COVID-19 Response Task Force
April 23, 2021
Stepping Out From Coronavirus

The joyous Easter season brought many Blackhawk churches back together after a long absence of worshiping in person. At our recent assembly meeting, over 80% indicated they were gathering in person, the vast majority still offering online worship as well. Many have indicated that it seems the majority of those in attendance have been fully immunized and ready to expand beyond their home base. There is much to be thankful for.

But once again, our state is facing mixed news in the fight against COVID-19. While vaccination numbers continue to climb and more and more people have full immunity, hospitalization rates have again reached alarming levels in some areas. The Chicago Tribune has reported that OSF Hospitals in Rockford and Peoria are at 95% and 96% capacity on April 21. In Illinois Regions 1 and 2 (much of the presbytery), COVID hospitalizations have also been rising and available ICU beds dropping to warning levels (IDPH resurgence data).

We continue to urge sessions and pastors to stay vigilant in monitoring the status of the virus in their communities and adjust their worship and gathering plans as needed. It is especially important to continue to record attendance at your in-person worship services should an outbreak occur. Open and clear communication with your members will help avoid confusion and misinformation.

Now is not the time to relax mask-wearing, distancing, and other protocols adopted by your leadership. Instead, begin to make plans to move outside as much as possible as summer approaches. Think outside the box…and the sanctuary. 
Vaccine Hesitancy: Should Your Church Address It?

Now that more than 50% of Illinoisans have received at least one dose of the COVID vaccine, there are important questions about what that means for congregational life and practices. It appears that the days of vaccine-scarcity are over and have been replaced by the more difficult problem of adequate supply and not enough demand. All adults in Illinois are now eligible to receive a vaccine.

Public health officials now face a ‘ground game’ of finding and convincing those adults who may be on the fence about vaccination that the very best way to return to some kind of normalcy in their community is to become vaccinated. Ample evidence exists to show the vaccines to be safe, effective and the only way to beat the COVID virus back before it mutates into a whole new threat. Much is at stake in our nation and the world. Should the church and/or its pastor be involved in this important next phase?

The tendency to shy away from personal medical decisions and political viewpoints is understandable. However, is it possible the church has a role to play as a trusted and reasoned voice? After all, there will be decisions to be made regarding returning to small groups, resuming indoor fellowship, singing once again, etc. Parishioners will expect their sessions and leadership to have done their due diligence to arrive at science-based recommendations. Perhaps voicing an opinion on vaccination is a similar step.

The “We Can Do This” COVID-19 Public Education Campaign (U.S. Dept. of Health & Human Services) has resources for Faith-Based Organizations as well as a U.S. Census Bureau map showing vaccine hesitancy. Also from HHS, ‘All in’ Against COVID-19: FAQ and Guide to Supporting Vaccine Confidence for Faith and Community Leaders. Numerous other information to inform your discussions can be found in online searches
Steps for Livestreaming

One of the most important digital media formats is livestreaming. And one of the most commonly used platforms is Facebook and particularly Facebook Live. This article from the Presbyterian Communicators Network provides step-by-step instructions and tips on how to successfully share your worship service through Facebook Live.
Stronghold Prepares for Summer Campers

Stronghold is reporting that registration for the 2021 Summer Camp season is brisk! To accommodate COVID concerns, camper groups will be smaller and capacities will be reduced so register soon to ensure a spot in your chosen program. Program information, online registration, and COVID protocols can be found on their new website.

"Camp is needed now more than ever and we will work hard to keep the magic of camp alive while adhering to state and federal guidelines to create a safe environment."
The Post-Quarantine Church
It's not too late to join us for a book discussion (even if you have not read the book)

Please join us as we use Thom Rainer's book, "The Post-Quarantine Church: Six Urgent Challenges and Opportunities that Will Determine the Future of Your Congregation" as a starting point to discuss the brand new world just around the corner. The book is short (128 pages), easy to digest, and available for about $8. We will meet on Zoom for three more weeks, on Tuesdays from 2-3 pm. - or - Thursdays from 7-8 pm. If you would like to join us, please use the link below. All are welcome - clergy and lay leaders.

Time: Tuesdays April 27. May 4 and 11 at 2:00 PM Central
Thursdays April 29, May 6 and 13 at 7:00 PM Central

Register for Tuesdays at 2:00 pm:

Register for Thursdays at 7:00 pm:

You are welcome to register for both and join when you can. After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.
Signs of New Life - Blackhawk Babies!!
Blackhawk Baby Update
Boys, Boys, Boys

The joy and sleepless nights have arrived in all three pastors' families. As mentioned in the last update, Rev. Caleb and Rev. Jennifer Suydam greeted their first child, James Thomas on February 13.

On March 30, Rev. Alex and Amanda Regets greeted their first son, Eli Alexander. (Alex is a member of the Blackhawk COVID-19 Response Task Force.)

And Rev. Lauren Patrus-Betzel and Scott Betzel just last week welcomed Emmett to their arms.

Congratulations and many more blessings to all three families!
Please continue to monitor the COVID metrics for your region of Illinois:

PC(USA) COVID-19 page - Several new documents available including information on vaccines, facilities and singing

Please email the Presbytery office with your questions, concerns or suggestions. We are working from home and not monitoring the office phone.