Letter From NW-MN Synod Bishop Bill Tesch

“Let no one seek one’s own good, but the good of one’s neighbor.” 1 Corinthians 10:24

Dear Siblings in Christ,

Grace and peace from our Lord Jesus, who promises to be with us until the end of time.
I write to share updated guidance regarding in-person worship, but first this:  Thank you.  Thank you for your faithfulness and perseverance – for the creative ways you share the gospel, serve God’s people and love your neighbors. It’s been hard.  While the news of a vaccine gives a light at the end of the tunnel, it still feels like a distant light at the end of a long tunnel that must make its way through a Minnesota winter. We are not alone in this. We are living through this as “church together,” and our risen Lord Jesus Christ is powerfully present through all of it!

Regarding in-person worship, my recommendation has not changed since April: congregations should refrain from in-person gathering until it is safe for everyone.  This speaks to our identity. We are not a church only of the young and healthy. We are a church that “bears one another’s burdens” (Gal 6:2), in which the “strong bear with the weak” and where we put our neighbor’s interests ahead of our own.

I know that the summer, with the relatively low case numbers in most of our communities, provided an opening for many of our congregations to return to in-person gathering for a while. Most of you did so responsibly, following safe guidelines around social distancing, mask wearing, etc.

However, today, numbers throughout our region are surging at an unsustainable level. I recently saw one statistic that shocked me.  It is the COVID-19 exposure risk percentage – the likelihood that a person at a public gathering will come into contact with someone who has the disease. Where I live in Becker county, it is 95%!  Many of our counties are running a 99% exposure risk! With risk percentages that high, it is just a matter of time before congregations in the high-risk areas who continue to hold in-person gatherings become the source of a potentially deadly outbreak.

If you have returned to in-person gatherings, now is the time to reassess. Please obtain your local case information and use that to determine whether it is time to dial back and return to providing worship and other services via virtual media, mailed resources and single household gatherings. Many of our congregations are mirroring the actions of their local school districts to gauge whether or not to gather. My staff and I stand ready to consult with you, so don’t hesitate to reach out.

We on synod staff continue to accompany you through monthly virtual gatherings of rostered ministers and presidents, and with regular online worship resources such as our Advent series, “Lord, Stir us to Dream,” a full worship service for Sunday, December 27, and countless other resources.  The day will come when we look back on this and see God at work everywhere, just like God’s people did after their forty years of wandering in the wilderness. Until then, join me in trusting Jesus one step at a time.

In Christ our Brother,


Rev. Bill Tesch, Bishop
Northwestern Minnesota Synod, ELCA

Governor Walz's Latest Order in Response to Covid-19 Surge

You can read the full text of his order by clicking on this link:

https://mn.gov/governor/assets/EO%2020-96%20%28FINAL%29_tcm1055-453017.pdf

Stay Safe ... Be Healthy ... & God Bless!

From Smart Safety Team Coordinator:  The MN Department of Health has issued guidelines: if you’re sick with COVID-19, if you have come in contact with someone who has COVID-19, if you are caring for someone who has COVID-19, and for how long to stay home if you’re sick.  Please refer to the link below for more information:

Some Highlights from the Website ...

How long to stay home if sick

  • If you have COVID-19, stay home until all three of these things are true:
    • You feel better. Your cough, shortness of breath, or other symptoms are better.
      and
    • It has been 10 days since you first felt sick.
      and
    • You have had no fever for at least 24 hours, without using medicine that lowers fevers.
  • Talk to your health care provider if you have questions.
  • If a lab test shows you have COVID-19, someone from the health department will give you more information and answer your questions.
  • If a lab test shows you do not have COVID-19 but you have symptoms, stay home until your symptoms are better and you do not have a fever. Symptoms of COVID-19 can be similar to other illnesses. It is important to follow your health care provider’s advice before going back to work, school, or other settings.
    • People who were in close contact with someone who has COVID-19 need to stay home for 14 days even if they get a negative test result.
Letter Gov Walz

Everyone can work to reduce the spread of COVID-19

  • Wear masks when in public. 10-50% of virus carriers are asymptomatic wearing masks helps control the virus and has been shown to lower COVID-19 spread.
  • Avoid enclosed spaces with groups of people, where the virus can linger in the air for long periods of time.
  • Get tested if you have cold or flu-like symptoms - Find testing locations.
  • Stay six feet away from others.
  • Cover your coughs and sneezes with your elbow or sleeve, or a tissue and then throw the tissue in the trash and wash your hands afterwards.
  • Washing your hands often with soap and water for 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom or before eating. If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
  • Avoid touching your face – especially your eyes, nose and mouth – with unwashed hands.
  • Up-to-date guidance is available from the Department of Health.

Resources