As we approach our first Sunday back to the church building, I think it's important to point out that masks will be required and supplied when we gather. So, why we wear masks?
There's a GREAT confusion that masks are for our own benefit. If you happen to have a N95 mask, that would be true. However, most of us do not have that kind of mask (nor should we). So, if a mask is not for our benefit, why should we wear one?
There's a scientific reason and a, for lack of a better term, Christian reason. The scientific reason is simple: it stops the spread of COVID-19. If you're wearing a mask and happen to have the virus, the chance of you spreading it to other people GREATLY reduces. That's because it is transmitted through our air moisture droplets. So, stopping those droplets from escaping your mouth area means they cannot infect anyone. Check out this wonderful article for more information: https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2020/04/dont-wear-mask-yourself/610336/
The Christian reason is simple too, yet it is tied to the scientific reason. We wear masks, because people matter. As Christians, we want the best for our neighbors. We love them, care for them, and more. In fact, we put aside our needs, desires, and even rights for their sake (Phil. 2:4). It really can't be more plain. Christians wear masks for the sake of other people, because we live as if other people matter more than we do. Why? Well, because that's how Jesus lived.
Sometimes the best thing a blog can do is link you to other blogs that have said fantastic things. That's what we're doing today. A wonderful post is making it's way around social media and even email. It's a post that urges us to live with patience and kindness (1 Cor. 13:4) during this pandemic and our current conversations concerning "reopening." We would be wise to pay attention.
Our Board of Trustees met last night and approved a tentative plan for "ReOpening" Mount Calvary. Before sharing that plan, please know two things:
1) This plan is based on knowledge we have on hand today (May 14, 2020). Things are changing so quickly that this may be out of date in a few days or weeks.
2) While we are excited to gather once again, we must always be ready to re-enter quarantine. I know this won't be fun, but it might be necessary. If that happens, the plan will "reset," we will start from quarantine once again, and the dates will change.
You can download it here:
Today's blog post is quick and easy for me. It will require some reading from you. However, it is WELL worth the read. If you read through the article I am about to share with you, you will be better informed as to why some of the decisions were making need to be made.
We want you all to be safe!
Having said that, why so much fear and caution around "reopening"? This article provides insight into that question:
As part of our Project: Thanks! and the upcoming Challenge:Thanks!, we wanted to share with you several ideas of who you can thank. For all these and more, the best way to find someone to thank is simply through Google Maps. Searching key terms will give you a great starting point as well as addresses!
Our ideas fall into four general categories:
1. Medical Professionals - You can thank doctors, nurses, paramedics, pharmacists, and anyone else you can think of that works in the medical field. Perhaps it's people who work at companies that supply Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) like masks or sanitizer. If you would like, you can send 53 cards to Lutheran Hospital with the following list:
2. Essential Workers - You can thank grocery or essential supply store workers by department: bakery, meat, frozen, floral, pharmacy, cashiers, etc. Each grocery store has any where between 5 - 20 departments you could thank!
3. First Responders - You can thank police officers, fire fighters, paramedics, and more! In fact, some of these brave men and women are volunteers risking their lives to help in this troubling time.
4. Mental Health - You can thank counselors, psychiatric hospitals, charities, and more! As we continue with the pandemic as a reality in our world, more and more people will have mental health needs. You can even thank your friends and family who have been there for you during this time!
Whoever you thank, know that it will be appreciated and needed.
Under each Phase, social distancing will look different. Unfortunately, at this point, there’s not a ton of guidance being given on this. However, there are a few things we do know and others that we can guess. In each of the Phases below, there is a component that addresses who can do what and a component of social or group gathering settings.
Phase 1 – Strict Social Distancing
Under this Phase, not much changes. Some employers can begin operating with 10 or less people and maintaining maximum physical distance. All social and group settings will be limited to 10 or less with the strong urging to avoid meeting altogether.
Phase 2 – Moderate Social Distancing
Under this Phase, non-essential travel resumes, even though most employers will be encouraged to allow work from home. Social and group settings will probably include people of 50 or more, but will insist on keeping maximum distance from each other.
Phase 3 – Limited Social Distancing
Under this Phase, all people, even vulnerable individuals, can resume public interactions while still keeping maximum distance and minimizing exposure. There is a good chance that Phase 3 will allow for large gatherings, but even those will be modified according to physical distance requirements.
First, we need to understand the gating criteria given by the White House. There are three categories that need to be met in order for the Phased Approach to activate.
Downward trajectory of influence-like illnesses reported within a 14-day period
Downward trajectory of documented cases within a 14-day period
Treat all patients without crisis care
Downward trajectory of COVID-like syndromic cases reported within a 14-day period
Downward trajectory of positive tests as a percent of total tests within a 14-day period (flat or increasing volume of tests)
Treat all patients without crisis care
Robust testing program in place for at-risk healthcare workers, including emerging antibody testing
As you will note, each phase of this plan will activate after 14 days of these criteria being met. For instance, Phase One will not activate until symptoms are down, cases or positive tests are trending down, and all patients are being treated with a robust testing program in place. After these continue for 14 days, then we move on to Phase 2, then Phase 3 after another 14 days. At this point, we haven’t been given anything to consider for what happens after Phase 3. Also these criteria may change as updated information is given.
