FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: December 9, 2020
Brothers and sisters in Christ,
Christmas shopping, cold weather and Thanksgiving gatherings have contributed to our highest COVID spikes yet. Christmas is a time for the anticipation of Christ, family and togetherness. We cannot stress enough how critical it is that we protect our loved ones and make sure that they are with us next year in great health by practicing social distancing, wearing a mask and sanitizing hands regularly.
In this Advent Season as we prepare our hearts and lives for the coming of the Christ child, now more than ever we, the body of Christ, need to witness to the world hope for an end to this unnecessary suffering. We need to demonstrate love for our neighbors through consideration of their health by following state and local guidelines that aim to slow the spread of the coronavirus. We need to view this global pandemic as an opportunity to experience joy by creating innovative and socially distant ways to share the Good News with our communities. Lastly, we need to embody the peace—given to us by Christ—that surpasses all understanding, and respect everyone’s divine right to be in good health.
We offer heartfelt gratitude to the congregations that have decided not to hold any in-person activities, and those congregations that have diligently adhered to the guidance of the Mississippi Conference Pandemic Task Team. More than ever, the actions we take together today will impact the strength and fruitfulness of our connectional ministry in the future. That is why we continue to stand by our recommendation from last week and urge all churches to suspend all in-person church-related activities including worship at this time.
We have received questions from you about the topics below, and we offer the following guidance:
The pandemic task team will meet again January 5, 2021 and will release an update on guidance that week. For those congregations with leadership teams that have not yet decided to observe the pandemic task team’s recommendation to suspend all in-person activities, we do implore you to consider scientific data to aid your decisions about in-person worship. We want to bring your attention back to the resource we highlighted last month—public information on COVID-19 test positivity rates in nursing homes by county across the nation. Although this data is focused on nursing homes, it does provide a representative picture for its corresponding counties for COVID guidance. The link is updated weekly, and can give you an idea of outbreaks numbers by county. The team believes that this data is applicable and representative for residents of those counties to utilize for worship populations. If your county is classified as red, it is imperative that you shift worship and all other activities from in-person to online or to some other vehicle. If you and your church's leadership team decides to continue with in-person worship and activities, we advise you to at least reduce your attendance occupancy down to a maximum of 10 percent of that space’s capacity.
In addition, your churches should also be aware of the following information that we have received from David Stotts and the conference trustees:
"A Communicable Disease exclusion endorsement has been added to all of our conference wide insurance policies. This endorsement excludes coverage for related property claims and liability arising out of the actual or alleged transmission of a communicable disease. If you are not in the conference wide insurance program, you should have this conversation with your insurance provider. This exclusion requires us to be very intentional in how we protect our churches and members."
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
Bishop James E. Swanson Sr. Rev. Vickie White
Rev. Dayna Goff Rev. Fred Britton
Miss Jasmine Haynes Mr. Mike Howington