We find ourselves in the heart-breaking position of holding worship online only this week.
Here is our plan. Although it may lead to some uncertainty and possible confusion, we have decided to evaluate the current data according to www.covidacttnow.org/us/washington-wa/county/walla_walla_county/ every week on Thursday, and make a decision about whether or not to worship in-person, and if so, what protocols need to be in place.
The latest guidance from our conference can be found here: https://greaternw.org/changing-course-as-covid-19-cases-rise/. When Pioneer returned to in-person worship last spring, we chose to follow Option 2, which allows some adjustments for local circumstances. Strictly speaking, we should be limiting any indoor gathering according to the risk level.
At a new case rate of 75 or higher, there can be no singing, and worship will be online only. Period. From 25-75, ensembles may sing if fully vaccinated, masked, and distanced. From 1-25, congregants may sing if fully vaccinated, masked, and distanced. When the rate falls below 1, limits on the number who gather for worship are lifted, but vaccination, masking, and distancing are still highly recommended. We have not found a manageable, equitable means of limiting the number of people in our sanctuary for worship. As you can see from the guidance, we have already been exceeding the recommended limits on the number of people who can gather indoors. We have reluctantly justified this because the numerical limits are based on smaller sanctuaries than ours. During December we had a couple of Sundays with more than 100 in worship.
As a wise man recently said to me, “God is big, is [not only] in church on Sunday, but in our homes and our very being. I think separation is best until statistics are in our favor.” We know this is difficult. It is probably a test of our faith, though I do not believe God causes suffering in order to test us. Still, the result could be that we come to know more deeply what holds us together. What I pray, and what I trust, is that we are held together by a commitment to the common good – the beloved community – the realm of God. Stay tuned for weekly updates.
-Pastor Paul and Pastor Danielle