May 20, 2021
Like every church, business, organization, and family across the nation, the Session and Staff of Church of the Redeemer have been working hard to figure out how best to implement the CDC’s new recommendations about social distancing and masks with regard to the vaccinated and unvaccinated.
Before we get to that, there are a couple of key points that I want to emphasize and clarify:
- Thank you for the grace, patience, and love you have shown during these difficult times. As I see how ugly and divisive these things have been in our culture and churches across our nation, I am thankful to God for you all. Seriously.
- COVID-19 has reminded us of the sobering reality that there is very little (if anything) that we can be absolutely certain of in this life. Part of the definition of “a Pandemic” is “We are in uncharted waters now. We haven’t been here before and therefore we don’t know anything for certain.” Humility is the way forward.
- We are trying to do the best we can in light of the best wisdom out there. From the beginning we made a decision at COTR to follow the recommendations and guidelines of the CDC and implement those as best we could in our particular context. We are continuing on that path.
- There are lots of different and competing opinions about everything related to COVID-19. That’s exhausting and stressful. It is hard to know who to trust when you can find news articles and “research” making completely opposing conclusions.
- The CDC’s new recommendations make a clear distinction between the vaccinated and the unvaccinated. Currently children are not eligible for the vaccine and most youth have not received it. As we see an increase in COVID-19 infection rates amongst children and youth, we must take care to protect the members of our church family that are still vulnerable.
- We each have to make decisions based upon several factors:
- What do I/we think is best for me and my household this week?
- What does it mean to trust, obey, and follow God right now?
- What does God have to say about how we should conduct ourselves in disagreements and conflicts? What should our attitude and interactions be like?
- Things keep changing. We make plans for today and the weeks ahead. But we must remain flexible and willing to make changes when needed. That applies to our current plans regarding social distancing and masks at COTR.
- We are all called to sacrifice and deny our personal preferences in the name of love and unity.
As you know, when we resumed gathered in-person worship last summer, we required all those in attendance to wear masks and socially distance. When the CDC adjusted outdoor mask wearing guidelines, we implemented those too. As I said above: Thank you for the grace, patience, and love you have shown during these difficult times. As I see how ugly and divisive these things have been in our culture and churches across our nation, I am thankful to God for you all. Seriously.
The Session of Church of the Redeemer believes the following is the best way to implement the CDC’s new recommendations here at COTR:
- Beginning Sunday, May 23: Reduce social distanced seating from 6 feet to 4 feet between rows and leave at least two seats between parties rather than three. (This will allow us to increase number the of seats available for RSVPs via Signup Genius to accommodate the rising number of people ready to return to in-person worship.)
- Effective Sunday June 6: In accordance with CDC guidelines, vaccinated adults will no longer be required to wear a mask while non-vaccinated adults are recommended to continue wearing a mask.
- Require that unvaccinated children and youth continue to wear masks.
- Require all unvaccinated teachers and volunteers who work with children and youth to wear masks.
So, that’s the plan for now.
Of course, if you have been vaccinated and prefer to continue wearing a mask on Sundays, you are certainly welcome to do that! We fully expect that many people will feel more comfortable wearing a mask in public for quite some time.
We believe this is the best way forward for our church family and our shared life together. And yes, we are prepared to make adjustments as things change in the weeks and months ahead.
Lastly, we understand that these are confusing, stressful, and anxious times. Let’s continue to show grace and live by faith – especially in places we disagree – as we try to do the best we can to navigate the unknown and honor Christ.
Yours in Christ,