As the country reopens and restrictions start dropping on groups gathering togehther, LCG has released some well thought out guidlines for church services, masks, and vaccinations.
While COVID-19 rages in parts of the world such as India, it seems to be abating in other nations. New Zealand reports very few cases and here in the United States, Texas reported zero deaths from COVID yesterday for the first time. Nevertheless, one of our members in Texas succumbed to the virus a few days ago and she was in her mid-thirties. We know of others who contracted the disease recently and have had a difficult time with it.
It might be easy to let up entirely if we were only a localized church, but we are an international Church, serving people in many different countries, provinces, territories, and states. (Please read the message from Mr. Paul Shumway below, regarding a visit from the COVID Police in Barbados on Pentecost.) One size does not fit all, and we should not stay locked down where it does not make sense. Sadly, everything about this pandemic has become political in the United States and some other countries, making it nearly impossible to trust any one source. So, what is God’s Church to do?
Attending services in a crowded room with poor ventilation for two or more hours is a high-risk situation for spreading any kind of airborne virus. We also know that we have many members who are vulnerable due to age and underlying conditions. We want them to be safe and feel safe, but we cannot hide out in caves and wear masks until Christ returns. We must get back to some kind of normalcy as there are also risks to isolating ourselves and continually wearing masks for too long.
After consulting with others this past week about the evolving situation, we want to loosen up where we can. For right now, we will continue to require masks while singing, and in fellowship before and after services while inside, but we will not require masks during the speaking portions of services where this is reasonableand allowed by law and the facilities we are using—keeping in mind that the priority is to do what we can to protect the vulnerable among us, particularly in areas where transmission is not low. We were looking forward to this in Charlotte last weekend as the result of a regulation change, but our meeting facility changed our meeting room and some 200 of us were crammed into a smaller room in which social distancing was not possible. It made sense to continue another week with masks for the whole service until this Sabbath, when we will be in our regular, larger room. Many areas are already doing this. We will continue to use social distancing in seating, where possible.
In addition, in areas where there is low to no transmission, where mask mandates are totally lifted, and where we are not putting vulnerable people at risk, we want to go back to our normal practice. This does not mean that one cannot wear a mask or that people should be pressured or shamed to take off their mask. Those who choose to wear a mask are free to do so. Any decision to make a congregation mask-optional for the whole service will be made by the pastor after consulting with his Regional Director or Regional Pastor. Regional Pastors should consult with Church Administration when in doubt.
And please, brethren, let us not judge one another regarding vaccination or non- vaccination, on masking or not masking, or what one congregation does based on its unique circumstances versus another congregation. Whatever we do, let’s show love and outgoing concern for one another.
Sincerely, in Christ’s service,
Gerald E. Weston