Partners in Mission:
On Thursday May 13th the CDC issued new guidance related to mask wearing and individuals who had been fully vaccinated. In short this states it is safe for vaccinated individuals (who have received full doses of vaccine and the appropriate delay time) to not wear masks or observe social distancing outdoors and indoors. This advice was based on scientific research demonstrating the exceptionally low cases of individuals who had been vaccinated being infected with (and therefore able to transmit) Covid-19.
Throughout this pandemic I have consistently urged congregational leaders to be proactive, follow the science, and always put the health and safety of neighbor ahead of personal convenience or privilege. In that guidance I have not wavered and that includes this current new information. It is important also to note that a person’s vaccination status is private health information that can only be voluntarily disclosed.
Each context is of course unique so as you discern your decisions some considerations are…
- What is the vaccination rate (of fully vaccinated persons) in your county and within your congregation? Given that in Texas/Louisiana currently less than half the population has received a first dose of the vaccine that means it is highly likely individuals around you, and in worship with you, are not vaccinated. As such I recommend…
- Choosing to wear masks indoors as a sign of solidarity with those not yet vaccinated or are immuno-compromised.
- Requiring masks for singing. This would apply to either the congregation or choirs.
- Continue to provide adequate space for worshipers to be comfortable.
- Online worship should continue into the foreseeable future as we live into hybrid church reality.
- We are commanded to care for the vulnerable in our midst which includes children and those with health concerns.
- The CDC is clear that individuals with underlying health conditions or vulnerability should still mask as should those around them.
- Beginning this week children 12-16 can receive a dose of the vaccine. That means we are still 5-6 weeks away from full immunity for the first in that cohort.
- No children under 12 will be receiving the vaccine currently and as such all children, within practicality, should wear masks.
- There is still a great deal we do not know about variants. So continue to monitor case numbers in your county and community and change protocols to match.
While a desire to get “back to normal” is understandable we must acknowledge we will never go fully back to our previous reality. We have suffered too many losses: lives, jobs, significant life events, the list goes on. If your family or community have not experienced these losses then please be aware of those who have. It takes the body and psyche time to catch up with what the mind comprehends and this will happen at different rates for individuals in your community. Understand their hesitance to embrace, respect their desire for space both physical and mental, and show Christian compassion by prioritizing the neighbor over self.
The work of the church will continue to be the proclamation of the gospel. In this we live the gospel by caring for our neighbors and subordinating our wants over the needs of others. In this past year+ we have seen divisiveness and partisan rancor grow. We have also seen amazing acts of selflessness and personal sacrifice. As we continue to move through 2021 it is imperative that we live the gospel message through our love and care for one another. I trust our leaders, lay and ordained, will do so with thoughtful considerations. If I can be of any assistance please call.