So – Now What?

by Lisa Allgood, Executive Presbyter

Yes, our states and the CDC have more or less removed mandates for masks.

It’s not as much a cause for celebration as we’d all hoped for.

With less than 45% of our population vaccinated, you will no longer be able to know who is safe to be around – and who is not.  That might not matter to you, but to the young man with Type 1 Diabetes, to the young mother with cancer, to the elderly neighbor who is immunocompromised – these are not trivial concerns.

I copy below a Facebook post from a Presbyterian pastor friend, and ask you to – please – stay safe.  Stay caring of those around you.  Stay courteous and kind and extend grace when someone makes a different decision than you.  Pray for your pastor and Session who are going to be facing tough decisions over the next few months – and hopefully we won’t have to re-make these decisions over and over.

A note to my friends who belong to congregations and faith communities: Today’s statement from the CDC about masking and distancing not being necessary for vaccinated people is indeed a beautiful thing. It reinforces the benefits of getting vaccinated, and tells us some heartening things about virus transmission rates among fully vaccinated individuals.

And also, it doesn’t mean that all of a sudden your worship services will be unmasked and that everything can go back to normal. A very large number of people are still unvaccinated from COVID-19. Some by choice, others, like children for instance, by necessity. Many of our congregations – mine for example – will not be requiring proof of vaccination at the door, and we do not feel comfortable with creating a different set of rules for vaccinated and unvaccinated people. We will not be making those distinctions. And the virus is still present in our communities, is still contagious, and is still dangerous. So many of us will be holding the line of masking and distancing in order to keep people as safe as possible.

And on top of all this, we’re tired. You don’t see me complain much on social media, and this isn’t a complaint. It’s a statement of fact. If someone were to describe the ideal setting for a COVID-19 super-spreader event, they’d basically be describing a worship service. Our communities have been upended over the last 14 months, and we miss you and miss doing things the way we used to, and we love our jobs and love you and this is all emotionally exhausting. It just is. Again, not a complaint. Just reality.

And now, we all realize we’re going to have people in our congregations saying, “but the CDC said I don’t need to wear a mask…” Or “aren’t we done with all this yet? I’m vaccinated!” And I get it. You’re tired too. This has been such a difficult time for you. You are frustrated and you miss the connection with your community that occurs during worship services. I don’t ever want to minimize that. You’ve been through so much. And you just want to be back. Why wouldn’t you?

The people who lead your community miss you and miss all the things you miss, and they (we) are trying to get it right. We want to keep you safe and we want to fulfill our duties, and we’d love it if nobody died as a direct result of our gathering. And now the news is that people don’t need masks if… And your faith leaders feel very much like our backs are against the wall as we seek to serve and care for you appropriately.

So please, if you’re attending some kind of worship service in some kind of faith community, just look around. Look at the other folks who are there and remember that the mask you’re wearing is for them, even if you don’t really think you need it. Look at the people helping facilitate the service and remember they’re just trying to follow the rules and guidelines they’ve been given as best as they can, and look at your leaders and remember that they are trying to get it right and they’re just as tired and frustrated as you. Holding all these things on your heart is an act of grace and love.