Pastoral Letter from Bishop Laurie - Encouragement as COVID-19 continues

Pastoral Letter from Bishop Laurie - Encouragement as COVID-19 continues

January 07, 2022

Dear Clergy and Laity of the Iowa Conference of The United Methodist Church,
 
Grace and peace to you in the name of Jesus Christ, our healer and our hope.
 
As the spread of the Omicron variant of the COVID-19 virus continues across our beloved state, nation and world, I am writing to give both a word of encouragement and also cautionary guidance as we seek to care for our churches and communities throughout Iowa.
 
In my recent Epiphany address, I indicated the pandemic continues to be one of the major challenges facing the church today. Just for perspective, in the last seven days, statewide there have been 24,935 new positive tests reported; unfortunately this means we are also seeing a significant increase in hospitalizations. As you may know from reporting from the CDC and Iowa Public Health officials, vaccinations and mask wearing are the two most critical means of caring for others and for yourself as the pandemic continues to wreak havoc in our communities and world. To view the Iowa data, you can follow this link: https://coronavirus.iowa.gov/.
 
In response to the rise of cases in our state, I strongly urge our churches to continue or return to the practice of masking for worship and for all events happening in your local churches. There may also be faith communities who choose at this time to move to remote only options for ministry. On the whole, I want the leadership teams in our churches to make the best call for your context on when to be in-person or online as we ride out this current wave of the pandemic. 
 
Dear ones, I know the effects of pandemic exhaustion and covid fatigue are being felt at every level of our church and society and are affecting us mind, body and spirit. We may find ourselves in the company of deep grief or discouragement as we look at the toll of the pandemic on human life, our education system, our healthcare system and all those showing up day-to-day to do the work before them. If you or they are overwhelmed and are in need of mental health support, please reach out to your local provider or to the helpline of NAMI Iowa found at https://namiiowa.org/. I cannot even begin to adequately express how proud and inspired I am by you and by the ministry you continue to offer across the conference; you have been a witness of hope, compassion and resilience since the arrival of the COVID-19 in the U.S. in January, 2020. Pastors, if you are in need of an extra level of support, please reach out to your District Superintendent so that we can get you properly and adequately resourced. 
 
While I don’t know that any of us anticipated the pandemic lasting into a third year, I do believe we have and will continue to see the goodness of God and God’s people at work through the Iowa Conference of the United Methodist Church. This is evidenced every time we show up for one another and in our communities embodying  hope made real as we care for our neighbors both near and far. 
 
Finally, as disciples of Jesus, may we do our part to promote the resources and guidance made available through public health, attend to the spiritual and temporal needs of all generations - especially the most vulnerable, and, witness in our communities and beyond on behalf of the One known as the healer from Galilee, Jesus Christ, our Lord.
 
In Christ,
Bishop Laurie