Message from District Board and Cluster Ministers on COVID-19 Pandemic Response

Date:  February 6, 2021
To: Pastors, Lay Leaders and Congregations of Northern Plains District
From: Northern Plains District Board of Administration and Cluster Ministers
Re:  COVID-19 Pandemic

We always give thanks to God for all of you and mention you in our prayers, constantly remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 1:2).

We are filled with deep gratitude for the pastors, lay leaders, and congregations of the Northern Plains District, who have faithfully sought to share the good news of Jesus Christ throughout this pandemic.  You have found creative ways to gather and continue the work of Jesus—online and in person—ever mindful of the safety and health of your members.

Sometimes this has involved learning how to use new technology.  Sometimes this has required pivoting quickly to respond to an ever-changing situation.  Sometimes this has meant listening to and balancing different viewpoints.  Sometimes it has required making difficult and unpopular decisions.  Sometimes it has involved personal risk.  Always it has involved courage and innovation.  It has been a work of faith, a labor of love, an expression of hope.  And we give God thanks and continue to remember you in our prayers.

As the vaccine rollout continues, it can be tempting to relax the restrictions we have put in place to keep everyone safe and ensure that our faith communities don’t become super spreaders.  However, we encourage you to remain faithful in the call to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39).  Please be mindful of the situation in your geographic area as you make decisions about next steps.  Pay attention to the numbers and whether the case count is rising, has leveled off, or is declining in your community.  Respect the recommendations of your state and local authorities regarding in-person gatherings and how best to prevent the spread of COVID-19.  Continue adhering to what we know to be best practices regarding social distancing, wearing masks, and cleaning.

In addition, studies have shown that singing can contribute to spread.  If you are gathering in person and choosing to sing, please do so in ways that are limited and safe to minimize the risk.  We know this is difficult.  We long to gather in person.  We long to greet one another with a warm hug.  We long to share communal meals.  We long to “sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God” (Ephesians 5:19).  However, even as we cherish the glimmer of hope offered by the vaccine, we must remain diligent in our efforts to protect one another.

Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you…” (Hebrews 13:7).  COVID-19 has affected us all.  Pastors and church leaders have experienced the added weight/stress of making decisions (that affect many) about something they’ve never experienced before.  As we all seek to respond to continually changing circumstances, please be slow to criticize, quick to encourage, constant in prayer, and eager to extend grace to pastors, church leaders, and one another.  “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32).

As we continue to make decisions about gathering together in person, let us discern together the timeless wisdom of scripture: “…Love one another.  As I have loved you, so you must love one another.  By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34-35).  “I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:1-3).  “Love never gives up.  Loves cares more for others than for self.  Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.  Love doesn’t strut, doesn’t have a swelled head, doesn’t force itself on others, isn’t always ‘me first,’ doesn’t fly off the handle, doesn’t keep score of the sins of others, doesn’t revel when others grovel, takes pleasure in the flowering of truth, puts up with anything, trusts God always, always looks for the best, never looks back, but keeps going to the end.  Love never dies” (1 Corinthians 13:4-8a; The Message).

Additional resources may be found at:
·         COVID-19 Pandemic Response – Church of the Brethren
·         Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) | CDC
·         Resources on COVID-19 for Churches (
·         Iowa Department of Public Health – Protecting and Improving the Health of Iowans > Home
·         Minnesota Department of Health (
·         Home (

Let us continue the work of Jesus through these challenging times, as we know you are doing, with an attitude of respect, courtesy, humility and love.  And may these guidelines help us continue as good stewards in containing the virus and deciding how and when we should meet in person.

Dave Kerkove, District Board President and Cluster Minister, 515-313-3705
Paul Shaver, District Moderator and Cluster Minister, 319-423-9034
Beth Cage, District Recording Secretary and Cluster Minister, 507-951-4532
Tim Button-Harrison, District Executive Minister, 641-485-5604

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