This journey dealing with COVID has been long and winding. I thought that with vaccinations up and the cases dropping the hard choices were behind us. I know that by now each of us has our own thoughts and opinions on how we personally navigate COVID in our lives. Yet, as a pastor my calling is to care for and protect the community that God has allowed me to lead and to watch over. I have to look beyond just my own thoughts on navigating COVID and also look to how to best make sure that people are cared for and that I do not put people at undue risk.
While vaccination rates are pretty high in Maryland and cases are at a more modest rate that does not mean COVID is not affecting people. There are people who have been fully vaccinated that are testing positive for COVID and some of them have sadly died. Just this week General Colin Powell died from complications from COVID. While he did have other underlying conditions, COVID put him over the top even though he was fully vaccinated. We also sometimes forget that some people have no symptoms and are COVID positive and can pass it along to others. I am always praying about how we still live life, how we still have vital worship, how we have faith in God as healer, while also making sure the church is not putting people at undue risk. It is always a balancing act to figure out the proper protocols and actions to take.
This morning Anita Hill let me know that she has tested positive for COVID. She was almost certainly positive when she was in church and in Sunday school on Sunday. She had been traveling the week before so she did wear her mask in church and for most of Bible Study. She gave me permission to share that information with you. At this moment she only has a cough and a runny nose but let us be in prayer that her symptoms do not get worse. She does have other family members that travelled with her who have also tested positive and at least one has progressed with a little more severe symptoms. Please let us be in prayer for the entire family.
Taking in all that information has led me to a morning of deep prayer and conversations on how to best handle this situation at Tom’s Creek. There are churches whose policy would dictate a complete shutdown which I do not think is necessary. There are churches who continue to have no restrictions at all and do not care and say everyone can make their own choice. The problem with that thought is while we can make our own choices sometimes we do not properly understand the risks and in the process put ourselves or others at unnecessary risk. One of my tasks as your pastor is to make sure I am doing my best to protect everyone even if they don’t think they need protection or want protection. This is a very long way to get to the actions that we are taking to try to keep people self and healthy. I know that this is a sensitive matter and that it is a topic that can upset people. I don’t take these actions lightly and I ask you to extend to me, and the church, grace. Tom’s Creek needs each and everyone of you so I don’t want you to leave us because you are upset by these actions, and on the other extreme I don’t want to lose people because COVID takes their life.
These are the guidelines and actions we are going to take out of an abundance of caution:
- Anyone who was within 6 ft of Anita for more than 15 minutes should quarantine themselves for 7 days or until they can get a negative test. Yes, the policy is the same for anyone who is fully vaccinated since there is possibility for breakthrough cases.
-We will be cancelling Oldies and Goodies. The reasoning is that it is an extended period of time we would be close to each other and since it is a full meal we would need to have our masks off for a very extended period of time.
-THIS Sunday we will be wearing masks inside the building. The only exception is Holly and myself while we are on the altar singing or preaching. We will assess mask wearing protocol after this Sunday for what to do moving forward. We will still be having Fellowship time but we ask people to keep a little more spread out and to keep the mask removing to a minimum while sipping coffee and eating the snacks. Sunday school will still happen with masks on.
- Jeanne is cooking this weeks meal for Feeding Friendz at her home. Those that are delivering the food from church will still be stopping by but will not be coming in for a chat.
These are the actions we are taking out of an abundance of caution and with much thought and prayer. I can see how some might think it is a bit too much but please know that I would rather be a little safe rather than see someone contract COVID at church and be admitted to the hospital. If that were to happen those are the moments when we realize we could have taken just a couple of simple precautions and maybe protected someone from getting sick or even dying. I believe it is better to be proactive, by implementing some protections, so we don’t have to come to that realization after someone is hurting and it is too late.
I want to thank you for how supportive you all have been through this COVID journey. It has not been easy and I am certain there have been times when you have not agreed with the actions the church has taken regarding COVID. I know some who thought we took too much action and I know others who felt we should have taken more action. Yet, I am blessed that you have continued to be a part of our community through it all. I pray that we continue in that thoughtful and grace filled way in the days, weeks, and months ahead.