In response to the pandemic, a small re-entry team has been established to monitor information from government agencies, health officials, and religious authorities and communities and to make procedural recommendations to Session as we consider a careful and phased approach to gathering in person again. Members of the re-entry team are: Edwin Blanton, Dr. Fred Campbell, Linda Nance, Dr. Lynnette Watkins, Phil Zamora, Pastor Gin, and Pastor Bart. Below is the most current update about our response to the virus.
As this team and Session make decisions, we are grounded by what we know of the virus and by our theological convictions and are call to care for one another.
Fundamental Principles & Assumptions about COVID-19
- The virus is a respiratory virus which is highly contagious and a high percentage of us are still susceptible
- Though individuals at any age can contract the virus, it is more dangerous to older adults and people with underlying medical conditions (e.g. diabetes and hypertension), and these variables represent a majority of our congregation
- The virus is contagious two to eight days before people develop symptoms
- Gathering indoors with recycled air (Air conditioning that does not refresh regularly with outside air) for extended periods of time poses a significant risk to spread the virus
- There are two things to mitigate the spread of the virus:
- Being vaccinated, but it will take time for an effective vaccine to be developed and distributed to a majority of people. This will take some time
- Good hygiene practices remain the only other effective strategy, including wearing masks, handwashing, and physical distancing. Physical distancing will be required until a vaccine is widely available, effective, and used
Guiding Principles when Considering In-person Gathering
- We won’t gather in person until all of our community can do so in relative safety
- Urgency to reopen is not our driving force. We will be very thoughtful and deliberate about how we proceed
- Theological framing is just as important as science and medical considerations. Love of neighbor, care for the most vulnerable, and the inclusive love of God are central to our decision-making process
- Kingdom (Church) economies are different than retail economies. Our benchmark is less about returning to business as usual, as soon as possible, and more about ensuring the safety and wellbeing of our congregation—even if that means making difficult decisions centered on what we should do rather than what we can do
- We will be flexible and ready to move between phases. This will not be a linear process
- The church is not closed or canceled – only the building is closed. While we are physically distant from one another, the Spirit and life of church are at work.
Metrics the team is monitoring to make decisions:
- Positivity rate of tests
- Doubling rate (the number of days it takes for cases to double)
- Testing availability and time required to receive results
- Hospital stress levels
- Vaccination availability