On Thursday, Nov. 19, Bishop Bruce R. Ough turned the dial on the Minnesota Conference's Phased Re-Gathering Plan for Churches from orange to red. Below is a letter to Minnesota United Methodists explaining the reason for the change:
Dear Minnesota United Methodists,
I am alarmed and frightened. The coronavirus pandemic is out of control in Minnesota and most of the country. Our hospitals are overwhelmed. Our front-line health care workers are exhausted. The Minnesota Department of Health told faith leaders in their most recent call that when you gather with others outside your home, you are not just at risk for exposure, you can expect to be exposed to COVID-19. That is how rampant the community spread currently is across our state.
As you might know, Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz on Wednesday announced a four-week shutdown of bars, restaurants, entertainment venues, and fitness clubs, starting Friday, Nov. 20. Weddings and funerals are permitted, but wedding receptions and post-funeral gatherings of any size are not.
Although in-person worship is still permitted, it is strongly discouraged by health officials and thus we are turning the dial on our Phased Re-Gathering Plan back to red for the foreseeable future. I ask that all churches return to virtual worship if you have not already done so, that all clergy and staff work from home, and that in-person activities in our buildings be limited to pre-schools, daycares, and emergency relief activities.
I urge you in your personal life and activities to re-double your efforts to keep people safe and help suppress the community spread of this terrible disease. Wear a mask. Stay home. Do not gather for Thanksgiving beyond your immediate household. There is no room for delay. Now is the time to act. Now is the time to set aside our personal and political preferences for the common good. Now is the time to lead the way.
The Minnesota Department of Health is reporting increasing numbers of new cases daily. Here are some sobering statistics for our state:
Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church