COVID-19 Response & Guidelines Update ©


With excellent work by our Conference Communications team under Vance Morton’s leadership, we have posted an update on the Central Texas Conference’s COVID-19 Response, Guidelines and Information section of our conference website. Having recently spent time with my grandchildren (ages 3 to 8), I am especially mindful of the need for churches to take every appropriate action to protect the most vulnerable among us. While the context and situation of each of our more than 300 congregations, campus ministries and new faith communities differ greatly, I continue to strongly urge pastors and lay leadership to work together for the safety and well-being of all. As we’ve done throughout this pandemic, let us together, in prayer and carefully reflection, move forward to a new spring and be guided by faith, not driven by fear.   - Bishop Mike Lowry

The following content and is available at ctcumc.org/coronavirus-covid-19-updates.
 


Texas and the rest of the U.S. has experienced a rapid decline in coronavirus cases and hospitalizations since February 2021. There is a sense of “normalcy” settling in as churches, schools, organizations and public events reopen and return. Still, health experts caution that we are a long way from eradicating COVID and that new mutations of the virus could bring it back, and it might be even stronger. A rise in coronavirus cases across the U.S. is being reported due to the Delta variant and spikes are possible to likely as children/youth return to school and with Friday Night Football season on the near horizon.
 
Bishop Lowry and the Central Texas Cabinet continue to guide clergy and lay leadership to be vigilant in monitoring the situation in their communities and continue to follow all guidance and mandates from local, county, state and federal officials as well as those of health organizations such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
 
It is also strongly recommended that churches request those who are not fully vaccinated to continue to mask up when attending services and other church gatherings – especially those indoors. Also, maintaining some social distancing when possible and continuing to have sanitizer and cleaning products readily available are still encouraged.

COVID-19 Info & Updates

July 2021
According to the CDC, coronavirus cases are once again on the rise – primarily among those who are unvaccinated – thanks to the emergence of the highly contagious Delta variant as the predominant coronavirus strain in all 50 states and much of the rest of the world. According to a recent CDC report cited by NPR, new cases in the U.S. are up by nearly 70 percent in just a week. Hospitalizations are up by nearly 36 percent.
 
In Texas, the positivity rate (the ratio of cases to tests) climbed above 10 percent for the first time since February (11.1 percent as of July 19). Texas Governor Abbott, who confirmed on Tuesday (July 20) that he has no plans to reinstitute mask mandates in the Lone Star State, has previously identified a rate higher than 10 percent as dangerous.
 
CDC Guidance on How to Protect Yourself & Others from COVID-19 (click on the links below to access)
 
Fully vaccinated people do not need to wear masks indoors in most settings, according to the CDC. However, the World Health Organization (WHO) is still encouraging everyone to wear masks while inside.
 
The CDC and WHO continue to monitor certain coronavirus mutations and variants that may be more contagious or deadly than the original strain to best determine if transmission of any of the mutations/variants could lead to a surge in COVID-19 cases and deaths, as well as whether current vaccines can provide protection. The U.S. classifies mutations/variants as

So far, the U.S. has not classified any coronavirus variants as “high consequence,” but numerous strains have been labeled as “variants of concern” that need to be followed closely. In particular, the Delta variant has drawn focused attention during the past month due a rapid increase in COVID-19 cases in several countries, including the U.S.
What is the Delta Variant?
The Delta variant, also known as B.1.617.2, is now the dominant strain in the U.S. Delta is a strain of the COVID-19 coronavirus that can spread more easily than previous strains, according to the CDC. The strain has mutations on the spike protein that make it easier for it to infect human cells. That means people may be more contagious if they contract the virus and more easily spread it to others. Researchers have said that the Delta variant is about 50 percent more contagious than the Alpha variant, which was already 50 percent more contagious than the original coronavirus first identified in China in 2019, according to The Washington Post.
 
The Delta variant is affecting those who were considered low-risk in earlier strains – children, youth/young people, people without underlying medical conditions – and those who have not been vaccinated are particularly at risk. It
 
The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is 88 percent effective against symptomatic cases of the delta variant and 96 percent effective against hospitalizations, according to a Yale Medicine report. Researchers are still studying the efficacy of the Moderna vaccine against the delta variant but believe it may work similarly to Pfizer.
 
