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Melissa Dodd
District Superintendent
Melissa Dodd

Megan Hayes
Executive Assistant
Megan Hayes

Morgan Scott
Administrative Assistant
Morgan Scott

(816) 649-5028
Fax: (816) 649-5015
401 B East Grand Ave.
Cameron, Missouri 64429

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COVID-19 Guidance: Returning to In-Person Worship

posted on January 21

Dear clergy and leadership of NW churches,

I know this has been and continues to be a time of the unknown, yet still there are hard decisions to be made around the safety of each other. Please know I am praying as you and leadership navigate these decisions.

Below you will find thoughts from our conference office. Please work together as clergy and laity to find what is best to ‘do no harm’. The balance of the need for all to feel safe and the need for fellowship has been difficult and can cause tension among people. 

I realize that there will be differing views around what is correct for your particular congregation. 

Please approach the conversation with an open heart for the other.
If you, as clergy or chairperson, have questions please reach out to our district office. 

It is difficult to put into words how much I admire the leadership I have seen from many of our Northwest churches during this time. You continue to bless, while wrestling with difficult situations.

As we’ve entered a new year, we encourage our churches to remain vigilant in their safety precautions related to COVID-19. Even with the vaccine on the horizon, we know from our medical experts that we are far from out of the woods. Our current state positivity rate is 12.2% which remains high although it has been cut in half since Bishop Farr’s last guidance on November 18. I would encourage you and your churches to begin to make decisions about returning to in person worship. As you and your local church make decisions related to returning to in-person worship, we encourage you to look at the positivity rate for the past seven days for your county (i.e., jurisdiction). When returning to in-person worship strictly adhere to health and safety protocols designed to reduce community spread.
When the COVID-19 percent-positive rate is high in your area, the chance that you will run into someone with the virus at the grocery store or at Sunday morning worship, is much higher than if the rate is low in your area. Unfortunately, there is no uniform percent positive number at which things shut down or re-open. Many Missouri schools use a percent positive of 15-20% for decision-making. In addition, as we have stated from the start, we expect our churches to follow their county health guidelines. If your county health department has limitations related to group size, we expect you to model good behavior for the rest of community by following those guidelines.
Check out your county’s positivity rate by visiting: Be sure to click on “positivity rate” and look at your county (i.e., jurisdiction). Bishop Farr’s mandate on wearing masks on all United Methodist property remains in effect. Continue to adhere to social distancing guidelines and limiting contact among your members until we hear guidance from the CDC that these limitations can be removed. We don’t anticipate that will be for some time.
You may have noticed in the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services COVID-19 vaccination distribution guidelines that the United Methodist Church—Missouri Conference are designated in Tier 1b (page 6 under “Emergency Management and Public Works). The Missouri Conference of The United Methodist Church was invited as part of our disaster response work to request vaccine doses. The Conference requested 150 doses and are awaiting next steps. The Conference is NOT in possession of the vaccine. The details of that process are still being worked out. Our expectation, along with that of that of the state of Missouri, would be that these doses would go to United Methodist disaster response teams (certified early response teams or ERTs) across the state so that these people could be deployed to natural disasters in the coming months with reduced risk due to being vaccinated. If your church has a certified ERT and has not been contacted by Scott Burdin, Disaster Response Coordinator, please reach out to him.