On Monday, November 16, the Bishop held a Town Hall meeting on Zoom for the clergy in the Indiana Conference with guest speakers from IU Health, which is affiliated with the Indiana Conference of the UMC. The Bishop has strongly recommended that all United Methodist Churches in Indiana suspend in-person worship for the time being. This is based on the recommendation of the health consultants from IU Health particularly:
• 80% of cases are contracted in restaurants, bars, and churches.
• Health care workers are worn out and hospitals across the state are reaching maximum capacity. IU Health alone has over 1200 caregivers unable to work due to either illness or quarantine, further putting strain on those still able to provide care. Reducing spread helps to relieve the strain on our hospitals and the dedicated individuals who care for the sick.
• 40% of the "spreaders" never show symptom, so you never know who is an infection risk, especially since those without symptoms generally would not have had a reason to be tested.
• Currently the situation in Indiana is worse than at any point in the pandemic and is worsening exponentially. They are also seeing many more young and healthy people being hospitalized and a significant number of people are displaying ongoing organ damage and disability from even relatively mild illness.
• There is also a small but significant number of the hospitalized who are on the second instance of covid. It is possible, although unlikely, to get it more than once.
• The key metric they recommend following is the positivity rate. That is the percentage of people tested who test positive. If that number is over 5% then there is significant community spread of the virus. As of today, LaPorte county is at 11.6% and Starke county is at 12.4%.
So, in consultation with the Church Council I have decided to continue the suspension of in-person worship for now. IU Health’s recommendation is to expect to continue this suspension for 8-12 weeks, however, we will be reevaluating every two weeks. Yes, this is a sad and difficult decision, but it is the right and Christian thing to do.
Methodism has, since the days of John Wesley, had three rules:
1. Do no harm.
2. Do all the good you can.
3. Faithfully keep the spiritual disciplines of worship, Bible study, prayer, and service to others to grow in holiness.
The suspension of in-person worship keeps the first rule of do no harm. To keep the second rule, we will continue to look after one another and our neighbors. Be faithful to the third rule through reading your Bible daily, praying daily, and participating in worship even if it is on-line. True, on-line worship does not feel the same, but it is our Christian duty and privilege to be able to worship together even when we are apart. All worship, including on-line, will feed our spirits and sustain us through these difficult times.
Please pass this on to those who do not have email access. If you would like to read the Bishop’s statement it can be found here: /https://www.inumc.org/bishop/covid-19-update-an-announcement-from-bishop-trimble/
The God of Peace is with us and is sustaining us in this time. Trust God!