For more info on the Delta Variant please see

Previous Posts

welcome to church banner.jpg
Reflections on Hospitality and Communion ©

In the heat of July, our family vacation finds us back in West Virginia (our future retirement home near family living in the D.C and Boston areas). As churches and Christians across the country slowly open back up, we have found ourselves ...

way way back to the future  title slide.png
Way, Way Back to the Future – Envisioning a New Spring (Part 3) ©

On June 21, at the 2021 annual meeting of the Central Texas Conference (CTC), I delivered what I believe will be my last episcopal address to the CTC – “Way, Way Back to the Future: Envisioning a New Spring,” I have been sharing a printed version ...

way way back to the future  title slide.png
Way, Way Back to the Future - Envisioning a New Spring (Pt 2) ©

On June 21, at our recently concluded annual meeting of the Central Texas Conference (CTC), I delivered what I believe will be my last episcopal address to the CTC – “Way, Way Back to the Future: Envisioning a New Spring,” I am sharing a printed ...

absolute basics of the wesleyan way banner grx.png
A Strong Recommendation: The Absolute Basics of the Wesleyan Way ©

I recently finished reading Phil Tallon and Justus Hunter’s new book The Absolute Basics of the Wesleyan Way. My zeal for this marvelous little book causes me to pause and write this blog post and a direct email to the pastors and lay leaders of the...

way way back to the future  title slide.png
Way, Way Back to the Future Part I ©

On June 21, at our recently concluded annual meeting of the Central Texas Conference (CTC), I delivered what I believe will be my last episcopal address to the CTC – “Way, Way Back to the Future: Envisioning a New Spring,” I am sharing a printed ...

be guided by faith not driven by fear covid-19 banner.png
It’s Time to Reopen – Guided by Faith Not Driven by Fear ©

Today, we put the finishing touches on what I hope will be my final video on the COVID-19 pandemic (see video below). Throughout the pandemic, we have remained committed to the understanding that we are to be “Guided by Faith, Not Driven by Fear.”  ...

bishop saenz to be coverage bishop blog banner.png
Bishop Ruben Saenz Coming to Central Texas in January ©

By now, many of you have already read that Bishop Ruben Saenz will assume episcopal responsibility for the Central Texas Conference on January 1, 2022. His selection as the coverage bishop for Central Texas represents the culmination of a careful ...

spirit on the move.jpg
A Pentecost Follow Up ©

Jesus had made a promise. “…I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, [helper] to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because ...

what does this mean banner.png
Pentecost Reflections: What Does This Mean? ©

I am tired of a spiritually atrophied Unitarian United Methodism which acts as if the Holy Spirit is not real. This past Sunday, I had the privilege of preaching at First United Methodist Church in Grapevine. With their Sr. Pastor out recovering ...

bishop to retire front page banner cropped.png
Vocational Retirement ©

Through the struggle of the church to be the church in a time of pandemic, in the chaos of our time in the life of America and the diverging future of the United Methodist Church, I have experienced the Lord leading us into a new spring. While that ...

let the little children come 2.png
Let the Children Come ©

With Mother’s Day right around the corner, I can help but thank God for the mothers by which I’m blessed – my mother, the mother I am married to, the mother we raised, and the mother we cherish as a daughter-in-law. When my mother would play catch ...

the search for a new center.png
Forward to a New Spring: A Different Church for a Different World Part II ©

The Search for a New Center About four years ago, when visiting one of our Central Texas Conference Churches, I sat in the back row. At the close of the service, a young lady sitting next to me walked up and professed her faith in Christ for the ...

end racism banner.png
A More Perfect Union – A Guest Blog ©

In light of the jury verdict in the Derek Chauvin murder case, we are collectively feeling our way forward to a new future much like someone with impaired sight might grapple into a new building. Here in the Central Texas Conference, we are ...

end racism banner.png
With Justice for All ©

The words are emblazoned on the founding document of the nascent American independence movement. They form the aspirational template for what we as a nation seek to be when at our best. We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men [and ...

different world stuggling to be born banner.jpg
Forward Towards a New Spring: A Different Church for a Different World Part 1 ©

A Different World Struggling to Be Born A heartwarming event took place at the close of the 11 a.m. traditional worship on Sunday, April 11, Michael and Sue Beaton joined Arborlawn United Methodist Church. Their story is a tale of the WIG – the ...

