunities may be held throughout the Summer depending on feedback received from our first one on June 28. We will continue to adhere to the recommendations from the CDC and the Minnesota Department of Health. We recognize that ongoing separation of our faith community is frustrating for some. We all long to be back together. We will continue to look for ways that we can gather virtually or connect in other safe ways. Your suggestions are welcome. Please contact the church office or a member of the CARE Team.

Sincerely,

The FUMC C.A.R.E. (Communicating and Responding Effectively) Advisory Team

Rebecca Ervasti
Donn Arnold
Ashlee Nelson
Terry Kopp
Mark Vanderwerf
Barb Prindle

 
5/29/2020
 
Dear Friends,
 
To help our congregation determine best practices and timelines for eventual re-opening and resuming of in-person worship and other church activities, a group of members have been selected by the Church Council and appointed as our C.A.R.E. Advisory Team. Here is their official mission and statement of purpose.
 

C.A.R.E. (Communicating and Responding Effectively) Advisory Team

The coronavirus pandemic presents a dynamic, uncertain, and ever-changing set of circumstances. For these reasons, the FUMC CARE Advisory Team was formed.

Mission Statement of the C.A.R.E. Advisory Team:

The mission of the C.A.R.E. Advisory Team is to advise and support church leadership and membership regarding actions the church should take to operate safely in these times. This committee is using information from various trusted sources, including guidance from the MN Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.

The Team will evaluate all recommendations and assure that decisions:

  1. Demonstrate the value we place on the health and safety of all worshipers, visitors, and staff.
  2. Align with trusted and authoritative sources of information including the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH).
  3. Include safe implementation of all recommendations relating to worship.
 

As the month of May draws to a close, we recognize that we have not been able to worship together in person for more than two months. Still, we can celebrate our continued focus on our mission of growing in love toward God and our neighbors, reaching new people, and helping to heal a broken world. Many of us have demonstrated our love and care for each other in and outside of our faith community. We continue to be amazed by the many acts of kindness we have seen and heard. We continue to prove that we are capable, resilient, and can persevere in these wild and crazy circumstances. 

Although we look forward to reconvening together, we are not planning to reopen for indoor worship for the foreseeable future. Transmissions and deaths caused by the virus continue to rise, and physical distancing is the best prevention method to stop the spread of the virus. 

The FUMC C.A.R.E. Advisory Team exists to regularly evaluate the situation. These meetings will be convened twice per month, or as needed, given the changing circumstances.

We are delighted to learn that our church staff and members will begin to work towards planning three outdoor worship services on the last Sunday of each month: June 28, July 26, and August 30. Look for other announcements soon about new ways we plan to safely connect, love, and share with one another. Please send your great ideas and suggestions to Pastor Dale, any of the C.A.R.E. Advisory Team members, or the church office.

From the FUMC C.A.R.E. Advisory Team:

Donn Arnold
Rebecca Ervasti
Terry Kopp
Ashlee Nelson
Barb Prindle
Mark Vanderwerf
Pastor Dale Stiles
___________________________________________________________________
 
4/30/2020
 
Dear Friends,
 

Since Sunday, March 22, we have not been able to worship together in-person. We all miss being together and being the community we know and love so well. I am grateful for the new and creative ways many of you have demonstrated to stay connected. Thank you for that. Please keep it up!

Here are a few updates and reminders:

In-Person Worship Suspension EXTENDED – Not unexpectedly, Governor Walz announced yesterday (4/30) that the statewide stay-at-home order will remain in place for at least another two weeks (May 18). Additionally, Bishop Ough of the MN Annual Conference of the UMC has also recently recommended an extension of suspending in-person worship through the end of May. Here is an excerpt of his latest remarks:
 

“When are we going to be able to worship together again? That’s a question weighing heavily on the minds of both clergy and church members—and unfortunately, there’s no simple answer. The question we need to shift our attention to asking isn’t about when to re-open our churches and resume gathering but how to do it. In order to keep people healthy and safe, returning to church will need to happen in phases. As I have said before, I believe those of us in the faith community should be the first responders when it comes to the spiritual, physical, and mental health of all of God’s people. Therefore, I am asking every Minnesota congregation to continue to suspend in-person worship through May 30 and to spend that time carefully and prayerfully developing a plan for how to return to in-person worship in a gradual manner while continuing to strictly adhere to federal and state recommendations.”

Adhering to the Bishop’s request, and again, out of love and concern for our neighbor, we will continue our suspension of in-person worship through May 30. The Church Council will discuss plans for how to best and most safely, return to in-person worship.

