COVID-19 Response Task Force
March 5, 2021
Illinois Holds Steady With Phase 4 COVID Response

As thousands of Illinoisans receive their vaccine and overall COVID indicators seem to improve, the overall message from CDC and Illinois Public Health is to proceed with caution and vigilant judgement. Relaxation of the practices of mask wearing, physical distancing and limiting gathering size and activities (such as singing) is not yet appropriate and can easily jeopardize hard-fought gains.

New daily COVID cases across the U.S. and worldwide have stopped falling in the last two weeks, possibly due to the spread of some of the more contagious virus variants. Indeed, in the U.S., the current numbers of new cases and deaths (over 2000 per day) still exceeds those at any point last summer.

"Please hear me clearly," Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the head of the C.D.C., said on Monday, "At this level of cases, with variants spreading, we stand to completely lose the hard-earned ground we have gained."

If your congregation is resuming in person worship, we encourage you to be firm with your re-entry plans and strongly resist pressure to make exceptions to your guidelines. Easter has come whether or not you can sing your favorite hymn out loud. Encourage everyone to become vaccinated when their opportunity arises and try to assist anyone who may need help to find a vaccine appointment. 

See Coronavirus in the U.S.: Latest Map and Case Count from the New York Times for day to day trends at multiple levels including county (available without subscription).
The Vaccine Chase

By now, many of you have faced the challenge of where, when and how to become vaccinated against COVID-19. "A safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine is a critical component of the U.S. strategy to reduce COVID-19-related illnesses, hospitalizations, and deaths" (from IDPH FAQ page). But because some may be hesitant, its important to lead by example and strongly encourage everyone to become vaccinated when their opportunity arises. And be assured, that all three available vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson are remarkably effective against serious illness or death from COVID. Experts agree that you should take the earliest vaccine available to you, regardless of the brand.

In these early days of distribution, the hurdles may seem enormous, especially for those who are "computer challenged". Try to assist anyone who may need help to find a vaccine appointment by doing the legwork for them. The vaccine location information from the IDPH is useful to find the links to various providers, but the search function can be somewhat flawed. There seems to be considerable information on this Google Doc (shared in the Midwest Vaccine Hunters Facebook group), however we cannot vouch for it's accuracy. As always, be patient and gentle with those who are on the 'front-lines'.
The Post-Quarantine Church
Join us for a book discussion...

Someone once said "the pandemic is a great time to make plans". We invite you to start thinking about and discussing what your church will look like post-pandemic.

In his book, "The Post-Quarantine Church: Six Urgent Challenges and Opportunities that Will Determine the Future of Your Congregation", author Thom Rainer postulates that one third of previous congregants will restart their pattern of weekly worship attendance, another third will choose the online options regularly or exclusively and as many as one third will not return to church in any fashion. Rainer and other church consultants have hopeful ideas and suggestions to consider in facing this future.

Please join us as we use Rainer's book 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 four 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.

Topic: The Post-Quarantine Church discussion
Time: Tuesdays April 20, 27. May 4 and 11 at 2:00 PM Central
Time: Thursdays April 22, 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.
You are invited to the Synod-Sponsored Workshop:
How to Lead When You Don't Know
Where You're Going

When: Thursday, March 18th, 9:00 AM - 11:00 PM Central via ZOOM
Cost: Free to all Presbyterian pastors, sessions, church and presbytery leaders (including COMs)

How do you lead an organization stuck between an ending and a new beginning—when the old ways of doing things no longer work but a way forward is not yet clear? The workshop will feature Susan Beaumont, author of "How To Lead When You Don't Know Where You're Going: Leading in a Liminal Season". Such in-between times are called liminal seasons—threshold times when the continuity of tradition disintegrates and uncertainty about the future fuels doubt and chaos. Read more and register today!
Presbyterian Outlook Shares Resources Free of Charge

Did you know? Given that so many congregations continue to conduct Bible studies and Sunday school classes virtually, the Outlook has made some of our study resources available for free. Normally, our commentaries on the Presbyterian Women Horizons Bible study and the Standard Uniform lessons are found in print or behind the paywall on our website for our subscribers. During this extended time of social distancing, you may access them online and share the links to class participants at no cost. If you are able, please consider a donation to the Presbyterian Outlook so that we can continue to produce these resources.
Remember: Check our website or follow us on social media to get materials as soon as they are released. You'll find weekly "Looking into the lectionary" reflections, all of the Outlook's COVID-19 news and stories, and our new worship resources here.
And, there is still time to share the Outlook's Lenten devotions with the congregation so you can pray Scripture together this season. 
As a church leader, you’re balancing the safety of your congregation amid a pandemic with real needs to connect, grow, and learn. For you and the members of your faith community, this is only getting harder. It’s difficult to know which methods to use or how best to engage. None of this is “church-as-usual.”

Sponsored by Luther Seminary (ELCA), join the host, Rev. Jason Chesnut, as he breaks down the critical and applicable ways of engaging your faith community in online worship.

Please continue to monitor the COVID metrics for your region of Illinois:

Blackhawk Presbytery COVID-19 page - information from past COVID updates is added regularly

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