luke 24_5-6 for easter banner.png
On the Edge of Eternity ©

Moderators Note: Bishop Lowry's video message to the conference for Easter is available for viewing or downloading at the end of this post. The day opens simply, while teetering on the edge of eternity. The Evangelist Luke records the story.  “But on...

your king is coming.jpg
Journey to the Cross ©

Moderators Note: Bishop Lowry's video message to the conference for Palm Sunday and Holy Week is available for viewing or downloading at the end of this post. As we begin the week that we Christians call “Holy,” I invite you to step back with me into...

isaiah 58-6.jpg
A Green Response to Injustice ©

Imagine the following true story and place yourself in it.   You are kidnapped sometime in your teenage years. Hauled in chains to a different country, you are sent to work in hard and dangerous labor – slave labor. Much of your time is spent alone,...

map-reading-with-compass cropped.jpg
A Map for Emerging from the Pandemic ©

  As we move through Lent, we are all struggling with issues of re-opening. The WIG remains our mission with an emphasis in discipleship formation through small group ministry, outreach to the community/mission field, and professions of ...

new church for a new world front page banner.png
Building a Post-Pandemic Church ©

Last week, I had the privilege of sharing with many of you in a webinar featuring Dr. Thom Rainer and produced by the Texas Conference UMC. Dr. Rainer is the head of a highly respected Christian “think-tank” and coaching platform called Church ...

winter storm response cropped.png
Recovery, Renewal and Recommitment ©

The Sunday after the great winter storm of 2021, many members of the Cabinet and Conference staff leadership team dispersed across the Central Texas Conference to visit various churches and communities damaged by the cold, snow, bursting pipes and ...

disaster relief efforts.png
The Central Texas Conference Offering Disaster Relief ©

As I write this blog (Friday afternoon, Feb. 19), we are working as a Conference Team with District Superintendents (DS) and members of the District Discipleship Teams to provide assistance and disaster relief across the Central Texas Conference. ...

being-the-church cropped and colored 2.jpg
The Church Being the Church ©

Moderators Note: As the temperatures finally begin to climb above freezing in Texas and frozen pipes begin to thaw, pipes that burst during the deep freeze will begin to leak and could cause damage quickly. Authorities suggest that you locate the ...

a message for lent from bishop lowry 2021 cropped.jpg
A Message for Lent 2021

In this time of chaos and confusion caused by COVID-19 and, most recently, by the dangerous winter weather conditions throughout Texas that have left many without power, heat and/or water, many find it difficult to know how to best move, much less ...

ac19 wig combo logo.jpg
Revised WIG Reporting ©

At our 2020 Annual Conference meeting, we passed an initiative called Forward to a New Spring. In most aspects, this initiative is nothing new at all. Our mission still remains our Wildly Important Goal (WIG) – “to make disciples of Jesus Christ for...

forward to a new spring banner grx.png
On the Move to a New Spring ©

In C. S. Lewis’ epic tale, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe , one of the first creatures the children encounter is Mr. Beaver. Beaver has great wisdom and insight even in a time of the land frozen and in the grip of the White Witch. Quite soon ...

end racism graphic stacked colors inverted fat banner.png
Ending Racism In Our Lifetime – Moving From Awareness to Action © (A Guest Blog)

In the turmoil surrounding us and the uncertainty of the church’s future (both coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic and a possible General Conference vote on the Protocol), I do not want us to lose sight of our need and commitment to work on ending ...

a different kind of walk banner.png
A Different Kind of Walk ©

As I did four years ago (and four year prior to that, and…), I ask the Christians of the Central Texas Conference of the United Methodist Church to pray for our newly inaugurated President and Vice-President, our Senators and Representatives in the ...

protestors break barricade banner.jpg
A Statement of the Storming of the U.S. Capitol ©

Please see below for Bishop Lowry's message regarding today's mob protests at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C.   With you, I have watched today’s mob assault on the U.S. Capitol with horror and revulsion. We are a country built on the rule of ...

