Worship Moving to Online Only for January
Worship is moving online for the remaining Sundays of January, including for the annual congregational meeting on Jan. 23 after worship. This is the consensus that emerged in email conversation with session over the last week to address the omicron surge. This is not going backwards. This is stepping forward through this phase of the pandemic toward eventual resolution. It is temporary. We are caring for each other and our community as the gospel of love requires. And it will provide another experience we can use to further refine our strategies.
This is difficult. It’s complex, requires repeated reconsideration and adjustment, and put us on edge. It’s exhausting. If you want to read for yourself the Diana Butler Bass post read in the sermon on Sunday, you can find it here. An excerpt:
- It is very important for us all to be prepared for these huge numbers. (One million new cases a day) It is equally important to know that if a large percentage of Americans were NOT vaccinated, this would be much, much worse. Please keep that perspective. Indeed, the vast majority of breakthrough cases will be mild to moderate instead of deadly, and unvaccinated people will continue to make up roughly 90-95% of hospitalizations and critical cases. Even with the benefit we’ve gained from vaccinations, a million cases a day makes for enormous strain on hospitals and still far too many deaths.
We’ve been doing good stuff! What’s different here is that the omicron variant is breaking through, infecting fully vaxed people, while the unvaxed continue to be especially vulnerable to life-threatening illness. That puts ALL of us at greater risk and further risks swamping the healthcare system and personnel, and endanger the vulnerable.
So the consensus is to modify our practice for January during the omicron surge. Here’s what some others are doing:
- First Church downtown has suspended congregational singing. They have paid choir section leaders who are singing the hymns from the choir loft on behalf of the congregation. They have also suspended spoken congregational responses. As my friend put it, it begins to resemble a Quaker (silent) worship gathering.
- A Presbyterian colleague serving a Methodist congregation reports that they returned to online worship beginning with their Christmas Eve service in a decision made that morning. Guidance was provided by the regional Bishop. Here’s what my friend reported: The Bishop’s guidelines are rather conservative. This is the link-https://greaternw.org/changing-course-as-covid-19-cases-rise/. Scroll down to just above the red box of text and click on the green link to see the fuller document. And then when you put your county into the scroll bar you can see what your daily numbers are.
- This is what Diana Butler Bass recommends in her “One Million Cases” post: For your personal safety, please get vaccinated if you aren’t already or get the booster as soon as possible. It isn’t too late. The booster will begin working immediately to increase your resistance. Also, wear a good (non-counterfeit) N95, KF-94, or KN-95 mask in all indoor setting with strangers. ProjectN95 is a reliable source for authentic masks. Consider cutting back on in-person events and avail yourself to Zoom again (I know, I know!).
- Presbytery of the Cascades is considering updated guidance but has not provided it so far. In general the presbytery encourages congregations to abide by official recommendations and err on the side of caution: “Just because something is permitted doesn’t mean that it’s advisable.”