Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others.
— Phil 2:4
The COVID-19 delta variant has achieved dominance, and uncertainty is back. The onslaught of Ida, as both a hurricane and tropical storm, worsened the situation for many of our members and employers. Concern for the health and safety of our employees and everyone we serve is central at the Board of Pensions, where fourth-quarter planning is well underway.
Most of us will continue to work remotely until November 1. We're assisting with Employer Agreements, due October 8, and getting ready for annual enrollment, which opens October 25. Preparations are being made for our Board of Directors meeting October 21-23. Whether our Directors gather in person, as currently planned, or virtually, their docket holds the promise of significant changes — changes that would propel our efforts to serve more, serve better, and serve the Church in 2022.
COVID-19 redirected our efforts around the Large Church Summit. We had six in-person summits planned for last month in different regions of the country — some with low vaccination percentages and high transmission rates. Safety concerns led us to roll them into our virtual summit, which we had already planned for folks who did not want to gather in person.
We've reined in Board travel as well. That's especially hard on our Church Consultants, who thrive on connecting in person. If staffers are going to conferences, that's happening virtually. Meanwhile, we continue to monitor plans for in-person gatherings.
Several things are true in the science as well. If you're vaccinated, you can still get the virus. But your symptoms are likely to be much less severe, and you have less than a 1 percent chance of dying. Still, you can transmit the virus. And the delta variant is more transmissible than the others we've encountered.
The Board's precautions stand in acknowledgment of these facts and underline our health and safety concerns. Anyone going into the Board's office must be vaccinated because vaccination saves lives. And we will mask up and continue to social distance because it makes everybody safer. This is what it means to look to the interests of all.
These are uncertain times, but there are still things we can count on. God has created us and, in the love of Jesus Christ, will never let us go. In fulfilling our call to serve, the Board will be there for our members, whether working in the office or remotely. Even during this most extraordinary period, we have expanded benefits, lowered costs, reached more employers and members, and never failed to address your needs and concerns. With God's help, this will always be true.
Grace and peace,
The Reverend Frank Clark Spencer