By Father Casey
Throughout the long pandemic ordeal, the Vestry, staff, and I have sought to make our decisions based in love, respect, and caution. We wanted to protect the health and safety of everyone in our community, which led us to adopt an exclusively virtual life for many months, supplemented by an outdoor service through the fall and winter. Only after there was reasonable evidence that we could safely gather in the church did we resume indoor congregational worship.
Even as we pivoted to a virtual church model, the Vestry, Staff, and I recognized just how badly our souls needed the blessing of reverent worship, formative classes, and inclusive community. Which is why we poured our energy into bringing the fullness of our church to you. I am deeply thankful to have heard from many of you that those offerings helped you endure the darkest days of the pandemic, when we needed more than ever the comfort of Christ and the Church.
Eventually, we felt ready to loosen the restrictions on indoor gatherings – eliminating registration, removing the seating guides, and allowing smaller ministries to meet inside. We made that decision when the rates of vaccination and infection were both moving in the right directions. Importantly, we never relaxed the mask requirement, out of a sign of love for all the children in our community who are not yet eligible for vaccination. Masks are still their best defense against infection.
Some have asked if we can move to the “honor system” regarding masks (i.e. only unvaccinated people must wear a mask). My reluctance to adopt this policy is based on conversations with clergy peers around the country, who have witnessed people they know to be unvaccinated attending services without masks. It would seem that even in the church, people still struggle against sins of dishonesty and selfishness. So for now, out of an abundance of love, respect, and caution, we will keep masking indoors.
As we look ahead to the fall, the Staff and I realize we need more information to guide our decision-making. We hope to reintroduce in-person formation and fellowship gatherings, as well as maintain our worship service rota without restrictions. But before we get too far in planning for these things, it will be helpful to have some basic data about the rate of vaccination in our church, and how comfortable people are with various types of gatherings. I have heard many anecdotes about these things, but we need more accurate and comprehensive information to guide our planning.
So I humbly ask you to take five minutes to complete a simple, anonymous survey. It will remain open for a few weeks, as we hope for a high response-rate. The more who participate, the more accurate the data, and the more helpful it will be in guiding our decisions. This is all the more important given the recent spike in cases, and the projections by many scientists that we are headed back toward the infection and death rates of last winter. As desperately as we all want this to be over, it isn’t yet, especially where vaccination rates are lowest. Brighter days remain ahead of us, but for now, let’s keep praying and making our decisions based in love, respect, and caution.
Grace and peace be with you all.