Beloved Iowa United Methodists, our communities are needing us as God's connectional people now more than ever as we continue to navigate COVID-19 and the impact this virus is having on our schools, health care systems, and socio-economic struggles.
1. As United Methodists in Iowa, we believe in access to education:
a. Local United Methodist congregations and members of our communities share a core value in caring for our students, educators, staff, and families.
We encourage your local church to find ways to support your local schools as they determine what it means to open or not open, and the needed supports and restrictions for safety and security of children, personnel and their families. Discernment of back-to-school plans has sadly been apprehended by partisan-politics and personal preference. We ask that you hold in prayer those making difficult decisions around the start of the school year. We ask that you offer pastoral care and congregational support for the teachers, administrators, elected officials, and families who are looking for the right next step forward. We know returning to school has social, economic, educational, and health considerations. We know we will not all agree on what the next best step looks like in every area, but we commit to doing no harm with our words and our actions.
b. Care for our families.
Families, we want to offer a word of encouragement as you determine your best next steps in sending or not sending your children (whether living at home or college-aged) off to school this fall. If there are ways your local church can become a partner of support, please let them, the cabinet, and the Bishop know.
c. Church leadership.
In the pioneer days of early Iowa, it was a common practice for church and school to happen in a shared space. As you are working with your local school officials, perhaps there are ways to offer our churches as an extension of the classroom to provide space, support, and connection. According to reports across the greater connection, retired educators, administrators, and interested persons are being vetted and prepared to be peer-support for employees or classroom/education partners as reading buddies, creative arts partners, or breakout room hosts to aide in the educator's work in the online classroom.
i. A few resources around education that may be useful to you as you support, resource, and worship:
1. Iowa Department of Education: https://educateiowa.gov/article/2020/07/31/covid-19-guidance-and-information
2. PTA Supports for Families and Educators: https://www.pta.org/home/family-resources/coronavirus-information
3. Back to School Blessing through Discipleship Ministries:
2. As United Methodists in Iowa, we partner in the community with social supports and agencies:
this season continues to stretch us as individuals, families, and systems in ways that are on-going and challenging, not only economically but also emotionally, physically, and mentally. As we care for our spiritual health consider ways that your local church can partner with these resources to help meet some of these challenges:
a. Mental Health Care
i. Iowa Department of Human Services: https://dhs.iowa.gov/COVID19
ii. NAMI Iowa - National Alliance on Mental Illness: https://namiiowa.org/
iii. Iowa Healthiest State Initiative: http://www.iowahealthieststate.com/resources/individuals/makeitok/mental-health-resources-covid-19-coronavirus/
b. Access to Health and Food Resources:
i. Coronavirus: https://coronavirus.iowa.gov/
ii. Iowa Department of Public Health:https://idph.iowa.gov/Emerging-Health-Issues/Novel-Coronavirus/Guidance
iii. Iowa Food Resources: https://coronavirus.iowa.gov/pages/feedingiowa
3. As United Methodists in Iowa, we value Sabbath, gathering for worship and being in ministry in your local setting. We value our work together to address reentry in the midst of COVID-19.
The Iowa Conference Crisis Team continues to update the 3-2-1 Recommendations for Re-entry seeking to provide resources and practices to provide the safest environments we can as we return to worship. The online resource will continue to be updated each month, but, on the whole, our churches are either in red or yellow status. If you are in yellow status and have returned to worship, we strongly encourage this to be outdoors. If you are participating in indoor worship, the standard guidelines that accommodates physical distancing mean many sanctuaries should be at around 25% capacity.
In addition to the IAUMC Guidelines, we ask every local church to also review the county and city recommendations of your region.
Safely returning to our normal habits will not happen overnight and we are bound to have setbacks as COVID-19 ebbs and spikes across our state. You are all encouraged to follow the reentry checklist found at: https://www.iaumc.org/files/websites/www/Reentry+Checklist.pdf
This checklist is intended to help local church leadership support staff, parishioners, and visitors to stay healthy and safe by planning for those coming through your doors and keeping control over your church's spaces.
The novel coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic continues to transform how United Methodists are doing church. Technology-based worship, small group ministry, multi-generational discipleship opportunities, giving, caring, meeting, and much more have become the main way of doing ministry in this time. For additional information and resources, you can visit: https://www.resourceumc.org/en/topics/helping-your-church-respond-to-the-coronavirus
As United Methodists across Iowa, we are strengthened by the connection that commends each of us to live together as we watch over one another in love.