November 20 Pandemic Task Team Update

11/20/2020

Brothers and sisters in Christ,

Unfortunately, we have passed the milestone of a quarter of a million deaths caused by the coronavirus nationally, and over 3,600 of those deaths are Mississippians. Not only have we not flattened the curve, but also the number of new cases, deaths and long-term care outbreaks continue to rise. This pandemic has gone on for more than eight months and will continue to get worse if we do not change course, especially as we enter colder months like January and February.

One of the great things we all know and love about United Methodist connectionalism is that we can achieve so much more together than we could have ever imagined working individually. The power to change the direction we’re going in is within our control. We can work together as the body of Christ and practice social distancing, wash and sanitize our hands often and wear a mask as we worship in-person to slow the spread of COVID-19. Additionally, we can be light in this darkness by modeling those same practices beyond church gatherings and out into our local communities. We can decrease exposure and do no harm.
 
Here are some actionable ways we can be light bearers in these dark times:

  • For those who have not yet returned to worship, we honor and support your continued commitment to practice an abundance of caution for your congregations and love your neighbors in surrounding communities.
  • For those who are gathering in-person, we encourage you to reduce your in-person worship population to 25 percent capacity.
  • We recommend that as you prayerfully discern what’s best for the health and welfare of your faith community, additionally consider some baseline scientific data to aid your decisions about having in-person worship. For example, there is public data on COVID-19 test positivity rates in nursing homes in counties across the United States that is published weekly. The counties that have less than five percent test positivity rate are classified as green. The counties with between a five and 10 percent test positivity rate are classified as yellow. Counties with above 10 percent test positivity are classified as red. From this example, red can be the threshold to stop in-person worship and gatherings and yellow and green are classifications where you decide how cautiously you want to proceed with in-person worship.
  • We advise children and youth ministries to support the recommendations of your local school districts. If school districts have suspended in-person learning and activities, we encourage you to suspend in-person activities as well.
We pray that you see the urgency of this situation and affirm our call as United Methodists across the connection to do no harm and commit to stay in communication with one another.  

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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