Well, I was planning to send out a March update letter, hoping to talk lazily about Lent and Easter, spring, etcetera etcetera. Instead, we are hit with a global pandemic, COVID-19.
This is not “the end of the world”, since most cases are not dangerous. However, after careful deliberation and conversation with other United Methodist churches, careful news watching, and conversation with local experts and other Walker members, we will be suspending in-person celebration service until at LEAST May 10th.
Many of the current regular population of the Walker community fits into one or another category of the most vulnerable to having adverse and potentially even fatal reactions to COVID-19: those over 60; those who have health issues; those who have inconsistent work or limited healthcare coverage. We also meet in a neighborhood with plenty in these categories as well, and because this disease is quite infectious with no current cure, it is better to be safe than to put the most vulnerable at risk when we do not have to. Perhaps it is my own personal bias, having lived in Rochester, home of the Mayo Clinic, but they are best in the world at medicine and have excellent updates if you want a more accurate depiction of what is happening, away from the brain-numbing hype of 24-hour news networks: https://newsnetwork.mayoclinic.org/category/covid-19/
We as a church will be doing the following: • Setting up a phone tree for intentional community building and news sharing • Continuing to live-stream a Sunday sermon through the Walker Facebook page, which can either be watched live or “later” https://www.facebook.com/walkerumc/ • Sending out regular emails and Facebook messages to update people on any event cancellations/changes • Providing “to go” meals for the Tuesday meal • Continuing with office hours and pastoral availability for meeting needs: we are available if you need a friend, food, toilet paper, etc. • New City church will be meeting in person this Sunday, then continuing online until further notice. • The General Conference of the UMC, which planned to be in Minneapolis in May, is postponed.
A pastor friend over at Richfield UMC wrote some excellent reflections about being church in this time:
As a church, let us respond to these concerns by practicing the General Rules of the United Methodist Church. Based on the writing of Methodist movement founder John Wesley, they are articulated by Bishop Reuben P. Job in his book Three Simple Rules as follows:
First, do no harm. “To do no harm means that I will be on guard so that all my actions and even my silence will not add injury to another of God’s children or to any part of God’s creation.”
• We will refuse to show prejudice targeting people of Asian heritage and non-US citizens. • We will refuse to take unnecessary risks that jeopardize the health of others. • We will refuse to exacerbate hysteria in others while only looking out for ourselves.
Then, do good. “The words of Jesus and of [John] Wesley suggest that doing good is a universal command. That is, doing good is not limited to those like me or those who like me.”
• We will conduct our own personal vulnerability assessments and act accordingly. • We will hold ourselves accountable to expectations of hygiene and cleanliness. • We will maintain an attitude of faithful diligence with urgency.
And of course, stay in love with God. “It is through practices [like prayer, study of Scripture, participation in the life of a Christian community, worship, the Lord’s supper, etc.] that we find the courage, strength, and direction to walk faithfully and with integrity in the way of Jesus.” • We will pray for one another and all who are impacted by Covid-19, near and far. • We will work with each other side by side in times of desperation and challenge. • We will be mindful and intentional about how we practice being church communally.
In the meantime, I have one other request for you: will you contact firstname.lastname@example.org and confirm that you continue to want to be a part of our Walker community, and update your information? If you have been inactive in this community for over a year and we do not hear from you, we will be taking you off our membership rolls and directory. We might as well use this time to update information so that we can communicate with everyone through email, phone and address clearly and accurately, in sickness and in heath, as the year continues on.
And finally: A blessing for you.
Prayer for Handwashing in the time of COVID-19, by Dr. Sharon Fennema, inspired by Dori Midnight, via Adrienne Maree Brown
this water is sacred these hands are sacred all that these hands will touch is sacred this cleansing is sacred because the well-being of all creatures is sacred this moment of washing away all that does not serve is sacred this resistance to fear is sacred this way of tending to the most vulnerable I encounter is sacred this act of care for myself and others is sacred because touch is sacred and all that these hands will touch is sacred these hands are sacred this water is sacred.