New COVID-19 Impacts: Wisconsin faith leaders issue statement; Major conference shifts again

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TWH – A press conference and virtual rally held by faith leaders across the state of Wisconsin was held on Monday to address the alarming rise in confirmed cases of COVID-19 occurring there and across much of the rest of the country.

According to a statement on the Wisconsin Council of Churches website the intent was, “to show support for health care workers serving our communities during the pandemic. We will lift up public health officers and government officials who are promoting the Wisconsin Department of Health Services guidelines to stop the spread of COVID-19.”

The event was organized and sponsored by a number of faith organizations across the state including Circle Sanctuary, represented by the Reverend Selena Fox.

Leaders from across the religious spectrum called on their fellow citizens sense of compassion and duty to one another. There was also a sense of great respect and cooperation on the interfaith panel which was represented by a number of Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Native American, and of course, Pagan religious leaders.

Father Yeprem Kelegian, retired pastor of St. Mesrob Armenian Church in Racine, Wisconsin said, “listen to the scripture. Listen to the god of your faith or simply listen to your own conscience which would tell you not to kill people. We are in a period of uncertainty. We are all mourning the dead. There is justifiable fear in our hearts. It is our faith that can give us courage and hope to move to a healthier Wisconsin. So pray but mostly, take loving actions.”

There were reminders about how interconnected we all are in our communities. Rabbi Dena Feingold of Beth Hillel Temple in Kenosha said that the pandemic was a reminder of how much we can accomplish if we put others health and safety first and take responsibility for our actions which impact other people.

Feingold also invoked a common refrain about the economy, that in order to have a healthy economy our personal health must suffer or vice versa.

“The idea that we have to choose between the economy on one hand and our health on the other is a false dichotomy. Together we can find solutions that support our economy while keeping us healthy and safe. To find such solutions is a sacred obligation,” she said.

At issue in Wisconsin, as across much of the rest of the country is the struggle between conspiracy theories and medical reality. The anti-science, populist view that has insinuated its way into all levels of government whether for cynical political expediency or simple distrust of any established, tested and verifiable information was addressed in part by repeated calls from participants asking their parishioners and everyone who was on the call to reach out to their elected officials and stand with the governor’s mask mandate and take precautions that aid healthcare workers and their fellow humans.

Selena Fox of Circle Sanctuary called on the community to remember those who cross so many lines, from patients, to caregivers, to first responders.

Her statement in full:

Let us remember, appreciate, and send support to chaplains who are providing spiritual care for covid-19 patients and their loved ones. And let us also remember, appreciate, and send support to the social workers, councillors and other mental health professionals working with chaplains and others within and in partnerships with hospitals, nursing homes, hospices and other institutions during this pandemic.

In addition to caring for patients with covid 19 chaplains provide care for their family and friends helping their loved ones not only cope with having a loved one with covid but navigating the limitations to direct contact that too often are present as healthcare systems in our state and elsewhere struggle with the rise in covid-19 cases. In addition, caring for patients and their families and friends let us also remember appreciate and support chaplains because they’re also helping the healthcare workers.

The first responders, morticians and essential workers within and with healthcare delivery systems that go with the stresses of working. Wisconsin has been and continues to be on national and global news in 2020 due to the horrific spread of COVID-19 and contentious politics.

May our public expression of multi-religion and multicultural collaboration today in this press conference bring support to chaplains, other healthcare workers and all on the frontlines of this pandemic. We are all interconnected with other human and with the greater circle of nature of which we are all part here on planet earth, our home, and beyond. May our cooperation today inspire other convergences of diversity for the greater good, now and in times to come. So be it.

In other, COVID-related news, the joint Sacred Space – Between the Worlds conference that had been proposed for April of 2021 announced a further delay until January 27 – 30, 2022 on account of spiking numbers of cases and general uncertainty as to when and if the pandemic would get under control.

A statement issued on the Sacred Space Facebook page on Monday said:

“The leadership of the Sacred Space Conference and the Between The Worlds Conference have been continuing to monitor the COVID pandemic and it is clear that we cannot hold the joint event in April of 2021 as we had intended. Gatherings are still limited to 50 people in the county where our hotel is located. Moreover, the pandemic is likely to get worse over the next few months. We are rescheduling the joint conference to January 27-30, 2022.”

Emails went out to all registered attendees on Sunday offering full refunds with a deadline of December 31 of this year. The conference leaders asked that anyone who does request a refund consider making a tax-deductible donation.

“When we had to reschedule the first time, we kept a percentage to cover the costs and losses of rescheduling the conferences. We have lost thousands of dollars in nonrefundable travel expenses, program book costs, materials and rentals, credit card and PayPal processing fees, and more,” the statement said.

“We are doing the best that we can to ensure that both conferences survive the pandemic and continue to serve our communities. Thank you for your continued commitment to making our conferences successful over the years as source of community outreach and learning.”