COVID-19 Updates

Update - March 31, 2020

Hello Friends: 

The Coronavirus/COVID-19 continues to affect life here in Illinois and all over our country and world. The latest figures show the death toll in the U.S. is now over 3400, causing increased concern and anxiety. So, what’s next? In his address this afternoon, the Governor of Illinois extended the “stay at home order” in our state until April 30th.  This continues to require all us to live life in this new reality, to do all we can to be part of the solution, and to protect ourselves and those that are part of our churches and local communities.

With that in mind, the Illinois Conference Office, and our churches and schools, will continue to remain closed until at least April 30th.

During this challenging time, I am thankful for our pastors. 46 of our 52 fulltime, part time, volunteer, and lay pastors, are providing a virtual worship experience each Sabbath, and many are also providing different connection opportunities during the week. The link to those opportunities will soon be up on our Conference website.

I am also thankful for our educational personnel. They are working diligently to provide quality at-home instruction. Remote learning is now our new reality, and I am thankful for the at-home learning that is happening all around our Conference. Thank you, teachers!

To our church members: I want to encourage all of our members to continue to follow the instructions and mandates of government and health agencies. Do all you can to keep yourself and others healthy. I am praying for each of you and asking God watch over you and to keep you healthy.

How does this affect the Church at large? We are a faith based organization. To continue to accomplish the mission God has given us here in Illinois and all over the world, God relies on your faithfulness in returning tithe. I believe faithfulness in times of crisis will be critical to accomplishing the mission God has given us and hasten the 2nd Coming of Jesus. Thank you for your faithfulness and may God bless each of you.

Now is the time to prepare our hearts. Jesus IS coming soon. Put your trust in Him. He will see us through. Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9

May God bless and keep each of you.

Ron Aguilera

President, Illinois Conference


Update - March 27, 2020

Hello Friends 

I pray this update finds you well. The Coronavirus/COVID-19 continues to grow and spread and affect life here in Illinois and all over our country and world. As of yesterday, the death toll in the U.S. is now over 1000, causing rising fear and anxiety. The Illinois Conference administration continues to monitor the situation daily. In his address yesterday, the Governor of Illinois stressed three things he had previously stated that I want to remind you of:

  1. If you don't have to go out of your home, don't.
  2. If you have to go out of your home, maintain the 6ft social distancing recommendation.
  3. Don't gather in groups of ten or more.

I want to encourage all of our members to continue to follow the instructions and mandates of government and health agencies. Do all you can to keep yourself and others healthy; wash your hands regularly, drink a lot of water, get rest and sleep, get fresh air (and sunshine, if there is some), in other words, follow the laws of health God has given us. I am praying for each of you and asking God watch over our members and keep you as healthy as possible.

As for the immediate future, the Conference Office will continue remain closed until further notice. So, too, will our churches and schools.

Tomorrow, Sabbath, many of our churches and pastors will provide a virtual worship experience. I am so thankful to our pastors for their ability to adapt and to minister in this new reality. Currently, 38 of our pastors are providing life streaming services during the week and/or on Sabbath. I want to encourage each of you to remain spiritually connected and faithful even as we practice social distancing to slow the spread of COVID-19 and save lives. There is no more important time in our earth’s history to remain faithful to God.

Also, I am thankful even though our schools are closed, our educational personnel is working diligently to provide quality at-home instruction. Thank you, teachers!

 So, what’s next? Where do we go from here? In times like these, the words of Jesus bring me peace and hope. “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” John 14:1-3

May God bless and keep each of you.

Ron Aguilera

President, Illinois Conference


Coronavirus Update - March 20, 2020

Hello friends,

Today, Friday afternoon, March 20th, the Governor of Illinois issued a “stay at home” order. This order mandates all residents of Illinois stay home until at least April 7th. The governor also stated residents can still go to the grocery stores, put gas in their cars, take walks outside, and make pharmacy runs, and go to medical offices, but are otherwise are to stay home.

Earlier this week, Illinois Conference administration took steps to follow the guidelines set out by the Center of Disease and Prevention advising no gatherings of 10 people of more be held. Today, the announcement by the Governor of our state takes this to an even greater level. 

Regarding the Illinois Conference, and as stated in the last update, all churches, schools, and the Conference office, will remain closed until further notice.

This is a difficult time, but I want to challenge us to be of good courage, and to not be afraid. Psalm 56:3, 4, says, “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise— in God, I trust and am not afraid.” I have full confidence in our God, and will continue to pray you remain of good courage and that your faith remain strong!

