Pastor’s Friday Comments (04.16.21)

 

No one will be happier than I will when something other than the Covid pandemic and how to cope dominates our global, national, and local conversations. However, for now, how to respond to real and perceived risks and what behaviors are acceptable in these unusual circumstances seem to be at the forefront of every conversation – including my Friday Comments.

Two news items this week help to inform our behavior as a community of faith that has a responsibility to its members and a witness to its community.

Both items are reported in most news outlets, but you may have seen them in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The first article is headlined “‘Critical point’ in pandemic: Coronavirus outbreak, the latest developments.” According to the World Health Organization, the pandemic is “growing exponentially.” Although vaccines are ramping up, the surges in the U.S. are blamed partly on letting our guard down. There have been seven straight weeks of increases in new cases across the globe.

In our own state, we are tied with Utah for the lowest percentage of adults fully vaccinated at 15%. This has not prevented the governor from eliminating many of the restrictions on public gatherings (churches were never restricted in the first place). Apparently, it is up to the citizens to use our “good judgment” in deciding the activities in which we engage.

The second article actually has an element of good news. It was headlined, “A year into the pandemic, it’s even more clear that it’s safer to be outside.” Now that there have been a number of large outdoor gatherings across the country, there has not been a significant rise in Covid cases connected to these events. The data suggests that the greater ability to social distance and the dispersal of airborne droplets makes outdoor activities much less risky than going inside.

These two pieces of information have direct implications for our work and our worship. While many churches have chosen to return to indoor worship, either with or without significant precautions, given the size of our sanctuary, the inability to open our windows, and the age of our air conditioning systems, prudence dictates that we use alternatives whenever possible. Fortunately, in the South, at least in the spring, outdoor worship is doable, unless weather conditions dictate otherwise.

I’ve gone the long way around to come to “steady as she goes.” Your attendance outdoors has been remarkable; anecdotal evidence suggests that those who cannot join us are worshiping with the virtual material; and, we are grateful that, with few exceptions, the weather has only varied from acceptable to ideal. 

I cannot commend you enough for your commitment to remaining connected with one another and to your on-going spiritual growth, through in-person worship, worship at home, and participation in our Wednesday evening Zoom prayer service. I pray daily for all of you, but especially for anyone who feels disconnected from our family of faith. If that applies to you, let us know what we can do to draw you back in.

A legitimate question has arisen about why we are still wearing masks at worship after we have been vaccinated. I’ll be as glad as anyone when we can ditch the masks, but for now, until everyone is vaccinated, it is better for everyone to continue wearing them. It sets a good example; it alleviates the issue of some having to take precautions that others aren’t taking; and it is one more way that we can ensure that the risk to everyone is minimal.

When I think back into the distant past, when I was in seminary, I cannot remember one course, lecture, or comment that had anything to do with what a congregation should do during a global pandemic. But we were taught to use our minds and our best judgment. I hope all of us will continue to do that as we seek the best ways to serve God and the world in difficult times.