Dear Friends of the Texas Annual Conference,

I write to you with a heavy heart as our nation has entered a fourth wave of the Covid-19 pandemic. Infections are on the rise, hospitals are full, and tragically the death toll related to Covid-19 is increasing at an alarming rate. Medical experts are predicting that this fourth wave could continue to swell into October.


What can we do as people of faith?  
First, continue to be vigilant in our care for our neighbors. Let us maintain our hand hygiene (using hand sanitizer or washing hands for 20 seconds regularly), social distancing, and respiratory etiquette. Yes, that means that masks in worship services, which were relaxed some early this summer, may need to return to our church attire. It is not my place to mandate masking for local churches, but even vaccinated persons should consider masking in large groups. It is true that the CDC has set separate guidelines for persons who have been vaccinated and persons who have not been fully vaccinated, but with only 52% of eligible Texans being vaccinated, it is probably safest to assume that many people with whom we are in contact are unvaccinated. Dr. Paul Klotman, President and CEO of Baylor College of Medicine recently said, "I do think right now if you went into a place with a lot of people and you can’t tell who is vaccinated, I’d wear a mask. I still wear a mask when I walk into a grocery store."


Second, continue to be people of grace. The pandemic has brought with it high stress and high frustration. Do not let this undermine your role as ambassadors of grace. Attitudes toward vaccines, masks, and other pandemic practices have become highly charged and are often polarized. This is not the time to do harm with our words or behavior toward others.
 
Third, continue to promote health. Let me be clear that I believe what medical professionals like Dr. Anthony Fauci, Dr. Peter Hotez, and Dr. Marc Boom are claiming - that the available Covid-19 vaccines work. The available vaccines are highly effective at preventing infection in most people and mitigating symptoms in those who do contract the virus. Dr. Marc Boom, President and CEO of Houston Methodist Hospital wrote last week to the staff of HMH, “While I know you will do your part within our hospital walls, I also want to encourage you to do your part outside the hospital. Please encourage any family and friends who remain hesitant to get vaccinated to do so immediately.

You’ve all done your part to stop the spread of this deadly virus by getting vaccinated, and I commend you for it. But we must now convince those who remain unvaccinated to do their part if we are ever to achieve the herd immunity necessary to stop the spread of the virus and the creation of potentially even deadlier variants in the future.” 
 
We are not out of the woods yet with this pandemic. It grieves me to acknowledge that. However, I am convinced that through our prayers and our practice of the Three General Rules on Methodism (Do no harm, Do good, Stay in love with God) we will get through this and minister hope to so many in the process.
 
Grace and peace,

Bishop Scott J. Jones