The leaders of more than a dozen judicatories in Minnesota, including Dakotas-Minnesota Area Bishop Bruce R. Ough, crafted a joint statement voicing concern about the increase in COVID-19 cases and urging Minnesotans to serve their communities, partner with neighbors and health care workers, and make changes that will save lives. The statement is as follows:
Since March we, the heads of communion and executives whose congregations and clergy represent over 1,000,000 Minnesotans of faith, have been in regular contact with each other. We face a deadly threat that thrives when we behave like everything is normal. We have shared the pressing concerns of communities who have been most impacted by this virus. In recent weeks we have felt greater urgency about our deepening crisis.
We have learned to guide our congregations in adopting new practices which minimize the risk of COVID-19 infection. We can do this while still performing the essential roles of faith communities in connecting people with God and with each other. We urge you to also adjust your behaviors to match the reality of a worsening pandemic.
We take as given certain facts about the virus:
In addition to these truths, we also know that the moral voice of faith communities makes a real difference in shaping how we face this disease. Though we may all have our feet in different places on policy solutions, our hearts are in the same place in our desire to save lives. We urge Minnesotans to embrace three values when choosing how to oppose this disease.
Service: Try to be of service not only to your faith but to your community. The decisions made in each household have impacts that reach far beyond its walls. Make decisions not simply for your own sake but for the sakes of those whom you have yet to meet. Consider how you can be of service to your neighbors during this pandemic.
Partnership: Partner with your neighbors and public health workers. There is expertise in the world that can help us all to better survive through the pandemic. Our congregations who share facts about COVID-19, who host testing sites, and who are changing the ways they conduct ministry are active partners with experts in their communities forming a united front in the fight against this disease’s spread.
Leadership: Leaders of all stripes know that pushback is an ever-present element of change. As a leader, please make difficult changes in order to change lives. While we would all prefer to wish COVID-19 out of our lives, those leaders strong enough to look our rising numbers in the eye and help their congregations, communities, and families to behave differently in order to save lives deserve our thanks. We also know that your decisions have ripple effects. We pray our own changed behaviors give others the courage to also make life-saving choices.
Every community is different and there is no end to the variety of congregations and ministries engaged in our state. We find ourselves polarized in many ways and of one mind in so few. Yet we are united in our being under threat from COVID-19. And we are united as diverse faith leaders across the state in urging all Minnesotans to unite under the values of service, partnership and leadership. In doing so, we make real our shared commitment as people of faith to love our neighbor.
Consider sharing this prayer at your holiday table: “We grieve those who are not at our table today, even as we hope that the end of this struggle is in sight. Give us servant hearts to love our neighbors enough to not spread this disease to them. Help us to partner with medical professionals and front-line workers as we wash our hands, physically distance, and wear our masks. With these practices, may our actions lead to a better and more hopeful future.”
Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church