Church family,

I want to give everyone an update given the recent surge of Covid-19 cases we’ve seen in our community and around the world.

The Church Council, the Re-opening Committee, and I have been monitoring this situation with prayer and care. We have had a series of meetings recently to discuss our responsibility for the care of our Covenant United Methodist Church community, as well as the community around us.

I want to start by clarifying that at this time, we are going to continue to worship in-person. A part of this decision is how faithful each of you has been with the requirements in place to keep one another safe. You have been diligent and patient with masks, social-distancing, and no live singing. Thank you, from the bottom of this pastor’s heart. Let us re-commit to no hugging or hand-shakes (I will certainly miss hugging you all), and please, if you’d like to continue talking after service, we invite you to enjoy the beautiful weather and do so outside).

That being said, we are yet again facing another unprecedented turn with regard to this pandemic. With the rise of the Delta & Lambda variants, we are seeing a rise in severe cases among our young people, especially with those who are not yet able to get the vaccine because of age eligibility. You may already know that in Spokane, our ICU beds are at 84% capacity this week. Kootenai County Medical Center announced that they have completely filled their 91 ICU beds with Covid-19 patients. While the vast majority of hospitalizations are among the unvaccinated, the mutations are causing more break-through cases and the vaccinated are recommended to receive a booster shot starting next month. If you are immunocompromised, please speak with your doctor about a booster now. You can track the data with us on this website: s=22131139

I do not say these things to stoke fear. I acknowledge the truth in order for us to understand that we are in a far worse position with regard to the virus than we were with the Spring surge.

Here are some additional updates about the steps we are taking to ensure safety if we remain in-person:
• We have also acquired HVAC filters rated for the Covid-19 virus and will be installing those ahead of Sunday’s worship service.
• In order to ensure your safety, I will be tested every Saturday night prior to preaching without a mask.

Most importantly, we have a live-streaming service up and running, due to the tremendous effort of our Technology & Communications Ministry Team. They have worked tirelessly and are doing a phenomenal job. We will continue to live-stream, and if you are feeling increasingly vulnerable, we invite you to remain at home during this time and join in worship virtually.

Of course, if we return to online-only worship, it will be live-streamed and available for viewing outside of typical worship time. We hope we may continue meeting in person, but we are well-prepared for online worship if we return to virtual church services.

We share your concern about the mental health of each of you, and so we encourage you to be creative if we revert to online-only worship. Consider bubbling with one or a couple of people whom you trust, and watch the stream together or FaceTime each other during the service. Please strongly consider those who do not have technical skills or access and help keep them engaged with the Covenant community. We are also prepared to offer ways of
connecting. These include drive-in church, Zoom activities, etc. We will get through this together, whatever decisions are made.

The Council, under advisement from other key leaders, has decided to spend the next two weeks watching the data, to determine if we must return to online-only worship. The numbers we will be looking most closely at are new cases per day and ICU bed occupancy. These are helpful indicators for the severity of the virus in our immediate community. Please know, this decision is not undertaken lightly, and while it grieves all of us to have these discussions, it is our duty as the leaders of Covenant UMC to take seriously our responsibility for the health and well-being of the community. We do so with much prayer and consideration of our communal responsibilities.

In addition, should the Mead or Spokane Public Schools Districts return to online learning, we do the same with our worship and ministries.

This decision is firmly rooted in the calling of Jesus to love our neighbors. We are not motivated by fear, but by LOVE. We are actively exercising compassion for the vulnerable by making choices to protect others. We want to love our medical worker neighbors and keep our unvaccinated neighbors safe. We want to love our neighbors who own businesses and the ones who face financial ruin if they get sick.

We will keep you up-to-date with any decisions moving forward. If we return to online-only, we will detail the information clearly about the plan to re-open, and we will continue to live-stream the worship service. We ask for your patience in this time, and always we ask for your prayers as we all navigate this complicated landscape. Pray for a miraculous turn in the next two weeks.

—Pastor Megan Madsen