January 10, 2022
We have just celebrated Epiphany, the time when Wise ones looked up for guidance, looking beyond the turbulence of their world.
We are all looking for guidance these days. COVID has turned out to have a longer and more complex timeline than we first thought and brings more questions than just, “When can we return to in-person worship?” In response, this resource team has shifted from “Re-Entry” to “COVID Response,” and we will continue to offer resources and methods for thinking through the questions that have come up and will continue to arise.
Coronavirus is spreading faster than ever, and while it appears Omicron is milder than previous variants, it is more transmissible. We are in the midst of a surge in cases that is causing hospitalizations to rise.
But we know what to do. We can take care of one another and our neighbors. Ministry plans can include intentional caring and connection during times when we are physically distancing in social spaces.
Diana Butler Bass put it well in a Jan. 4, 2022 blog post titled “One Million Cases The New Year Straight Up: A Pep Talk We Need:”
“Keep doing what is right. You aren’t broken; you’re just worn down, sad, and tired. Even in the midst of it all, there’s still love, a healing God, good people, and a beautiful purpose for your life and theirs. You are being called to be your best self as leader, friend, and neighbor. Tell the truth with intelligence, assurance, integrity, and insistent resolve. Act with compassion and courage. That’s our path to real hope.”
We have the tools in hand that we need. In the early days of the pandemic, you likely created a decision-making process/es that focused on reducing risk and protecting the most vulnerable; you can continue to use those and refine them as the situation changes.
What about serving communion? Singing? Going remote?
Make the best decision (pastor and leadership/re-entry team together) you can each week regarding church activities based on your context, taking into consideration your space, your people, your community, your schools, your hospitals, and your ability to connect in ways other than in-person contact.
In Leadership during Crisis, Dr. Francis Collins, Director of the National Institutes of Health, writes:
“I know people are tired of these mitigation strategies. I know people are tired of being told you should be wearing a mask. I know they're tired of physical distancing recommendations. But those actually work. And the virus is not tired of us … When people do come back, though, of course you want to be really careful that you've set up the appropriate ways to maintain physical distancing and masking indoors, because we're not going to be through this for many months to come.”
Here are some steps we can take:
Avoid church gatherings (clergy and laity) if you or people with whom you have close contact are sick — even with what seems to be cold or mild flu symptoms.
This is not the time to “tough it out” whether you are a worshiper, worship leader, or the preacher. When you avoid coming to worship sick, you are not only reducing others’ risk, but you are also modeling good decision making.
The CDC recommends isolating for at least five full days, followed by five days of wearing a mask around others, as long as you don’t have a fever and any other symptoms are improving. If you are seriously ill with Covid or have a weakened immune system, the CDC recommends an isolation period of 10 to 20 days. If you have a fever, the agency advises you to stay home until the fever resolves.
See the CDC guidelines on isolating/quarantine (Dec. 27, 2021)
Keep a physical distance (even outside) while fostering spiritual connection.
Wear a mask.
The N95 or KN95 mask is still considered the gold standard for protection. The CDC says scientific studies continue to support the use of a well-fitted, multi-layered cloth mask. The CDC says it's OK to wear a disposable n95 if you have one, and if it fits snugly.
Check on those who are ill — especially those who live alone — with phone calls, window visits, care cards, etc.
Encourage and practice patience and compassion.
Keep a sense of humor; laughter is healing. (see above; click for mug info).
Keep the lines of honest, caring communication open and active.
Here are some additional questions that have been raised recently
We know you will continue to have questions and the team will continue to offer resources and tips as well as take your specific questions, which you can submit by clicking this link.
COVID Response Team
Bishop Sudarshana Devadhar
Rev. Jill Colley Robinson
Rev. Taesung Kang
Rev. Rick McKinley
Rev. Dr. Karen Munson