+Bishop Jon V. Anderson
I dread the thick fog of Spring on winding roads. It is not as bad as white outs in a blizzard but driving across the synod you run into fog sometimes this time of year that becomes really challenging.
As we continue to steer through our experience of the COVID-19 people have been touching base wondering about how to steer through the fog of the most recent guidance from the Center of Disease Control and the Minnesota Department of Health. I will share my/our current wisdom in this article along with some links people have pointed out to me. Inside our staff for the past year+ we have had many discussions about how to handle the twists and turns of this journey. Join us.
Here are some of the hunches we have at this point. Pay attention to the latest State of Minnesota Dept. of Health Guidance. Here is new guidance from May 18, 2021.
- COVID-19 Preparedness Plan Requirements for Faith-based Communities, Places of Worship, Weddings, and Funerals, Stay Safe MN
At the bottom, the first document addresses singing on page 3.“Venues that host a reception, luncheon, gathering, or other similar activity before or after a service or ceremony must follow the applicable Stay Safe Guidance for Entertainment and Meeting Venues.”
If you are vaccinated. You do not need to wear a mask according to the guidance from the CDC. You of course still can. If you are immune suppressed or just feel more comfortable right now until we see what happens in the next month after a shift in our country and state’s tactics, you can wear a mask and we will respect you.
Pr. Steve Cook reminded us that immune suppressed people are learning from news reports that they do not get high antibodies from the vaccine. This is true with all vaccines one of our sources pointed out. “Vaccines work by activating the immune system. Lower immune response = lower antibodies.”
If you not vaccinated, the guidance from our government and state is that you should wear a mask to protect yourself and others. I have been vaccinated. Some of you may want to be vaccinated. Good. We would speak in favor of it because it has opened our life. Some of you may not want to be vaccinated, we will respect your decision and thank you for wearing a mask when you are inside or in crowds. We trust you to do this.
Parents/Families with Young Children:
Pr. Dee Pederson reminds us that some of the most vulnerable in our congregations right now are children under age 12, who cannot be vaccinated. Most families with young children feel comfortable sending their children to school because they are sending them into well-planned, monitored environments: masks worn by all, all safely distanced, masks off only outside for recess.
Parents may not feel safe or comfortable bringing young children into worship services where no one wears masks, singing is not distanced, and you don’t know who’s vaccinated or not. This is an important time to talk with families who have children under age 12 to hear what sounds safe for them, empathize with their unique situation right now, and continue to practice the best hospitality we can for the whole body of Christ.
Wellness Teams for the Likely Next Twists and Turns – Pay attention to local conditions and adjust to be safer if virus activity spikes in your area. if your congregation has a Wellness Team to receive guidance from, we are thankful. If not, you might still find this approach helpful if you create one. Finding ways to talk about this as a church in your council work is also helpful. Listening and learning has not always been easy in this journey, but it is OK to take time to think and adjust based on what is happening in your community and where most of our scientists are guiding us. Private businesses (including churches) may continue to mandate ways to protect the community’s most vulnerable. Every context is a little different in terms of preparedness and communications.
We in congregations are not the only ones confused and struggling by all the shifts and news stories… Click below to read an article from the Star Tribune.
We will know more in a month. Let us work at being kind and patient with one another. Let us find ways to make space for people who see this differently and commit to loving each other. We can also commit to ongoing care as we go through the next month. By the end of this month, we are going to know a lot more.
If you or others are sick, please stay home. Pr. Kathryn Skoglund was home last week and was tested. The test came back negative, but it was a good reminder we need to be wise stewards of other people’s health as Pr. Kathryn was. Her presence in our staff meeting on Zoom was a reminder that we can do work, worship and enjoy fellowship through new tools we have learned to use in this time.
We lament the losses of many kinds and give thanks for where we are. It is good to notice your sadness and express it so that it does not come out sideways. Pr. Steve put it like this: “We give thinks that we have lived to see this day.” It has been a gift to be able to return to working with people. I am very grateful for the work of so many to get us through the last year. I think we should find ways to express our gratitude to each other and to our God who has been gracefully creating, protecting, and guiding us through this long foggy season with the coronavirus.
My colleague Bp. Bill Tesch shared his thoughts in a Northwestern Minnesota Synod pastoral letter.
I have come to love this prayer that sings in each season of this journey with a clear trust in God’s love and guidance. God has us and is guiding us as we move forward and the fog seems to becoming lighter.
O God, where hearts are fearful and constricted, grant courage and hope. Where anxiety is infectious and widening, grant peace and reassurance. Where impossibilities close every door and window, grant imagination and resistance. Where distrust twists our thinking, grant healing and illumination. Where spirits are daunted and weakened, grant soaring wings and strengthened dreams. All these things we ask in the name of Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.
– Evangelical Lutheran Worship, p. 76