Midweek Message: "Still Planning to Worship in Person, Indoors"

Week of the Second Sunday of Christmas

Evening Prayer via Zoom on the Day of Epiphany, January 6

Join us for Evening Prayer via Zoom on the Day of Epiphany this coming Thursday, January 6, at 7:00 pm. A Zoom link will be distributed via Constant Contact. Here is a link to the bulletin for the service that you may actively participate in worship – consider printing this out or having access to it electronically along with Evangelical Lutheran Worship if you have a copy at home.

pdfEpiphany Evening Prayer for January 6, 2022

“Still Planning to Worship in Person, Indoors”

Dear Friends in Christ:

In response to the skyrocketing number of Covid cases in our region because of the Omicron variant, our congregation’s Reopening Planning Group met last evening to discuss the status of our current routines for assembling in person for worship indoors.

Ours was a long and thoughtful discussion, but the group reached near consensus to continue to worship on Sundays in person indoors with some modifications to our current practice.

First, here’s elaborating word on the rationale to continue worshiping in person even amidst the current surge in Covid cases. In terms of the dynamics of the pandemic, we are not where we were a year ago. That is to say, with vaccinations and booster shots and the promise of anti-viral pharmaceutical treatments, most vaccinated people (which seems to include the vast majority of our congregation membership) are not as vulnerable to serious cases of Covid that require hospitalization and may end in death. Moreover, the Omicron variant seems to result in comparatively mild cases of Covid for most people, affecting mainly the upper respiratory system and less-so and less dangerously, the lungs. Epidemiologists are now recommending that we pay more attention to hospitalization rates and numbers of deaths with less attention paid to the sheer number of cases of Covid reported. Thus far, hospitalization and death rates in relation to the Omicron surge are not yet catastrophic. These realities informed our resolve to continue to worship in person on Sundays.

Another dynamic that led to the decision to continue to worship in person is that attendance on the Second Sunday of Christmas (January 2) was 55 when many of us expected attendance in the 20’s or 30’s given the current Omicron-related surge in case numbers in our area. That suggested to our Reopening Planning Group that there is a critical mass of Resurrection members resolved to claim and continue our current routine of Sunday worship in person. The numbers of those committed to worshiping in person are such that the theological principle of Sunday worship reflecting the comparative fullness of Christian community is sufficiently honored, at least in our estimation.

Clearly, whether or not one worships in person in church on Sundays has a lot to do with one’s tolerance for risk at this point in the pandemic. Which is to say, we wish to honor those committed to risking worship in person. But we also want to honor those whose tolerance for risk, dependent on any number of complicated variables, precludes their worshiping in person on Sundays at this time of the Omicron surge. That is to say, no one should feel pressured to attend worship on Sundays, even those who may have leadership responsibilities for worship, including ushers, altar guild members, assisting ministers, readers, choir members, and more. Please know that we respect and honor decisions to refrain from attending worship at this time, and we’ll make due with those who are present on Sundays to lead our worship, even as we seek new volunteers to step forward to assist in leadership. If you’re with us in person on Sundays, consider yourself invited to offer yourself for various leadership roles!

If you happen to be unvaccinated, we strongly suggest getting vaccinated. If you have not yet had a booster shot, we encourage you to get one if you are eligible. Doing so indicates your commitment to the common good. If your moral discernment has led you not to be vaccinated, you may wish to refrain from public worship in person at this time, again, to honor the wider common good.

For those who must refrain from worshiping in person at this time, the livestreaming of our services remains an option (though there will be occasion on some future Sundays when we may not have the personnel to attend to the livestreaming needs). If you are in need of pursuing the livestreaming option, we ask that you at home participate as fully as possible in the worship, reading and singing the assembly’s responses, and not just watch a video.

So, that’s a summary of the rationale for continuing to worship in person at this time. Please know that the Reopening Planning Group will continue to monitor the most current news about the pandemic. We are poised to modify our responses and practices according to our understandings of the most current realities on the ground.

Here now is a summary of what will be our modified approaches to worshiping in person on Sundays:

Masks are still required. Moreover, we ask that you wear an N95 mask or double-mask with a cloth mask atop a surgical mask.

Please be mindful of the occasions when you need to remove your mask, especially during Communion, limiting the length of time that the mask is off. For example, you may consider receiving the bread and then the wine only to consume both with mask off when you step aside from the Communion ministers.

Physical distancing remains in effect. In fact, you’ll note that every other pew is again roped off to promote appropriate distancing. Please be especially mindful of maintaining space between each other.

Singing will largely be limited to the hymns for the time being.

Alas, coffee hour in the fellowship hall is suspended for the time being. While it is wonderful to socialize with each other, that has been the time when interaction has been physically closest and masks have been off when eating and drinking, a particularly risky combination. When the weather becomes more accommodating, we may consider having coffee outdoors.

We are hopeful that all of these modifications to our practice will be short-lived, as medical experts are at this point predicting the Omicron surge may reach its peak in mid-January, tapering off after that point. Time will tell.

Meanwhile, may God in Christ continue to lead us in ways faithful in this challenging season in the power of the Spirit,

Pastor Jonathan Linman