As a pastor I am in the midst of quite an assemblage of mixed reviews for the policy and practices Our Savior has been enforcing (I use the word advisedly), based on the instructions of our Chancery Office (relatively unmodified since they first came out) and the Governor’s Office (a bit more of a “moving target”). There are some folks who are furious with me; there are others who are very grateful for what we’re doing. So as a “last word,” let me offer a rationale (again), and offer an illustration (brand new this past week).
We take reservations because given the limits of “social distancing” we can seat only 31 “households” in the church, and a “household” has been defined for us as folks living in the same house. The last thing I want to do is be in the position of turning folks away because they came too late. We take names and phone numbers, too, because in the event that someone at church tests positive for the COVID, we need a way to do a “back tracing” to let folks know they have possibly been exposed to the virus. This is also why nothing can be used in church that is touched by more than one person: no hymnals, no holy water, no Holy Communion from the chalice… Is this a burden? ABSOLUTELY! Is it responsible? I believe it is.
What about masks? Do they make you safe? Perhaps they do, and perhaps not. But masks will make you safer for others by limiting your droplets. If you and another person both have masks, both of you have a significantly lower risk of infecting each other. That should be good enough reason to wear them.
Why limit the size of the congregation? Hard surfaces, it seems, are less likely places to contract the virus—unprotected exposure in large groups in enclosed spaces for more than 15 minutes is method #1. We have more families than you might imagine with underlying conditions (including age); we need to take care of them. This is why I do Holy Communion “from the porch” on Fridays and Sundays.
You might be surprised at the number of other churches (including Protestant ones) following virtually the same protocols we are here at Our Savior. I’m sorry other parishes see no reason to do so, and this creates not only confusion but also resentment at parishes that do.
Why the fuss? Here’s the illustration. Just this past Tuesday Fr James Dean (St Joseph, Prattville) took a routine COVID test before planning a trip, and he tested positive. He has no underlying conditions and felt perfectly healthy. So potentially he could have been spreading the virus completely unknowingly, especially if he were thinking that there was no need for him to wear a mask since he felt healthy. He’s in quarantine now; how many others might be infected?
Let’s be safe, let’s be considerate of the risks of others, let’s continue to live and work and pray and worship and relax—responsibly. OK—end of soapbox!