2021 grx banner size.jpg
Entering a New Year ©

Bishop Lowry states it succinctly and well when he opens his New Year’s message to the conference with “Thank God 2020 is over!” With our sigh of relief that we have begun a New Year, it is good to remember that we have hope and joy in the coming ...

starrynightnativitychristisborn.jpg
A Birth Announcement: God with Us! ©

“Joy to the world, the Lord is come!”  May this great birth announcement ring out in homes, be twittered and tweeted in our communities, blogged about on websites, sent in our emails, and zoomed around our nation and world! Click on the video below ...

issac watts and joy to the world music.png
Joy to the World ©

In my life, Christmas isn’t really Christmas until we sing two hymns as a part of Christmas Eve worship – “Silent Night” and “Joy to the World.”  The words of “Joy to the World” sweep me away. “Joy to the world! The Lord is come; Let earth receive ...

standing on the promises grx.jpg
Standing on the Promises ©

The first United Methodist Church to which I was appointed as a pastor on my own was St. Paul’s UMC in Kerrville, Texas. Just out of seminary, and not even married a year, I was excited and full of ideas. Practical reality landed on my desk in week ...

the spirit of the lord god is upon me.jpg
The Spirit of the Lord ©

During my senior year in High School, I took a choral class to finish out my requirements for graduation. I recall spending most of the time sitting in the back, laughing and goofing off but then as Christmas came near something unusual happened. ...

come though long expected jesus banner.jpg
An Advent Calm ©

There is something about the Advent time of year that evokes our interior longings and quiet reflection. Perhaps it is the music. Charles Wesley’s “Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus” settles over me. The lyrics, combined with the melody, reach deep ...

advent awaitng the good news.jpg
Do Not Ignore This One Fact ©

The signs and sounds of Christmas are all around. This year, the decorations came early. Locked down by COVID-19, we collectively, Christians and non-Christians alike, longed for a season of hope, joy and peace. Driving through our neighborhood, I ...

light in the darkness.jpg
Light in the Darkness: An Advent Invitation ©

An Advent video message from Bishop Lowry is available for viewing and sharing at the end of this post.  The people walking in darkness have seen a great light.     On those living in a pitch-dark land, light has dawned. (Isaiah 9:2 CEB) I love ...

be guided by faith not driven by fear covid-19 banner.png
Moving Forward ©

A video message from Bishop Lowry is available at the end of this post.   So then, let’s work for the good of all whenever we have an opportunity, and especially for those in the household of faith. Let’s not get tired of doing good, because in time...

be guided by faith not driven by fear square.png
A Commitment to Love Our Neighbors While Battling COVID-19 ©

A video message from Bishop Lowry on the CTC's response to the latest spike in COVID-19 across our conference, state and nation can be found at the end of this blog post. To download the video to share with your church or small group, go to the CTC's...

the main thing 2.jpg
The WIG – Narratives: Keep the Main Thing the Main Thing! ©

The famous idiom recalled in the title above sticks in the mind and immediately raises forth the question, “what is the main thing?” For well more than two decades in the Central Texas Conference, the main thing has been our mission of “making ...

pray for america larger.png
A Time for Patience, Prayer and Grace ©

As I write this, the results of the election for President of the United States are not yet known. In many of what political pundits term “battleground states,” there exists a razor thin margin between the two major party candidates. And, at last ...

vote 2020.jpg
An Election Witness of Faith, Hope and Love ©

This Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020 is election day in the United States. This Tuesday, the citizens of the U.S. – at least those age 18 and up – have the opportunity (some would say “duty”) to participate in the democratic processes of selecting those ...

community update from barlay berdan.png
An Important Message from an Historic Connection ©

Recently, I read a message from Mr. Barclay Berdan, CEO of Texas Health Resources (THR), which I believe merits a wider reading. The Central Texas Conference has an historic and continuing faith connection with THR. Many of you will recall that THR ...

christ and culture banner grx.png
Christ and Culture Revisited #2 ©

The Martyrdom of Polycarp is a famous story in early Christian literature and lore. Polycarp was an early Christian bishop and probably had a close (student to teacher) relationship with John the Apostle. As a revered older figure of leadership in ...

christ and culture banner grx.png
Christ and Culture Revisited No.1 ©

We look back with a mixture of scorn, dismay, and amazement. It was Nov. 27, a.d. 1095, when Pope Urban II launched the first Crusade to “retake the Holy Land.”  At the time, when Pope Urban finished his sermon calling for the First Crusade, there ...

end racism graphic stacked colors inverted fat banner.png
Calling Clergy to Bridge Building ©

The response to COVID-19 varies throughout the conference – from district to district, county to county, family unit to family unit. The Be the Bridge Racial Reconciliation Training Seminar is an important and excellent opportunity for us to come ...