Grace and peace to you as we begin 2022.
I know that many of us hoped our public health, and the Covid-19 pandemic would be in a different place at this time. Unfortunately, with the arrival of the Omicron variant, and too few public health precautions in place, our state numbers are at an all time high. Our hospital systems statewide are in a perilous place under the weight and strain of overcapacity, Covid-19, and staffing shortages. As followers of Christ we must do all we can to care for the most vulnerable among us, and care for our neighbors (particularly who work in healthcare). We recognize that many of you are weary and exhausted after two years of pandemic, and are already deeply engaged in this work. Thank you. I can’t say it enough.
Some folks have wondered if we are going to issue a blanket recommendation that churches return to online worship? At this time, we are not. We know each of you is working faithfully, and well to care for your individual communities in conjunction with local health officials. We also know that embodied community is essential to our health and well being. It is true what was written in the beginning. It is not good for humankind to be alone. Many of us have suffered deeply from the impacts of isolation and lack of community in this time. Mental and spiritual health are also health. We know that you are weighing carefully the balance of these needs in your particular faith communities.
To that end, I have spent this last week in conversation with public health voices across the state regarding this current surge, and how to safely gather. We are offering the following recommendations through Valentine’s Day as we move through what we hope to be the worst of the Omicron surge.
- Whatever you believe to be safe for your community? Consider taking one, big step back to the next tightest set of guidelines. If each of us tightens back up our protocols to a degree, our collective action makes a big impact.
- If you are not already doing so, we strongly encourage you to make surgical masks widely available to your community on Sunday mornings (and beyond). We now have good data that cloth face masks on their own are not sufficient in this current wave. Helping make better masks widely accessible is a matter of justice, and equity.
- Please remember that proper ventilation is arguably the most important piece of protecting against a Covid outbreak in a congregant setting. Regular fresh air, upgraded ventilation, and /or air purification are key (particularly for those who may be removing masks to lead).
- If you are not set up for live streaming or hybrid worship? Now is a fantastic time to consider it. We would be happy to connect you to a nearby congregation with wisdom and resources to share if you need help. Digital ministry is going to remain an essential tool through, and beyond Covid-19.
- If you had resumed (even in limited capacity) gatherings without masks, we recommend you pause in doing so.
- Can your congregation host a vaccine clinic? Many communities are still struggling to access booster shots in particular. We’d love to work with you to help you get one set up.
Please hold each other gently in this season of disruption. Know you are in our prayers in the hard realities of this season, and the life saving ministries you persist in even still. For we are convinced that nothing, not pandemic, not pivoting to online gathering, not hitting pause, not even death, can separate us from the love of God. Stay tuned for additional resources. Do not hesitate to let us know if we can offer you additional support.