Mailed Worship Resources – I have learned that there are some of our members who do not have access to a computer and so are unable to view our weekly recorded worship services. In response, if you, or someone you know of, would like a printed copy of the weekly order of worship and sermon to be mailed, let Carol know in the church office.
 
Church Facebook Page – Be sure to check our church Facebook page for occasional devotion videos, updates, photos, and for a link to our weekly recorded worship videos. Note: You don’t not need to have your own Facebook account to view our church Facebook page. You can view the page by clicking here.
 
Financial Stewardship – Despite the stay-at-home order, the ministries and mission of our congregation continues in our community and beyond. As always, we rely on your financial gifts to the congregation. So far, sufficient amount of gifts have continued to be given, for which we are thankful. Let’s keep it up during this trying and uncertain time. You can mail your checks in to the church office, have your gifts automatically withdrawn from your bank, or give electronically via bank withdrawal or credit card using the Tithe.ly app on your computer or smartphone. You can give electronically directly, by clicking here. Thank you!
 
Grace and peace,
 
Pr. Dale
 
_______________________________________________________________________
 
4/24/2020
 
Dear Friends,
 
Our Church Council met again on Tuesday, April 21 and agreed to continue our suspension of in-person worship at least through the remainder of the state’s current stay-at-home restrictions through May 4. It is likely the restrictions will be extended at that time, if not sooner. If so, we’ll meet to evaluate again. If/when stay-at-home restrictions are lifted or relaxed, to allow places of worship to resume in-person worship again, we discussed necessary changes that will need to be made for that to happen. The MN Annual Conference of the UMC has already provided resources for us to consider once in-person worship does resume. We will regularly update you based on what we hear from the state, federal, and CDC guidelines and will make decisions that honor those and that are consistent with other local communities of faith. Please contact a Church Council member or Pastor Dale directly if you have questions.
__________________________________________________________________
 
4/4/2020
 
Dear Friends,
 
On a local and national level, we are continuing to be asked to shelter-in-place as Covid-19 infections are still on the rise and have not peaked. Ours, and communities of faith around the world, are dramatically affected by the social distancing we have now become accustomed to. We have begun providing online Sunday worship opportunities, daily facebook live devotions, and a Caring Phone tree program, all in an effort to help stay as connected as possible during this time.
 
Our administrative church council is scheduled to meet again on Tuesday, April 21. As we stated in earlier posts/updates, the council will re-evaluate at that time, any possible changes to social distancing mitigation efforts here at our church, following state, federal, MDH, and CDC recommendations. We will also continue to follow the lead our own MN Annual Conference of the UMC and their recommendations.
 
So until further notice, we are continuing to not hold any in-person worship services, events, Bible studies, or other activities within our church building.
 
We miss you and ask that you remain hopeful and healthy until we can meet in person once again.
 
Peace,
Pr. Dale
_________________________________________________________________________
 
3/26/2020
 
Dear Friends,
 
So yesterday Bishop Ough directed that all UMC congregations within the MN Annual Conference suspend from in-person worship through at least, May 10 in light of the COVID-19 pandemic and related health agency and governmental guidelines.
 
Today, Governor Walz ordered a shelter-in-place (stay at home) for the state of MN for the next two weeks, through April 10.
 
The Church Council is aware of these actions and directives and have discussed them via email. They, and I, remain hopeful and optimistic that we will be able to resume worshiping in-person with one another as soon as possible, but are very aware of these important parameters being put in place for the health, wellness, and safety of all. We will abide by these directives while doing our best to remain hopeful and connected with our community of faith.
I have been pleased with how many of our members have participated in our Caring Tree program. Many of our members are being called on every day. This is important work and if you would like to be a part of it please contact Carol in the church office or send a facebook message on our church facebook page. Thank you, and God bless you!
 
Remember to reach out to me or one another if there is anything you need.
 
Peace,
Pr. Dale
 
___________________________________________________________________________
 

3/18/2020

Dear Friends,

Your elected leaders that make up our Administrative Council met on March 17, to make decisions regarding how we can best do our part in combating the spread of the coronavirus. 

Our own church member, Dr. Terry Kopp, from Fairview Lakes Medical Center, was a guest and shared with us his thoughts, both as a church member and medical professional. It was an important, informative, sobering, and faithful conversation. We are blessed with such caring and faithful leaders and members of our church.