May the Lord bless you and keep you. Let’s continue to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, and let’s continue to be faithful to the One who has been, and will continue to be, faithful to us.

Ron Aguilera

President, Illinois Conference


March 18, 2020 update

Hello Illinois Conference Family,

Here is today’s update (This update supersedes previous updates, including previous dates posted). Due to the rapidly changing situation with the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, please note the following items:

  1. All Illinois Conference schools are closed until March 30th. Our Conference Education department has been working with our schools to insure a smooth transition from At-School Instruction to In-Home Instruction.
  2. All Illinois Conference events have been cancelled through the end of May. Conference Personnel Committee and Executive Committee meetings scheduled for April will be held in a manner to be determined.
  3. The Illinois Conference Office is closed to the public until March 30th. Office personnel will be working from home, and you may contact them via email. The Conference phone line will be manned off-site.
  4. Due to government guidelines regarding the number of people who may assemble, we are MANDATING that all church services be suspended until further notice.
  5. We encourage pastors/churches who can stream a Sabbath services to do so, and for pastors of churches who do not have this availability, to partner with another church to help their members stay connected on Sabbath mornings.

Moving forward, there is still much about the Coronavirus COVID-19 that is unknown, and as medical authorities and government leaders continue to search for answers, the Illinois Conference will continue to communicate and adjust as needed.  The latest update can always be found here.

Friends, in spite of the uncertainty around us, we can have full confidence that our God is still on the throne. “Fear not,” he says, “for I am with you,” (Isa. 41:10), “He will not leave you, nor forsake you” (Deut. 31:6). 

May the Lord bless you and keep you, and may we continue to be faithful today and each day.

Blessings,

Ron Aguilera


Update - March 16, 2020

Hello friends,

As the coronavirus/COVID-19 continues to affect our nation, I want to share with you this latest update.

First, as of tomorrow, March 17th, the Governor of Illinois has closed all restaurants to dine in customers from March 17-30.

Secondly, yesterday, March 15th, the CDC, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, recommended no gatherings of 50 or more for the next 8 weeks. As of today, March 16th, the governor of Illinois has ordered no gatherings of 50 or more in the state of Illinois.

What does this mean for the Illinois Conference?

  1. Currently, the Conference Office will remain open and available to answer questions, provide guidance, and offer support to our constituents.
  2. The Illinois Conference is, according an order from the governor of Illinois, MANDATING there be no gatherings of 50 or more in order to comply with the Governor’s order. Conference administration is strongly recommending that ALL our churches close until May 11th
  3. Many of our Illinois Conference churches were closed this past Sabbath. Although, those with an online presence provided a virtual Sabbath School and church option. Please call our ministerial director for help setting this up in your church.
  4. All Illinois Conference Schools are closed until at least March 30th.
  5. All Illinois Conference sponsored events are cancelled until June 1.

This is a fluid situation. We will continue to evaluate and recommend actions moving forward. We believe these decisions and recommendations are in the best interest of our church members and the community at large. In an effort to continue to minister to our churches, I am asking our pastors to stay connected with their members through phone calls, texts, emails, social media, etc. And, let’s support and encourage one another through prayer.

Lastly, I want to communicate the importance of remaining faithful in our giving even though our churches are closed. Faithfulness in crisis is critical to the continuation of the mission God has given us. There is a no more important time be faithful to God than in this time of uncertainty. As you can imagine, a decrease in tithe giving will affect the world church (Remember, 61% of the tithe stays in Illinois, the rest goes out to support the world church), and it will affect the Illinois Conference and our ability to accomplish mission, provide pastoral coverage for churches, evangelism, education, Camp Akita…you get the idea... Thank you for your continued faithfulness during this uncertain time.

Again, I want to encourage you to keep your eyes on Jesus. He will not leave us nor forsake us. Thank you for your understanding and support. May God bless and keep each one of you.

Sincerely,

Ron Aguilera
President, Illinois Conference


March 13, 2020

Hello friends,

As the coronavirus/COVID-19 continues to affect our nation, I want to share with you this latest update. Today, the North American Division has put out a statement providing some guidance for the churches and schools in our territory regarding the impact of the coronavirus disease. 

(You can read that statement at: https://tinyurl.com/qlzzqpo)

As a result, and seeking to limit the effects of this virus, the Illinois Conference is suggesting that churches and schools strongly reconsider the need to meet over the next two weeks. If churches have live-streaming capabilities, those options should be utilized to provide virtual church services for their members.

