April 7 Pandemic Task Team Update

4/7/2021

Brothers and sisters in Christ,

Mark 16:5-8 reminds us that the followers of Jesus encountered both fear and astonishment at the first Easter. In this season, believers have a shared experience of fear of the unknown in the initial days and over a year later in the pandemic. Additionally, we as Easter people share the astonishment and excitement of the Good News of the Resurrection that is just as powerful today as it was back then. Just like Jesus did at the Resurrection, He goes before us today because He has plans to prosper us and not to harm us. So let there be joy as we continue to celebrate God’s Resurrection power in our lives today as good news on the effectiveness of the COVID vaccines are signs of hope in newness of life. The vaccines offer us all a path to return to in-person fellowship and explore more personal ways to reach new people for Jesus Christ. The pandemic task team strongly encourages all who are eligible to get vaccinated as soon as possible. Working together on the shared mission of getting as many people vaccinated as possible, we Live Out the Power of We and respond to God’s commandment to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. Let us celebrate Christ’s resurrection and the hope on the horizon in the resurrection of the vibrant and connected lives we experienced before the pandemic. Let us pursue safety and great health for our families, friends and neighbors as well as for ourselves. For more information about ‘drive-thru’ vaccination sites across the state, click here.

Like you, we are hopeful and in hot pursuit of the light at the end of the tunnel, so we are following—and recommending everyone to continue following CDC and Mississippi State Department of Health guidance. That being said, we offer you “Safer Faith-based Gatherings and Worship Services,” the latest guidelines from the state health department. In this latest guidance, MSDH recommends that everyone 16 and older be vaccinated against COVID-19, even if the person had COVID-19 in the past.

Ministry Opportunity: Vaccine Partnership

The Mississippi State Department of Health’s (MSDH) Office of Preventive Health and Health Equity, which works to reduce health disparities related to COVID-19 in minority and rural populations, is seeking organizations statewide to host vaccination efforts in their community. For more information on how your faith community can serve your surrounding neighbors, click here.

Summer Activities

As we have suggested in past updates, every congregation is urged to discern best safety protocols for in-person worship and other activities with a collaborative leadership team who is regularly reviewing local data and mitigation strategies so that your faith communities can make informed decisions about COVID protocols based on your context.The Mississippi State Department of Health’s (MSDH) Office of Preventive Health and Health Equity, which works to reduce health disparities related to COVID-19 in minority and rural populations, is seeking organizations statewide to host vaccination efforts in their community. For more information on how your faith community can serve your surrounding neighbors, click here.

A recent gathering of children and youth ministers within the Mississippi Conference lifted up the below best practices for summer activities. Here are options you may want to consider in your planning:

  • In all in-person gatherings—camp meetings, revival, vacation Bible school (VBS) and the like—use the gold standard of social distancing at least six feet apart, properly wearing a mask and sanitizing hands often.
  • We encourage you not to have meals, specifically serving-style meals. All refreshments and snacks should be pre-packaged.
  • Consider moving VBS back to the end of July to provide time for COVID cases and hospitalization numbers to maintain a steady downward trend.
  • If your VBS rotates classrooms, consider having them move in the same direction to avoid close contact in the hallways.
  • See this season as a time to explore creativity in getting together for ministry. Take advantage of pleasant weather and consider hosting worship and activities outside and utilize better ventilation alongside continued use of standard protocols.
We Want to Hear from You

The pandemic task team would love to hear best practices on how congregations with summer feeding programs have continued their ministries and adapted their programs with prudence and safety. Send those tips to news@mississippi-umc.org. We would like to share those best practices with the conference.

The next pandemic task team meeting will be Tuesday, April 27.

Praying that your soul prospers as your health prospers,

The Mississippi Conference Pandemic Task Team
                Dr. Marcus Gaut                             Dr. Bob Ford
                Dr. Steve Shirley                            Dr. Thais Walden
                Mrs. Lynette Harris                        Mrs. Sarah King
                Rev. Haywood Hannah                  Rev. Trey Skaggs
                Rev. Dr. Joe Ranager                    Mrs. Jamie Beatty
                Mr. Cameron Cloud
 
Ex-officio members:
                Bishop James E. Swanson Sr.      Rev. Vickie White
                Rev. Dayna Goff                            Rev. Fred Britton
                Miss Jasmine Haynes                   Mr. Mike Howington


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