An update from Bishop Current regarding the rising number of COVID-19 cases in Iowa

 

Dear beloved people of God in the Southeastern Iowa Synod,

“How long, O Lord?”, the psalmist cries in Psalm 13.

The Covid-19 pandemic cases have surpassed 51 million worldwide and the number of deaths is over 1.2 million, in the United States 239k people have died. In Iowa, Governor Reynolds reported at a press conference regarding the November 10 State Public Health Emergency Proclamation that the average statewide positivity rate is greater than 19% and the 14-day rolling average has been greater than 15% and numbers are on the rise. Governor Reynolds said, “Covid-19 is very contagious and spreading, we must do our part to contain and slow the spread to protect all Iowans.”

The November 10 proclamation does not directly address faith communities but indicates that there should not be gatherings of more than 25 people indoors and no more than 100 people outdoors for the next 30 day period during this surge. I highly recommend that congregations consider suspending in-person worship entirely and move to digital or at-home worship in order to reduce the potential for spread and to protect our neighbors. 

In addition, the emergency proclamation advises that we all work together to mitigate risk by wearing masks, washing hands, and practicing safe physical distancing; and that all Iowans minimize the time spent in public places. If at all possible businesses have employees work from home, consider cutting down on or eliminating casual gatherings beyond one’s own household, and to postpone extended family holiday celebrations. If someone chooses to participate in a gathering, they might consider quarantining after the gathering to watch for symptoms and then to be tested so as to not spread the virus to others.

In the face of this surge and even with the recommendations in the emergency proclamation, long-term care and correctional facilities are continuing to experience the spread of the virus. Our healthcare systems are stressed and many organizations, businesses, and faith communities are putting pandemic plans in place, and often changing those plans quickly.

You may, like me, long for some normalcy. You may be longing for a family Thanksgiving table. You may be yearning to sing together again, especially beloved Christmas carols. You may be yearning for a return to the Eucharistic table. Indeed, “How Long, O Lord?  How long?” I pray that no matter how long, we will not lose sight of God who loves us and renews us even in the midst of pandemic fatigue. God who calls us to continue sharing the Good News for a world in need. God who is still reminding us to love our neighbors and to care for one another. How do we love our neighbor right now?

Washing our hands.
Wearing masks in public places.
Practicing physical distancing.
Limiting trips away from home.
Reaching out via phone, text, or digitally to those who may be isolated or lonely.
Considering the suspension of in-person worship and providing online/digital worship and/or providing worship from home materials.

By doing so, we can share in slowing the spread, protecting the most vulnerable, ensuring available healthcare for those who may need it, and holding firmly to hope that scientists, medical professionals, public health officials are endeavoring toward a vaccine and continued guidance for a new “normal.”

The Office of the Bishop staff is available to you. I am looking forward to time together with many of you via Zoom in these next weeks as we begin our shared ministry. Here is how the Office of the Bishop in the Southeastern Iowa Synod is going about our work as we navigate the pandemic:

Status of the Southeastern Iowa Synod Center for Ministry:
The staff is primarily working from home. The building that houses the Center for Ministry is closed to onsite meetings and outside guests. If it becomes necessary for a guest to visit the Center for Ministry appropriate physical distancing and adequate space, wearing masks, and contact of 30 minutes or less are expected. Other staff members should be notified that the building will be occupied.

Synod support and resources for congregations:
The staff at the Office of the Bishop is continuing regular work related to the support for congregations and ministries of the synod via email, zoom meetings, cell phone, and through the Center for Ministry’s main phone number. The Office of the Bishop staff will not attend in-person meetings at this time but will be happy to attend meetings electronically.

Bishop Current, Pastor Uthe, and Pastor Ostrem are available for preaching and teaching. Sermons and forums can be either live via Zoom or prerecorded with videos provided electronically in advance.

Val Harlynn is available to provide online worship resources, training for digital meetings, and digital engagement tips.

The Office of the Bishop staff will continue to do our best to support the congregations and ministries. We are in this together.

As we all continue to pray, “How long, O Lord? How long? But I trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, because God has dealt bountifully with me.” (Psalm 13.1, 5-6)

We will sing to the Lord together in time… for now let us sing in our homes, in our hearts, through the screens for the sake of our neighbors.

Peace in Christ,

Bishop Amy Current

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