BY BISHOP LAURIE HALLER - UNITED METHODIST CHURCH — IOWA CONFERENCE
We would like to thank the clergy and congregations of the Iowa Annual Conference for their faithful response to the Nov. 18 directive from myself and the Appointive Cabinet that paused in-person worship and church activities through Jan. 10. You may recall this decision was made in response to worsening COVID-19 positivity rates across the state and the profound pressures being placed on our healthcare systems and frontline workers.
We deeply appreciate the ways in which you partnered together through Advent, Christmas season and Epiphany to provide virtual worship, small group opportunities, and resourcing our local faith communities with pastoral care, stewardship planning and connecting with your broader community during this hard and holy time. After consulting with local leaders and healthcare personnel — and in review of reported numbers across the state — this directive will be lifted after Jan. 10.
Our recommendation is that for churches located in counties with positivity rates at or below 15 percent — and review and implementation of your protocols — you may resume in-person worship and gatherings with appropriate safety protocols of masking, physical distancing and other recommended safety procedures in place. For counties where case positivity rates are above 15 percent, it is requested these congregations consider an extended pause to in-person worship.
Additionally, we would encourage your leadership to access the vaccine education and availability guidelines from the Iowa Department of Public Health and share this resource with your congregations. Also, to encourage your faith community to get their flu shots if they have not yet done so.