June 1, 2020
The Grinnell UCC leadership wants you to know that we love you and we miss you. Our desire to be together again with you, celebrating God’s love, is matched only by our desire to ensure your continued safety. Because this pandemic is a new experience for all of us – complex and still poorly understood, even by experts – and advice and requests and guidelines and demands are coming from a variety of disparate sources, Pastor Jessica and the Governing Board have decided to follow the suggestion of the greater UCC and form a local task force (led by John Ashby and Josh Sandquist) to develop a plan to help guide our church’s decision making regarding when and how to resume various church functions. This note is intended to briefly introduce to you this task force’s earliest planning work.
By the time you receive this note, all 50 states will have relaxed social distancing rules to some degree. Public health experts have expressed much concern about this state of affairs as none of the states have met scientific/medical benchmarks that would indicate that the pandemic is controlled enough to resume social activity. The fact of the matter is that the situation in Iowa is not appreciably different from when restrictions were put in place. The virus is still here and, if anything, more widespread. We have no vaccine, and testing and quarantining and contact tracing resources and practices, which are needed for a safe reopening, are still inadequate. As such, it is the opinion of this task force that now is not the time for us to resume in-person church activities. The risks are still too great.
As mentioned above, one can find a lot guidance out there on how churches should proceed, with varying degrees of overlap. They best describe resuming church activities in progressive stages that are tied to data-based benchmarks. We are developing a plan for finding reliable data and designing stages that make sense for our church. For example, the church building has been essentially closed to all for the past two months. However, we feel that there is now acceptable low risk in allowing a small number of staff members to resume work in the building. The next step would, at some point not yet determined, include the resumption of small group activities, which can be more easily adapted to social distancing practices. Further, small groups enable us to keep track of who is attending and when, so that if cases do pop up we can effectively trace them and quarantine people to prevent large scale spread. Full worship with everyone in attendance will be the last activity to resume, due to the large number of people involved and logistical difficulties in preparing and maintaining a safe environment.
There is a lot to consider here, and we will be doing our best to consider everything, while consulting experts and reliable resources. We know that ours is a caring community and that we all want each other to be safe. We know, too, that this is a stressful time and many of you likely have concerns. As we invite you to share your thoughts and concerns with us, we remind you to remember that we all are in this together and we, all of us, are doing what we can to maintain the health and safety of our community. We will share more with you as soon as we are able.
Josh Sandquist, Past Moderator and John Ashby, Moderator Elect
P.S. If you want more information now, we suggest the article at the link below. There are a lot of articles out there, but this one covers in a thoughtful and cogent manner a lot of the issues and ideas we are considering at the moment.
April 30, 2020 letter from Grinnell UCC member and GRMC Covid-19 response leader, Dr. Lauren Graham
Dear Grinnell Community,
First, thank you for all the words of support and acts of solidarity around the community. #GrinnTogether. I am writing today, 6 weeks into my role as COVID-19 medical coordinator for UnityPoint Health – Grinnell Regional Medical Center. As you may know, the last 6 weeks have been consumed with grueling work inside our hospital walls, preparing the medical community for an unprecedented public health pandemic.
However, the work you are doing AT HOME every day is paramount to protecting the health of the community. The way we continue to stay safe and protect ourselves and our loved ones is to continue staying at home until more definitive treatment, vaccination or herd immunity has developed.
Having personally reviewed the data carefully for Grinnell and Poweshiek County, the time is not right to reopen in our community. We are just beginning to see the uptick in cases in our area and are not yet at the predicted peak in cases. As the Grinnell community, we have worked HARD to flatten the curve and have done a tremendous job! Our slow uptick in cases is a true testament to the power of social distancing and staying at home as much as possible.
I would be remiss not to acknowledge that this physical separation is incredibly difficult, especially in these uncertain times. I long for the days when I can rejoin my faith community in fellowship and song and know that for my soul, almost nothing is needed more at this time. However, I know the risk that this poses to others, and cannot recommend reopening congregations at this time.
I encourage you to find ways to connect virtually and feed your soul with fellowship, music and nature within the confines of responsible social distancing. I continue to challenge you to stay away from the ones you love to protect them and hope and pray that brighter days are soon ahead.
In Hope and Love,
Lauren Graham, MD, MPH
Medical Staff President
UnityPoint Health – Grinnell Regional Medical Center