So, with the rhythm of the Phases in place, how does it work?
Well, it’s not as simple as going through these progressively. If, at any time throughout a given 14-day period, these criteria are violated, then we go back to strict stay-at-home self-isolation. We do this for until we trigger the first Phase once again.
That means that our situation is both volatile and complex. It’s volatile, because at any moment, we could go back to our quarantine lives. It’s complex and difficult, because every community will be different. Large cities will look different than farming communities. Fort Wayne will look different than Indianapolis.
It also means that we will have to take more responsibility and use more discernment. We cannot just do what other cities, communities, and even churches are doing during the Phased Approach. As a result, missteps and mistakes will happen. We will err on over concern rather than under concern.
Many people are starting to wonder what returning to ordinary life might look like and, specifically, what it will entail. While there is still plenty left to discover, the White House has released a plan to "Open America" in phases. I want to begin a series of posts to outline what that means.
Before looking at that plan, we must look at its intention and its foundational assumption. The intention is for this plan to be used in the time between the strict stay-at-home orders and the full distribution of a vaccine. We do not know when that vaccine will be available. We also do not know when it will be fully distributed for maximum safety. So, we will probably be living in the “Phased Approach” for a good amount of time.
Having said that, let’s look at the foundational assumption. The foundational assumption is that strict stay-at-home orders, as undesirable as they are, provide the maximum amount of safety for communities. Additionally, such orders represent a "baseline" for if or when our situation changes for the worse. In other words, it is fully possible that at any given moment we could go back to self-quarantine.
Check back soon to learn how we measure the phases of transition into a new normal way of life.
What's the healthiest thing you can do right now?
That's a really important question. It's also a question that should cause you to slow down. Many of us are so busy trying to avoid the troubles of the world and the coronavirus age, that we forget to slow down and reflect.
I dunno about you, but I have had to reevaluate recently. You see, once COVID-19 became our reality, I was fairly quick to react. I got our staff working from home, we cancelled services, and I built this online presence for connection.
But after a while, I started to find myself being busier than I needed to be.
So, I asked myself (and others) what's the healthiest thing I could do for myself right now. After prodding, poking, and, yes, some crying, I came to realize that I needed to accept what was happening.
Don't hear what I'm not saying! I knew very well that I was affected by COVID-19. My whole life changed! Yet, I didn't accept it. I kept telling myself, "This is temporary. This is temporary. We'll get back to normal."
It wasn't until I said to myself, "We won't get back to normal. There will be a new normal," could I relax. I stopped getting my hopes up for the news that would always disappoint. I stopped planning to get back in two, three, or four weeks. I now live life in the daily present.
I accepted it. And it was the healthiest thing I did this pandemic.
Before I begin my thoughts on this, I want you - the reader - to know that this potentially controversial post is not meant to criticize or judge. I recognize that we are all just trying to do the best we can during a time that is neither normal nor good. At best, I hope to critique where we are as a church and ask a question I think needs to be asked. So, please read the following in the best way possible. I am, of course, open to the same critique I am giving. I want this to be a conversation as much as it is possible.
Here is Mount Calvary's church building. It's beautiful, isn't it? In our pre-COVID-19 time, we used this building every day for office management, ministry events and activities, and, of course, our Child Care & Preschool. What most people know about this building, however, is that it becomes a place of worship and Bible study on the weekends. I am sure if you asked people, some would say that this is where they come to be in the presence of God.
That last statement always seems a bit off to me. Does it you? I mean, I think it's correct - technically - but it almost seems wrong. I know others have felt the same way. As I grew up (and even now), I heard people saying: "The Church is not a building; it's a people!" I rather like that. It sounds more like what Paul talks about when he describes the church (1 Cor. 12, for example). Jesus certainly didn't tell the disciples to go throughout the nations making brick and mortar "churches," right? Instead, He talked about making disciples - people who follow Him!
This is not new, of course. What is new (to me anyway) is the question that the coronavirus has brought to this reality: "Do we really believe this?"
Here's the thing. As a pastor, I have lots of pastor friends and lots of the organizations I follow (Facebook, email, etc.) help pastors "do church" better. And throughout these last few weeks, I have noticed something rather striking: Pastors have continued to use the church building for "normal" worship (except without all the people). I say this not to judge or criticize. I get it. These pastors want to bring the "normal" back into the lives of their parishioners. On the other side, there is something strangely comforting sitting on the couch as our makeshift pew.
Yet, for me, whenever I see this, I feel the same as I did hearing what I have about the Sunday worship experience: disjointed. It just feels odd to me. Maybe that's enough for you reading this. Maybe it's just who I am. However, I can't help but ask the question again: "Do we really believe the Church isn't a building?"
If we did, might we refrain from "going to (the) church (building)" digitally? Or, rather, could we find creative ways to be the Church outside the building? Maybe we've segmented our lives is such a way that worship has to happen in the church building, but Christian life happens in the real world? If so, must it be so? Could we "be the Church" in worship rather than "go to (the) church (building)" digitally or otherwise for worship?
What are your thoughts?