We are ten months into the COVID-19 pandemic, and I know many of us are experiencing pandemic fatigue. That is one reason I am thankful that the positivity rate has been going down in the State of Illinois over the last week or so. What does this mean for our churches and schools in the Illinois Conference?
The Illinois Conference Administration strongly recommends our churches follow the guidelines set out by State officials and the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH). These recommendations are different for each of the 11 regions of our state and are dependent on the metrics of each region. That is why it is important to be up to date, as changes have been occurring rapidly over the last few days. Elder John Grys, Illinois Conference Executive Secretary, sends our pastors a notice every time there is an update to any region to make sure you are well informed. Depending on the region, gatherings (limited by size for that region) can take place, as long as the church is following the guidelines and protocols listed by the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH), such as social distancing, cleaning, masks, etc.
As you consider when to open, I want to encourage you to err on the side of caution. Be mindful of the impact it will have on our members and our community. Remember, our intention might be one thing, but we must assess the impact our decision will have on others both physically and spiritually.
As for our schools, our Conference Education Department will continue to work with our school principals to ensure our schools are following the guidelines and protocols to keep our students and teachers safe.
Thank you for your understanding and cooperation. We continue to pray for God’s hand to guide us as we navigate these difficult times. Most importantly, let’s keep our eyes fixed on Jesus and continue to ask God to help us accomplish the mission He has given us.
As you know, the Restore Illinois plan has entered Phase 3. IDPH, the Illinois Department of Public Health, has provided new Guidelines for Churches that strongly recommend certain protocols be put in place before opening up our churches for worship services. We have shared these guidelines, as well as those from the CDC (Center of Disease Control) and Adventist Risk Management, with our pastors and asked they discuss and consider them with their church boards in preparation for opening up our churches in the near future.
As you may know, the state of Illinois has established four health regions, each with the ability to independently move through a 5-phased approach. The four regions are: Northeast Illinois; North-Central Illinois; Central Illinois; and Southern Illinois. Currently, the anticipation is that each area in Illinois will be able to move to Phase 4 as of June 26th.
The position of Illinois Conference administration is each church will decide when it will open, but it must follow the State mandates. We also want to encourage each church to have a plan to incorporate the protocols and guidelines given by the Conference. Currently, a few of our churches have opened under the 10 or fewer guideline. We ask you to do all you can to protect your church members and guests, as well as to clearly communicate the protocols and guidelines you have put in place to provide a safe environment for individuals and families.
As you may know, under Phase 4, fifty or fewer people may meet together. As we look forward to that day, we are strongly recommending churches wait until Phase 4 of Restore Illinois to open its doors. This will give you the opportunity to properly prepare and sanitize your facility. We understand each region and each church size is different, and ask you navigate the reopening process thoughtfully and purposely to ensure our members and guests are protected and feel as safe as possible. Also, for our larger churches, we recommend a gradual reopening with continued virtual services for those who do not feel safe in a group environment or are in the at-risk category.
The Conference office opened this week with a staggered schedule, which means office personnel will be in the office on alternate days to comply with the 10 or fewer order of Phase 3. During Phase 3, any visits to the Conference office must by appointment. The plan is to open the office fully once we go to Phase 4.
As we continue to navigate our current dynamic, I want you to know we are praying for you. We are praying that God will keep each of you healthy, and that He will bless us as a Conference as we continue to do all we can to accomplish the mission God has given us to “Go and make disciples of all nations…”
Dear Illinois Conference Family,
Over the last week, we have watched in horror and sadness the death of George Floyd, and the reaction of many, both peaceful and violent, who are appalled by the continued behavior and actions of discrimination, hate, and violence in this country. For all those affected, we want you to know you are loved and valued. There is a day coming when all things will be set right.
As for today, I want to invite each member of our Conference to pray every day for God’s love and justice to prevail. We are living in unprecedented times. I believe Jesus is coming soon. I am looking forward to that day when He, the King of Kings, will take us to our eternal home. A home free of discrimination, marginalization, free of pain, and free of all suffering and injustices. Until then, I want to urge you to keep your eyes on Jesus, and to do all you can to defend the weak, oppressed, and marginalized (Proverbs 31:8, 9), and to call for justice to prevail.
My friends, let us continue to put our trust in our almighty God. Isaiah 12:2 puts it this way,
“Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid; for the LORD GOD is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation.” Let us cling to God’s promises, focus on walking with Jesus, and use our voices to promote fairness, equality, love, and hope, “to every kindred, race, tongue, and people.”
GC - Ted Wilson/Facebook