Today’s Reflection comes from Council Moderator Kaarin Shumate.
Remember the first stage of the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, when we had phases, lettered groups within each phase, and tiers within each group? I estimated that I’d be eligible for a vaccine by July. Then on April 15, vaccine eligibility suddenly expanded to include everyone 16 and older. Again, I figured it would take weeks to find a vaccine appointment. I found an appointment the very next day. Getting vaccinated earlier than I expected brought a jumble of emotions – shock, excitement, nervousness.
Our expectations for gathering as a church are also suddenly changing. Last week, the executive committee met and began drafting new policies for in-person gatherings. Over the course of the week, the sand shifted beneath our feet. The mask mandate for vaccinated people was lifted in most locations and the governor announced plans to reopen the state on June 30. Surprise!
Again, this change in expectations brings many emotions. We had a lengthy conversation in the council meeting about the different circumstances people are coming from and how we support people and our mission through this time. It’s exciting and also confounding.
We as a council are committed to returning to in-person gatherings as soon as we can set them up safely from a practical standpoint and ensure their inclusivity. What this means (as of today):Council passed 3 more motions to allow for a wider range of in-person gatherings. These motions were intended to be quick, short-term fixes and we expect to update them again next month. We appreciate your patience.
- Move to allow musicians from three households to gather at the church for rehearsals that follow the current state guidelines: COVID19 Performing Arts Theater Sector Guidance.pdf (wa.gov)
- Move to allow church-sponsored, indoor, masked gatherings of 40 people or fewer in the sanctuary or atrium. No singing, eating, or playing wind instruments. Groups should add extra distancing between participants.
- Move to allow church-sponsored, outdoor gatherings of any size following state guidelines COVID19 Religious and Faith Based Organization Guidance.pdf (wa.gov)
- We will NOT return to in-person worship before June 30, while cases are still elevated in King County and while we’re required to check vaccination status and have a separate vaccinated-only section to permit attending without a mask.
- We’re working on a survey to hear how you’re feeling about in-person gatherings and what’s important to you. Keep an eye out for it.
- We want to plan numerous, wide-ranging events for the summer so that people can take part in activities that feel right for them as we re-establish connection. Some will be large and some small, some inside and some outside, some masked and some unmasked, everything from outdoor picnics and service activities, to Bible study and game nights. We need lots of people to host activities, and we hope you’ll consider leading an activity that calls to you. Get your creative juices flowing and look for more info soon!
- We hope to return to in-person worship by late July/early August, when we’ve worked out the technology and staffing to begin running a hybrid worship service for the long term. There are many details to be figured out. Choir will not resume until the fall (as usual).
One of the many things that has made this time difficult is the challenge of planning and setting expectations. My kids asked me several times in the fall when I thought schools would re-open, or when they wouldn’t have to wear masks to school. It’s difficult to tell your child that you really don’t know what life in our community will look like in the months ahead. The tumult and unknowns are unsettling. This time has been hard on all of us in different ways, and resuming in-person gatherings is difficult for people in different ways. I pray that we may be open about what we’re feeling and compassionate about the places others are coming from and what they might be feeling.
With eagerness, joy, and also trepidation, I look forward to seeing you in-person soon!