As we are all aware, our country, state, and community are in the midst of another surge of covid cases. Even as the vaccine(s) is being distributed, infections, illnesses, and deaths are on a steep upswing. Our church formed a Task Force over the summer, when we were only worshipping online, to monitor not only the information from the Arkansas Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control, but to receive guidance from those bodies and from the Arkansas Conference of The United Methodist Church. The Task Force has continued to work to set in place safety protocols as advised by the top medical institutions, government agencies, and from the Conference. The Conference Task Force has recently updated its guidance to include data that is highly localized and makes use of the best information from the top infectious disease experts in the country. This week our own Task Force met again to discuss what (if any) adjustments that FUMC, Sheridan should make in light of the information and data that we continue to receive.
The Task Force believes that we should follow the best practices as prescribed by medical science, particularly during a global pandemic. We are grateful that as the pandemic has run its course that experts have tuned the data more finely and are providing guidance on a local basis. We appreciate that the Conference has given leadership in helping us to discover resources to help us make decisions. In particular, the data on covidactnow.org speaks not only to the status of the pandemic in Arkansas, but indeed even to Sheridan and the 72150 zip code. The particular data points of new cases per 100,000 people; positive test rate; and infection rate speak loudly to the condition of our community. We think that the ICU bed capacity is more of a state-wide issue (and that data is provided as well). Furthermore, the Task Force appreciates that the recommendations for action from covidactnow.org come from leading medical and scientific experts (Georgetown Medical Center, Harvard Global Health Initiative, Stanford Medical School) and independent government agencies (CDC and White House Coronavirus Task Force and Harvard Global Health Initiative).
We also recognize that the pandemic has not only caused untold suffering and death as well as economic loss in our country, state, and community, but that the effects of this have weighed heavily on our souls and emotions. We know that people desperately need the comfort that our spiritual community provides. We need our church! We need one another! We need to worship the God who loves us through this pandemic! In particular, the Advent and Christmas season draw us ever closer to the God who is known through the Incarnation of Jesus, which we celebrate at this time of year. Every member of the Task Force recognizes that our church provides a place for people to know and worship God and that this particular time calls for us to take extraordinary measures to safely provide that sanctuary from the world's woes.
In light of all of this information, the Task Force has set the following as the schedule that we will be following through the beginning of the year:
Sunday, Dec. 20 (10am) - In person and online worship; Sunday School following
Thursday, Dec. 24 (6pm and 11pm) - Online worship ONLY; Carols, Candles, and Communion - have Holy Communion elements ready at home.
Sunday, Dec. 27 (10am) - online worship only; NO Sunday School
Sunday, Jan. 3 (10am) - online worship only; Sunday School online only
Sunday, Jan. 10 (10am) - resume in-person and online worship and in-person and online Sunday School
The Task Force recognizes the increase of intensity of the covid pandemic in Sheridan at this time as reflected by the data. Furthermore, the Task Force hopes that taking 14 days over the Christmas break, when many people in our congregation will be gathering with family and friends outside of their immediate household, will give our church some slack during this time when we are all even more vulnerable to the spread of the disease. The Task Force intends for our church to resume in-person activities including worship on January 10, but will continue to monitor the data and will make adjustments as needed.
Grace & Peace,
To view a message from Pastor Todd-Paul regarding the upcoming weeks in our church, visit https://www.sheridanfumc.org/videos.html