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Alice Fowler
District Superintendent
Alice Fowler

Rebecca Courtney
Executive Assistant
Rebecca Courtney

Tiffany Freeman
Administrative Assistant
Tiffany Freeman

(417) 623-2382
2517 E 20th
Joplin, Missouri 64804-1037


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GUIDANCE for Returning to In-Person Worship

posted on January 26


Dear Southwest Pastors and Churches, 

There have been many questions regarding returning to in-person worship.   The following has been issued from the Missouri Annual Conference.  Pastors, please be in conversation with your church leaders as you plan your return to in-person.  
 
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: https://showmestrong.mo.gov/public-health-county/. 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.
 
STATE COVID-19 VACCINATION DISTRIBUTION LIST
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.