It has been a long time since we all worshiped under one roof. These last 2 months have been filled with anxiety, loneliness, anger and fear for many people. It has been a time of conflicted messages and directives from all forms of authority. Even now, I hear the push to get back together in person and return to the way things were before the pandemic hit the United States. I would like to offer some thoughts regarding the state of the pandemic and our plans on returning to in person worship.
To begin, please know that it would bring me so much joy for all of us to be here in church on Sunday. It is a very hard reversal to pray instead that you all stay home and be safe. Currently, we cannot set a time to be back to worship as usual and as we remember it until there is a vaccine. As long as the virus is circulating among the population, those of you in the high risk category should not be out and about. High risk concerning this virus are those who are more likely to have severe complications requiring hospitalization or have a greater chance of dying from this disease. Those in the high risk category include people over the age of 64 and/or those with underlying health concerns like diabetes, heart or lung issues, are undergoing cancer treatments, have compromised immune systems or are severely obese. Remember, even those of us who do not fall into the high risk category can still have complications, become very ill or die from the Covid-19 virus.
I realize that many businesses will begin to open to various degrees over the summer. They may open at 20 percent capacity or 40 percent or some other number. Each move that the business world makes will be contingent on the social distancing of the population and how the virus is being contained. And if there is another outbreak in our county, the business world will be back to where we are now. Churches face their own risk assessment. Some small churches may be able to be more open than larger congregations. Other larger churches may decide that the risk is worth opening up worship to everyone. I want you to hear this: no matter how we go about gathering in church right now, there is risk of spreading or contracting Covid 19. Beyond that, our population has a larger percentage of people at risk than say Starbucks. We, as a church community, want to protect the most vulnerable among us. Coming together in person will be a slow, methodical process. The vestry will be working on this process in the weeks to come.
Also, when we do come back together during what is called Phase 2, worship will not look the same. Congregational singing is risky as the “safe” distance between people singing is thought to be 16 feet. But the virus can travel through vapor and be suspended in a room for a significant amount of time. All those in church will be required to wear masks. Celebrating communion will be very different. We will not be having coffee hour or nursery. The sanctuary will have to be disinfected between every service. The church in this transition will have to be an altered church.
The best news I hear is that the work on a vaccine is moving much quicker than any other vaccine developed in the last 100 years. Some vaccines have already moved to human trials. I have heard optimistic timelines of a vaccine being available this fall for people on the frontline of Covid 19-health care workers, nursing home staff, etc. Then a mass produced vaccine being available for the general public by January of 2021. I hope and pray that this will come to pass. But for now, we are caught in an already but not yet season. Let us show our love to each other and our neighbor by maintaining social distancing, keeping gatherings to 5 persons or less, wearing our masks and being kind. We will get through this.