This kind of health crisis reminds us of our vulnerability and even mortality, as this new virus has dramatically altered not just our church life but much of the routines and expectations of so many in our community, nation, and across the globe. At the same time, it has also united and reminded us of our shared humanity and of our resilience. This is good! People from our congregation, throughout our community, and across the nation and world are already pitching in, in ways that bring hope and joy to the hearts of others. But we must remember this word of hope: we have altered, but not abandoned, our routines. We will get back to them. 

With that said, our Administrative Council has decided the following:

  • In keeping with the CDC’s request to avoid public gatherings of 50 or more people, all in-person church worship services, events, and activities (including Easter Carnival) will be suspended through Sunday, April 19. We will extend this suspension, if needed, or resume sooner, if able. Throughout this suspension, the administrative council will be in contact with one another, will be monitoring the crisis weekly, and will re-evaluate this decision before, or at, our April 21 council meeting.
  • Meanwhile, our understanding of what it means to be The Church will be broadened. So, in an effort to remain connected, a worship and sermon video will be posted and available for you to watch on Sunday mornings at 9:00 a.m. from the comfort and safety of your home. This video will be posted on our church facebook page, on our vimeo page and here on our church website. 
  • We are grateful for the gift of technology in these days of social distancing, so I encourage us all to make the most of social media, our website, and email, to gather and support each other, as we responsibly practice social distancing without succumbing to spiritual distancing. We will also work on sharing online resources for families and individuals to use as a way of maintaining a sense of community and for continued spiritual growth. So watch for that! Please share this virtual way of doing church with other family members or friends who may need assistance or help with understanding how it all works. Thank you!
  • You may be wondering, “How can I help?” We will also be offering a “caring tree” where you may intentionally check-in on other members frequently. This includes daily phone calls to find out what needs, if any, our fellow church members might have (groceries, medications, or just need for conversation). We’ll post more about this opportunity as the logistics are figured out.
  • Your church staff will continue to be paid as usual, unless individually, they indicate otherwise. Carol will continue to provide for the needs of H.E.L.P. (Health Equipment Lending Program) as it will need to remain open.
  • Your financial offerings right now will be especially important. Under normal circumstances, people tend not to give their offerings when they don’t come to worship. We’re hoping that under these circumstances, this will be different. This is, understandably, a serious concern for all congregations right now. However, I hope you realize that we understand that the coronavirus is not just a physical threat to our health, but also a very real threat to our economy, and that some of our members will likely suffer financial losses and hardship as a result. So, if you find yourself in the position to continue your financial commitment to the church, please be intentional about mailing them into the church office, dropping them off in the church office, or signing up for automated giving through your bank. For help with the automated giving option you can contact Scott Lecy (612-805-2524).
  • Additionally, if you are a church member who gives your annual financial gift all at once, I encourage you to give it now, if able. Or, if you’re in a position to make an additional one-time special gift, please consider doing so. This would provide an important safety buffer for us as we navigate the next several weeks, financially. Thank you!
  • As always, during this intentional time of social distancing, in the event of any pastoral care concerns or needs, please contact the church office or me directly via call or text (763-245-4006).

Our Administrative Council and I know that such a disruption to our regular social and spiritual lives is overwhelming. Please know that such decisions are not made lightly or out of fear. They are made solely out of love and care for the people we love and care about – our community of faith – each other! And it’s not a question of how much you may or may not personally feel at risk. It’s about public risk – both minimizing risk to others in our congregation and minimizing risk to others in our larger community. We all play a part in minimizing the risk to all, and I believe we are all coming around to realizing this.

Finally, and most importantly, I am mindful of both Jesus’ promise to his disciples to be with them always, as well as the context in which he made it. The scene St. Matthew describes at the end of the 28th chapter is after Jesus’ resurrection, when he has visited with his disciples and is about to ascend to heaven. Which means that their initial joy at seeing their risen Lord has given way to tremendous fear about what their lives will be like after he leaves. We can only imagine, the very thought of his leaving them fills them with great fear and uncertainty. In just that context, Jesus first offers what we often call “the great commission” – to share the good news in word and deed with all the world – and then makes what I like to call “the great promise” – that Jesus will be with them – and us! – at all times and in all circumstance to the very close of the age. 

That promise continues to be true and is something we may count on now more than ever as we face our own fears and uncertainties. We will get through this! Because Jesus the Christ, the one that even death could not deter from his mission of care and love, is with us, by our side, and for us – to the very close of the age!

Yours in good faith and Christian hope,

Pastor Dale (On behalf of Administrative Council)

_____________________________________________________________________________
 
3/15/2020
 
All in-person worship services, events, and activities at the church are cancelled through March 29. Updated information will be shared on Wednesday (3/18) following our Tuesday (3/17) Administrative Council meeting. Weekly sermon audio and video will continue to be posted on our website and church facebook page as a way to remain connected and be nourished by the Word.
 
