Pandemic Task Team Update: October 19, 2021

10/19/2021

Brothers and sisters in Christ,

As we are about to enter the season of Thanksgiving we write to you with grateful hearts for the down-trending COVID cases here in Mississippi. Glory to God for all the things that He has done! We want to thank you because this progress would not be possible without your hard work and commitment to collaborative leadership in creating protocols to protect those in your faith communities and practice loving your neighbors. We encourage you to join us in celebrating this news. We also encourage you to remember that our journey in this pandemic is not over yet--we are not at a point where we can let our guard down. We want to keep COVID protocols in place so that we continue to see decreases in COVID cases, as well as create a hedge of protection against possible rising variant threats as we approach holidays, colder weather and a season of more inside gatherings.

That being said, we know everyone is excited to gather with friends and family for the holidays and we want to offer some guidance to decrease the chances of spreading COVID at your faith community services and festivities in this season.

  • For upcoming Thanksgiving and Christmas worship, consider holding multiple holiday services over a few days and allow people to reserve their seats at their desired service day and time to manage crowd size and maintain social distancing between families that are not in the same household.
  • For regions that regularly hold community Thanksgiving or Christmas worship, examine the benefits of hosting those services online. Not only is this a great way to reduce the risk of COVID outbreaks, but it is also an opportunity to engage more people than you can by gathering in person.  
  • Whatever the size of your sanctuary, keep your numbers well below the capacity of the space and reduce chances for crowding.

There are congregations who are still worshiping online, contemplating returning to in-person worship or recently returning to in-person worship. We would like to remind you if you are planning to return to in-person services about the below previous guidance:

  • Use fresh elements with clean hands and consider using prefilled Communion wafer and juice cups. You can order them from Cokesbury online or by calling 800.672.1789.
  • Also, in the past we’ve recommended air filtration devices to add as another layer in your COVID risk-reducing strategies.

We’ll end this correspondence as we began it—in celebration! We are excited to see increases in the percentage of vaccinated Mississippians. Additionally, Mississippi is a national bright spot right now as 43 percent of our African American population is fully vaccinated, which is 10 percent higher than the national rate. When vaccinations first became available, black people had one of the lowest vaccination rates in the state. This news is a testament to all your hard work with hosting vaccination sites, advocating for equity and being ambassadors for your communities. Hats off to a job well done, Mississippi!

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                        Rev. Trey Skaggs
                Rev. Haywood Hannah                  Mr. Cameron Cloud
                Rev. Dr. Joe Ranager                   
             
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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