Be Both Welcoming and Safe

19 May 2021

The increasing number of people who are vaccinated and the recent recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control allow us to take a new look at how we gather for worship. Individual congregations may find it useful to be more conservative, but the general recommendation for worship is:

We welcome both masked and unmasked worshippers. No matter what your vaccination status is, please be mindful of the health of other people and act in ways that support their health.

If you are unvaccinated, or if you are vaccinated and feel uncomfortable, we encourage you to wear a mask and remain at least six feet from other households, especially if you are around children eleven years old or younger. No one will judge you.

The focus of this recommendation is that, whatever the individual decision on mask wearing, we are all called to be hospitable and do what we can to make other people feel both welcomed and safe in our congregations. There will naturally be discussions in each congregation on such practices as processions and choral singing, many of which are dependent on the size and configuration of the space in which worship is occurring. In some of our congregations, everyone has already been vaccinated; in others, there are children who are not yet eligible for vaccination. If churches follow the guidelines of schools and daycare centers, it seems that resuming children’s Christian formation classes and nursery care is possible.

It appears that people can safely receive consecrated Bread at an altar rail. We are still waiting for some hoped-for clarification on whether or not it is good practice to resume drinking the consecrated Wine from a common chalice. The chief concern is that there are unvaccinated adults who would perhaps drink from a common chalice at a worship service in which there are also children who cannot yet be vaccinated.

We will continue to review health recommendations, and we continue to hope that infections will not begin increasing following the CDC’s latest recommendations. If all goes well, a return to a full range of ministries in our congregations seems imminent.

Faithfully yours

Larry Benfield