The state of Illinois has yet to mandate this for groups smaller than 1000 people, but suggest that groups of more than 250 people should not meet together. The Illinois Conference believes in erring on the side of caution. We have a responsibility to care for each other and our neighbors. With the World Health Organization now declaring COVID-19 to be a pandemic, we should be seen as part of the solution rather than potentially becoming part of the problem. With that in mind, I am strongly suggesting that churches and schools NOT meet over the next two weeks. [Later UPDATE 3/13/2020 UPDATE: Our Illinois Conference schools MUST close from at least March 17-30.] For schools, you might need to meet on Monday so that students can collect books, and communication on how they will receive their instructions according to the school continuation plan can be shared. Because this is a fluid situation, we will continue to evaluate and recommend actions moving forward. 

Pastors and teachers, I would ask you to continue to stay connected with your members, and students and their parents, through phone calls, texts, emails, social media, etc. Also, let’s support and encourage one another through prayer. 

 

Thank you for your understanding and support. May God bless and keep each one of you.

Sincerely,

Ron Aguilera

President, Illinois Conference


March 12, 2020

Friends,

Around 5pm this evening, the Governor of Illinois, and other officials, made statements regarding the position of the state of Illinois on the corona virus, including mandates and recommendations. The three big take-aways are:

A mandate was issued that there be no gatherings of more than 1000 people.
It is recommended that events of 250 people also be cancelled or rescheduled.
Schools in Illinois will remain open.
What does this mean for the Illinois Conference churches and schools, as well as special events.

No gatherings of 1000 or more should be planned. None are planned at this time.
Events of 250 or more should be cancelled or postponed. Conference or church events like Global Youth Day, special evangelism events, hispanic men's retreat, Adventurer fun day, are cancelled. School events like band fest, music tour, track field, day, should be postponed until further notice.
As for churches, we are not recommending that churches close. We only have a handful of churches above the 250 threshold, and it is only a recommendation from the state, not a mandate. Of course, each situation is different so use your best judgment and include your local church leadership before making any decision. 

Attached, I have included a Church Virus Protocol from the Lake Union that you can implement in your churches on Sabbaths.

Again, this continues to be a fluid, ever changing, situation. Stay tuned for more information as things continue to develop.

Blessings,

Ron Aguilera

Church Virus Protocol Document  (text of this document below)

Lake Union Conference Model Protocol for
Worship and Assembly Practices During Covid-19 Outbreak

As our churches engage in weekly gatherings of fellowship during our current health crisis, it is important to our gospel witness to provide solutions, rather than to create problems. Our churches have significant elderly populations that are especially at risk for Covid-19.  Some states are issuing cautions about having any large social meetings or gatherings at all.  You need to consider, in consultation with your Conference leadership, when and how it might be appropriate to either cancel church, or stream it remotely.  But if you do intend to hold services, we advise that you consider the following guidelines:   1. Ask your members to worship on-line from home if they: have active cold or flu symptoms; have recently (last two weeks) traveled in a CDC level three country (wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/notices/); have reason to believe they have recently been exposed to people infected with the virus; or are senior citizens and/or have underlying chronic medical conditions like heart disease, diabetes, or lung disease.
             2.  Make special efforts, using appropriate safety measures, to stay connected with and support those that must stay home, especially the elderly, as they are at special risk for loneliness and depression during times of extended isolation.
            3. Ask church attendees not to give hugs and handshakes, and to maintain a safe social distance from others (generally three feet or more); we strongly recommend that Communion service be suspended for the Spring quarter.
            4. Provide anti-septic soap dispensers (with 60% alcohol content, if available) at all church entrances, with signs indicating a no handshake zone; have greeters place bulletins on tables or trays for people to pick up, rather than handing them out.
            5. Avoid hand-holding prayer or singing sessions; organize the children’s story time to avoid contact among the children, and; find alternate ways to take up the children’s or “lamb’s offering,” especially during March and April.           
           6. Do not pass offering plates; place plates in the back, or the front, to be used as people leave.
           7. Provide alcohol wipes and regularly clean high-touch surfaces, like door handles, stair rails, drinking fountains, light switches, and Sabbath School room tables after use, especially in the children’s Sabbath Schools.
           8.  Consider cancelling potlucks and community meals, at least for the months of March and April.  If group meals happen, use food servers with gloves rather than allowing self-service.
           9.  Share reliable information from church and government agencies, such as www.cdc.gov,  that will help promote safe practices, and that will defuse stereotypes and myths.  For instance, it is not true that certain immigrant groups or nationalities are causing the spread of the virus within the United States, and there is simply no evidence that the virus was engineered or intentionally spread.
          10. Plan health nuggets in Sabbath School and church reminding people of immune-system boosting behaviors, such as getting regular exercise, sunshine, good sleep, and avoiding excess sugars. The Adventist health message provides an anti-Coronavirus behavior template, let’s share it that way!

