Covid updates & Letters from Pastor Steve & Bishop Hagiya

Briefing on COVID-19 (1/8/2022)
On behalf of the Appointed Cabinet and Senior Leadership of the annual conference, I am writing to express our deep concern about the surge of COVID-19 and Omicron cases that we are witnessing.  The National Geographic has put this in stark terms:Year three of the pandemic began with COVID-19 cases soaring to an average of 610,000 per day for the past week. That’s more than twice the daily average for the 2021 winter surge. Compared to two weeks ago, hospitalizations are up 65 percent, while deaths, which typically lag hospitalizations by about two weeks, are up 2 percent. The number of people who have died from COVID-19 in the U.S. now exceeds 832,000. (National Geographic, Science Edition, January 7, 2022)As an annual conference, we have always followed the latest recommendations from the State, County, and City.  So far, they have not called for a significant shutdown of more extensive gatherings of people.  We have worked hard with our local churches to reopen with major safety guidelines, and we continue to stress how important it is to follow these guidelines.  We are not making a blanket ruling that all local churches need to stop their in-person worships and gatherings but allow the appointed clergy and Administrative Council to make that decision.  We trust in your leadership explicitly, and you know your context far better than we do.  We also stand by your leadership, and if you have to make a hard decision, we will support that decision unconditionally.  If there are changes that our State, County, and City decide upon shortly, we will follow them accordingly.  As always, your District Superintendent is available for counsel and direction. The COVID-19 virus mutates to survive, and the Omicron variant is an excellent example of this survival strategy.  It is not as life-threatening as the Delta variant; it is more transmissible and spreads to more people while allowing them to survive.  It is anyone’s guess on how and when it will morph in the future, but as the experts are now saying, living with COVID-19 might be a long-term reality. As your annual conference leadership, we care deeply for every one of you.  For this reason, we ask that you get vaccinated to ensure your safety.  The vast majority of deaths from COVID-19 are happening to the unvaccinated.  The science behind this vaccine is proven.  Personally, I have been triple vaccinated (two original Moderna vaccines and the booster), and it hasn’t negatively affected my health at all.  What it has done is protect me from life-threatening repercussions if I become infected.  This is not about political correctness – this is about saving lives.  There is absolutely no rationale for a religious exemption in our United Methodist theology.  Pragmatically, we want you to live through this health crisis, and the best way to do that is to get vaccinated as quickly as you can. I continue to pray each day for our clergy and laity, as well as for the general public as we deal with our COVID-19 crisis.  With faith in God, we will see our way through this.  In the words of Joshua:I hereby command you: Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. — Joshua 1:9 Be the Hope,
Bishop Grant J. Hagiya
Los Angeles Area Resident Bishop

January 6, 2022 Covid Update

Greetings in Christ, We are a week into 2022, and in some ways, it feels very similar to 2021 to me.  All around me, people are announcing that they have caught COVID.  Friends, family, colleagues…many who thought they had managed to avoid infection are now testing positive. However, in other ways, this year is different.  People are not gravely ill because of their vaccinations and because the latest mutation is not as virulent as previous strains.  At last we are beginning to see the finish line in the distance, when COVID becomes another endemic virus that is part and parcel with life…but we’re not there yet. Therefore, out of an abundance of caution, we will be requiring masks which completely cover your mouth and nose at all times when on campus.  We will continue to meet in-person for worship; but will require that people maintain distance from those who are outside of their household.  If you are sick or experiencing cold-like symptoms, please remain at home and watch our online worship service. I fully expect that these extra measures will only be for a few weeks, but until the current COVID spikes relaxes, we will continue to keep one another safe and respect each other with the love of Christ.  

Peace, Pastor Steve Peralta

Pastors message for the month:

I found out late on Christmas Day that Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu passed away. It seemed a strange way to finish out a day filled with family, feasting, and celebrating the light and life of Jesus. I felt like a little of that light had been extinguished with Bishop Tutu’s death.

I first learned about Bishop Tutu as the world began to struggle with the system of apartheid in South Africa. Bishop Tutu was a voice who consistently spoke from his Christian faith against the oppression and racism thatruledSouthAfrica. Whenapartheidfinallycametoanend,Bishop Tutu’s Christianity provided another avenue of healing for a country that was both filled with joy, but also seething with anger and resentment. Bishop Tutu recognized that retributive justice would not produce a united or healthy South Africa, so he helped design a system of truth and reconciliation which proved instrumental in the early transition of government and power.

After Apartheid came to an end in South Africa, Bishop Tutu broadened his workinatirelesscampaignforuniversalhumandignity. Hefeltthatthe teachings of Jesus compelled him to work for the rights of indigenous people, for refugees, for oppressed peoples, and for the LGBTQ+ community. He believed that every human deserves the same love, respect, acceptance, and rights because we are all God’s children.

As we start the New Year of 2022, we have learned that so much of life is outside of our control. But when it comes to treating others with respect, dignity, love, and acceptance; we possess sole custody of those choices and decisions. Forallthatistocome,letususeeveryounceofstrengthand courage to live out the statement we adopted back in 2019:

NoHoFUMC is a community that practices the all-inclusive and transforming love of God as modeled by the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. We celebrate our diversity in race, ethnicity, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, gender, ability, citizenship, and socioeconomic status. Moved by the Holy Spirit, we welcome all people into the full participation of the life of the church.

We may have lost a little of Christ’s light with Bishop Tutu’s passing…but I believe we can shine brighter in our neighborhood to make up for it. Shine hard everyone!

Pastor Steve Peralta