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Dear Clergy Colleagues,
As you may be aware, Governor Kim Reynolds announced this morning that she is relaxing COVID-19 restrictions in all 99 counties in order to open the state and boost the economy. Effective Friday May 15, she will be lifting mandated closures on barber shops and salons. Also included in the relaxed restrictions are restaurant dining areas, libraries, racetracks, and fitness centers in all counties. It is important to remember that current restrictions related to capacity and extra health measures will remain in effect.
While we understand the necessity of addressing the need for our state to return to normal and our workers to get back to work, we also remain cautious because it is critical to protect the most vulnerable among us, which includes both clergy and laity. According to a Des Moines Register analysis of national COVID-19 data late last week, Polk County was eighth among the top ten counties in the United States where the coronavirus was spreading fastest, and Dallas County was not far behind. This reminds us that geographical areas of Iowa have been affected in different ways and that there is no “once size fits all” regarding relaxing current restrictions.
In the same way, our churches are all located in different contexts. While some churches are located in low COVID-19 affected areas and may feel very comfortable returning to in-house worship, many other areas will need to continue to refrain from in-house worship. We still strongly recommend continuing to worship virtually for the time being, with the hope that the time will come soon when the infection rate will decrease significantly and we can all worship in our church buildings again.
Because of the rapidly changing landscape in both our state and the church, the cabinet is sponsoring an all-clergy Zoom meeting for Tuesday, May 19, from 6:00 to 7:00 p.m. At this time, we will be sharing reports regarding the re-entry plan and providing time for you to ask questions. An email was sent to clergy with the Zoom meeting information on Thursday, May 14 at approximately 4:25 pm.
Please know how deeply grateful we are for the ministry of each one of you. None of us anticipated that anything like this would happen in our ministries; however, we look to God for wisdom and strength, and we look to each other for connection, wisdom, and hope.
Bishop Laurie and the Cabinet of the Iowa Annual Conference