Regarding COVID-19 Action and Response

UPDATED COVID-19 ANNOUNCEMENT – 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
 
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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)

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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
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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.
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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