Do me a favor and look down. Which side of the line are you on? I ask that because while we should all be celebrating the idea that we can at last see light at the end of this pandemic tunnel, it seems like folks are separating into factions. Some are on the side of continuing mandates and others never bought into them in the first place, and now that the mandates are relaxing, lines are being drawn. Relax. Remember that we have been through something akin to the 1918 flu pandemic; something that fundamentally changed the world, and while mistakes were no doubt made, everyone did the best they could, having never been here before.
Vaccines were produced in record times and in record amounts. People drastically changed their lifestyle to accommodate society needs. We lost loved ones and watched as others struggled through COVID while most had no severe effects. We kept the greater good foremost in our daily efforts by wearing masks, social distancing and wiping everything in creation down with alcohol. People are sick and tired – of being sick and tired. We are now far enough along in the disease cycle and have responded well enough to relax a bit. The CDC tells us that if you have been fully vaccinated then wearing your mask in optional. Things aren’t back to normal but it’s on the horizon.
In the board meeting yesterday [May 16th], Laura presented a concerning picture of our financial environment. We are consistently falling just short of the giving we need to stay even with our expenses. As I listened to her presentation, I realized that our best answer to this problem is to increase attendance and the best way to increase attendance is to get back to normal (or as normal as possible). Later in the meeting the question came up about when we were going back to communion and offertory in the service. Having given it a lot of thought, I think it's time to integrate our safety protocols into our traditional worship, blending them in such a way that we can keep people safe and still have a "normal" service. If we can successfully provide a safe environment and the feeling of a normal worship service, I think there is every reason to believe our attendance will go up, which should also address the funding issues.
The reality is some of our congregation doesn't want any rules for safety and part of our congregation would like to have more in place than we currently do, and I think they are both wrong. In my opinion, the best road is the middle one; where we continue to provide a safe space in which to worship while acknowledging and addressing the worship needs of our congregation.
Beginning on June 6, we will again have communion and offertory back in the service order. If you are uncomfortable with communion from a common tray, we will still be offering the premade communion as well. We now know that a person doesn't contract the virus by touch, so passing the trays isn't putting anyone at risk, though I do think social distancing is still a good idea. It may develop that we have a section of the sanctuary that is reserved for those who want to practice additional safety by not having the trays passed to them and continuing to wear a mask regardless of their vaccine status. Now that masks are optional for the vaccinated, we have an opportunity to incorporate voluntary safety protocols while addressing worship requests. We will also need to monitor the case load for Jackson County and be cognizant of the fact that if this relaxed mask mandate results in a significant spike in new infections, the county may choose to reinstitute previous requirements. If they choose to do that we will of course comply.