Dear Beloved United Methodists of Indiana,
I write to you in the new year in the season of Epiphany. Jesus Christ is born, and we go forth as ambassadors of hope and messengers of love and salvation in Jesus Christ.
We are two years into a global pandemic that has impacted us all. We are now experiencing in our state—and globally—what has been identified as the Omicron surge. Many of our hospitals are filled with COVID patients, and the number of children nationwide with the disease has increased due to the rapid spread of the Omicron variant. Positive test rates are high, and our healthcare workers are exhausted.
Stress and exhaustion have impacted many of our clergy and laity as well. We need to continue to encourage attention to our own mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being.
We enter these winter months not as those without hope or opportunity. As I have communicated since the beginning of the global pandemic, we will lead and provide guidance with an emphasis on an abundance of caution, advice from our health experts, resilience that comes from our relationship with Jesus, and our commitment to support each other.
As a result of the rapid spread of COVID and the Omicron surge, we have transitioned our in-person meetings at the Conference center and our Cabinet meetings to Zoom. It is our hope that this will change with the decrease of COVID spread.
This is a time for pastors to confer with the teams responsible for their local church health and safety protocols and assess what changes (if any) need to be made for the current reality in this context.
As we have been advised, I believe that getting vaccinated and boosted—along with wearing masks—provide our best protection against serious illness and its spread. I recently preached in one of our Indiana Conference churches where all worshippers wore masks. Wearing a high-quality mask, washing our hands frequently, and having a well-communicated protocol is important.
I support the decisions of local churches, including those who determined that a pause in in-person meetings and worship at this time, is appropriate. Pastors and their teams must make the best decisions for their context, taking into consideration those who are vulnerable and impacted by your ministries. Your leadership team is essential to assess what is best in your situation.
Thanks be to God for your continued faithfulness.
I close with words from 2 Corinthians 13:11, “Finally, brothers and sisters, rejoice! Strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace be with you.”
Bishop Julius C. Trimble
Indiana Conference of The United Methodist Church