Share your protocol with the members, and especially all church leaders, including elders, deacons, and Sabbath School teachers, so everyone can be on the same page.  It will be updated and modified as further guidance from civil and church leadership is received. If we turn our churches into sites of health awareness and support, rather than sources of concern, they can be seen as centers of community solutions and health promotion, both physical and spiritual.  “Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, as it goes well with your soul.”  1 John 1:3


March 10, 2020 2:14 PM

Greetings friends,

 

All around us there is increased discussion and information regarding the Corona Virus/COVID-19. Understandably, there is concern about its affect personally, as well as corporately. This leads to the requests for guidance on how to navigate personal interactions, gatherings, trips, etc...particularly in our schools and churches. Because of the contradicting information and differing opinions, clear guidance is difficult. As we move forward, we suggest each scenario must be assessed individually and within its local context. If we can be of assistance, feel free to contact our Superintendent of Education regarding any school question, and Pete Braman, our ministerial director, with any church related issue.

 

Also, the Illinois Conference wants to encourage each individual, school, and church, to focus on the preventative measures available. We also suggest you follow the guidelines made by the Center of Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. State Department Travel Advisories. Below is a statement from the North American Division, as well as preventative suggestions to implement. Again, because this is a fluid situation, things are subject to change.  We are praying for discernment from God's Spirit as we move through the days ahead.

 

 

Blessings,

 

Ron Aguilera 

President, Illinois Conference

 

NAD Administration Shares Info Regarding COVID-19 and Division Response

On March 4, 2020, during the North American Division monthly staff meeting, NAD administration invited Tim Northrop, president of Adventist Risk Management, and Dr. Peter Landless, Health Ministries director of the General Conference of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, to present on what the church is doing in regard to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19). They shared best practices on how to help prevent the spread of the virus, such as washing hands frequently, using hand sanitizer when soap and water are not available, not shaking hands, and regularly wiping down common areas with disinfectant. They also encouraged entities who are holding meetings with large numbers of people to consider alternative options in case the virus continues to spread. (Resource material links from ARM and GC Health Ministries are listed below.)
 
GC president Ted N.C. Wilson, in a March 2 communication to church leaders, responded to the growing health challenges COVID-19 has caused. He wrote, “In the past few days, the situation has been highly accelerated by the identification of an increasing number of people with the virus in various places around the world. This has resulted in governments and airlines restricting travel and activities. … A few weeks ago, we asked our world church to pray about this situation, especially in relation to China. I have just asked the church to pray again.”
 
Wilson shared that questions have arisen about what may happen with the upcoming General Conference Session, scheduled for June 25 to July 4, 2020, in Indianapolis, Indiana, in light of the COVID-19 situation.
 
“We will share with you at SM [spring meeting] what possible alternative plans may be recommended. Let’s pray that none of that will be needed. God is in control. We certainly do not want to cause any unnecessary alarm or concern but felt it was necessary to issue a call to prayer and a statement indicating that at this time the plans for the General Conference Session in Indianapolis are as have been planned. … We place this in God’s hands.”
 
The NAD administration is restricting international travel for its employees at this time. No one is authorized to travel to countries that have been placed on any travel bans or travel restrictions (level 3 and higher) by the U.S. government and federal health authorities. It is recommended that persons visit the U.S. Department of State website’s travel advisory page for a list of countries under travel advisory (listed below).
 
In a message to NAD employees, administration said, “The NAD is monitoring the situation daily to determine on-going response as warranted, endeavoring to monitor things with a balanced approach. We are following the GC administration and GC Health Department’s lead in these matters.”

[Click here for link to this document on the NAD website.]
 
Resources:
 
Adventist Risk Management’s webpage link: https://adventistrisk.org/en-us/safety-resources/solutions-newsletter/2020/march/information-regarding-coronavirus-covid19-naden
 
General Conference Adventist Health Ministries article by Dr. Peter Landless: http://healthministries.com/articles/homepage/coronavirus-update
 
U.S. Department of State travel advisory page link: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/traveladvisories/traveladvisories.html/
 
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) COVID-19 link: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html
 
World Health Organization COVID-19 link: https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019
 
CDC COVID-19 Resources for Households link: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/home/index.html