Bishop's pastoral letter on new state COVID-19 guidance
March 15, 2021 In response to Gov. Tim Walz's announcement about new, less restrictive statewide COVID-19 mitigation measures, which take effect March 15 at noon, Bishop David Bard released the following pastoral letter to Minnesota United Methodists.
Dear Friends in Christ in the United Methodist Churches of Minnesota,
Grace to you and peace in the name of the Christ whose resurrection we will soon celebrate.
I write to you today with a sore shoulder. My muscles ache because I was given the first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. I am grateful for the ache. It is one small sign of hope among many that we are moving in a positive direction in our fight against the coronavirus. Caseloads have gone down significantly since earlier in the year. Hospitalizations and deaths have also decreased. Late last week, Gov. Tim Walz announced adjustments to the mitigation measures for our state beginning at noon today, March 15 (see diagram below).
We have been living with this pandemic for a year now. I continue to be grateful for the thoughtful and careful ways you have all been making decisions about ministry during this time. You continue to respond graciously, even when you are encouraged to do uncomfortable things, such as refrain from in-person worship. You desire to act in the interest of public health, the common good, and the well-being of others—all in the spirit of Jesus. I appreciate that.
One thing we have learned in the past year is that this pandemic is filled with unpredictability, challenging even the most thoughtful re-opening plans, such as the Phased Re-Gathering Plan we have been working with here in our conference. Decisions about moving from one stage or color to another are dependent upon a number of factors. The governor’s recent guidance and health indicators argue in favor of moving from our current orange phase. At the same time, while cases, hospitalizations, and deaths have declined, the decline has plateaued at a relatively high level with daily deaths about where they were during last summer’s peak. There remains uncertainty about the impact of novel strains of the virus, with some epidemiologists predicting another surge in cases in the coming weeks. Additionally, many of our congregations have already made significant plans for the safe celebration of Easter predicated on stricter guidelines, and three weeks is not enough time to change those plans dramatically. Finally, while I would love to have people gather for a joyous celebration of Easter, mitigation measures such as masks and social distancing need to be observed, and that can be complicated at Easter. Are you really prepared to turn people away on that Sunday if too many arrive for you to maintain safe social distancing?
In consultation with conference leaders, we are not going to immediately change the dial on our Phased Re-Gathering Plan but plan to do so right after Easter, barring a new surge in cases. I also understand that we are a big state with congregations from small to large in communities where the spread of the virus and the rate of vaccination vary significantly. Whatever choices you make, I ask that you continue to engage in mitigation practices that protect the public health and promote the common good—masks and social distancing. I ask that if your congregation has put plans in place for worship in the coming weeks that may not be your preference, offer patience and grace, understanding that pastors and church leaders are working diligently to make good decisions based on ever-changing circumstances.
Friends, we are living and doing ministry for Jesus Christ, celebrating signs of hope, and acknowledging reasons for caution when it comes to the coronavirus pandemic. Some of us have been fortunate in receiving vaccines, while others patiently wait their turn (and please take your turn to get vaccinated when it comes). Vaccinated or not, we need to continue to wear masks in public spaces and work graciously and patiently together to care for one another in Christian love. Thank you for all the ways you have been doing this over the past year.
Bishop David Bard
Interim Bishop, Minnesota Conference
Balaton United Methodist Church Reopening Plan 10/4/2020
Phase Yellow-based on MN Annual Conference of the UMC guidelines
- Facemasks are strongly encouraged to attend worship.
- Usher will open the doors for entry and exit to eliminate multiple people touching door handles. Doors will be propped open when weather permits.
- Use the hand sanitizer station when entering church.
- Members are asked to spread out in the sanctuary space. One family unit per pew. Non-family members use 6-foot social distancing in pews. Maximum capacity in the sanctuary is 40.
- No greeting or passing the peace. Use a friendly wave or blessers up instead.
- Offering will be collected in back of church as you enter or exit the service.
- Songs will be displayed by video. Sing along under your mask.
- Usher will hand out bulletins to members as they enter church.
- No-touch communion. Usher will hand out. Discard cups in garbage as you exit.
- At the end of service, usher will dismiss by pew. Pastor Lori will not greet.
- Usher will record the names of each person present. We need this for attendance and contact tracing should a member contract COVID-19.
- No meals served, no coffee time, no socializing before or after service. Members are encouraged to bring their own coffee.
- Confirmation for 7-9th grades on Wed nights from 7-8:00 PM in the BUMC sanctuary for about 30 confirmands. Masks and social distancing enforced.
- Funerals will be limited to immediate family only. Funerals will be limited to 40.
- Baptisms will be a private ceremony for family only. Baptisms limited to 40.
- J.A.M. is meeting via Facebook Live on Wed nights from 6:30-7:00 PM. J.A.M. cannot be held in person right now.
- Adult Sunday School, UMW and Bible Study groups can meet downstairs. Masks required and tables must be moved into a large horseshoe or square to enforce social distancing. Church Council voted to delay bible study and encourages other small group meetings to wait until after 01/01/2021 to meet.
- If a member tests positive after attending a worship service or church event, they must contact Pastor Lori immediately and stay home for 14 days.
United Methodist Church of Balaton
220 2nd Street West | Balaton, MN 56115
Church (507) 734-4811
Parsonage (507) 734-4101
Pastor Lori VonHoltum | Cell (507) 220-3557
Office Email: email@example.com
Church Website: https:/www.balatonumc.org