Pr. Dale
_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________
 
3/13/20
 
This afternoon Governor Walz and the Minnesota Department of Health issued new guidelines for gatherings for the State of Minnesota. The guidelines restrict groups of over 250 from gathering. While other larger, local congregations may rightly make the decision not to gather this Sunday, March 15, because of our smaller average worship attendance (55) we will still plan to gather for any who choose to. Our large worship space and our lower average worship attendance will provide for the adequate space for the recommended social distancing. When our admin council meets next Tuesday evening we will reevaluate in regard to other upcoming Sundays in March. Thank you again, for understanding. It is critical that we all act responsibly in this stage of this national emergency.
_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________
 
3/12/20
 

Dear Friends,

According to the World Health Organization and Center for Disease Control, it is now clear that COVID-19 is a deadly serious global pandemic and should not be under-estimated or taken lightly. We cannot assume it won’t affect our little, close-knit Methodist church in Lindstrom. It can, and it may. So, we must be prepared and act responsibly.

Among conversations you may be having about COVID-19, it is clear that opinions vary greatly. However, despite varying opinions, we owe it to each other to err on the side of caution and be diligent in observing common sense hygiene practices. Such practices include:

  • STAY HOME – if you are sick, think you might be sick, or are still recovering from having been sick recently. At issue is not whether you feel fine, but what you potentially present to others around you whose own health or medical fragility makes them vulnerable. Please use good judgment here.
  • BURY YOUR COUGH into your sleeve or into a sturdy cloth or tissue, should a cough surface for you. Don’t cough into your hands or into the air. Thoughtfulness here is paramount.
  • WASH YOUR HANDS regularly and vigorously.

As your pastor, I am constantly monitoring the situation. I have been in regular contact with other local clergy, community leaders, and the MN Annual Conference as to how to best do ministry in light of this rapidly unfolding situation. All of us are trying to figure out how best to provide “business as usual” in the midst of such rapidly changing events. Our administrative council will be meeting next Tuesday night to discuss it further. Our own member and friend, Dr. Terry Kopp, will also attend this meeting to share with us his medical professional perspective.

This Sunday, March 15, we will begin to implement some new practices before, during, and after worship.

  • We will continue to greet one another at the beginning of worship, but will do so without any touching. You may bow, wave, make a peace sign, etc. You’re encouraged to be creative while at the same time honoring one another’s space and individual health and well-being. There are several in our congregations whose immune systems are weak and compromised already.
  • We will no longer pass offering plates. They will instead be available at each of the entrances/exits to the sanctuary as you enter or as you leave.
  • On the first Sunday of the month, during Holy Communion, we will not commune by intinction (dipping the bread into the cup). Instead you will receive the bread as usual in addition to your own individual cup of juice. A basket will be available to place empty cups in before returning to your seat.
  • I, and assigned communion servers, will wash our hands before worship and will use hand sanitizer immediately prior to serving communion.
  • I will not shake hands at the end of the service but will still greet you and extend my welcome and appreciation for you being there.
  • We will not pass the red worship pads down the pew and back. This will eliminate that risk of spreading germs.
  • Coffee Hour will also be altered a bit. Those serving will offer the treats and coffee and will ask that no one “help themselves.” Please respect this change for the sake of everyone’s health and well-being.
  • The tables will be wiped down and cleaned before and after serving.
  • Cheryl, our custodian, has been instructed to be even more intentional about wiping down all surfaces with Lysol, including doors and door handles, handrails, folding chair backs, and the tops of pews.

These changes will help, but ultimately, if you are coughing, running a fever, or showing any signs of illness, please stay home. Again, opinions vary surrounding this, and you may be one who thinks we are being overly cautious, but we do not know where this virus may go. I would rather start precautions now and be proactive, rather than reactive.

Lastly, your continued financial giving is really going to be important as weekly worship attendance will likely decline as people rightly choose to stay home. These offerings will still be able to be dropped off in the church office, mailed in via USPS, or received electronically through your bank. I am also looking into online giving opportunities, if needed. 

Our United Methodist denominational leaders are always updating and providing the latest information and resources regarding COVID-19 on the Discipleship Ministries website ( https://www.umcdiscipleship.org ). If interested, be sure to check that out. Thank you for your understanding and patience as we, together, navigate these unchartered waters.

Grace and peace,

Pastor Dale