REGARDING COVID VACCINES
According to our "Where Are We Now Survey," about 80 percent of our congregation is fully vaccinated against coronavirus and another 10 percent are in the process of being vaccinated. This does not account for children or teenagers who have not been eligible to receive a vaccine.
It is the pastoral advice of each expression of this church for each member who is eligible and medically able to receive a coronavirus vaccine. This guidance is based on the same principal that has guided us throughout this pandemic, love for neighbor. We look to slow the spread of the virus and protect the vulnerable while staying true to our mission to share the good news of Jesus Christ with all people. Receiving a coronavirus vaccine checks all those boxes.
I cannot -- nor can we as a congregation -- command or require people to receive a vaccine. At our church council meeting May 10, we agreed that we will not make vaccination a requirement to participate in worship services or in-person Bible studies, prayer meetings, committee meetings and so on. Fellowship events, however, remain an open question for the church council consider in the future. For example, the senior fellowship held an event in April that invited the fully vaccinated to attend. That everyone who attended was fully vaccinated was a decisive factor in people breaking out of their isolation and attending this indoor event. This may be the case in other circumstances in the life of this congregation, as well.
We certainly encourage every member to enjoy the benefits of fellowship and time being together as Christians. This pandemic has isolated our membership into households or small pods, but a gathering of vaccinated friends from church for get-together in a member's back yard might be a way out of our small pods and back into contact and the support of the larger community. These connections are vital the life of this community, and vaccines may help encourage us to re-establish those bonds.
Most recent, CDC guidance lays out two paths of precautions, one for the vaccinated and one for the unvaccinated, a group of people who have been fully vaccinated can follow a more relaxed set of rules. In fact, some of the things that we enjoy most about being church can start to open up through widespread vaccination.
And yet, since this the decision to be vaccinated or not remains a matter of individual and family choice and that choice need not answer to the judgment of any others, we must simply assume -- until we can document otherwise or until the risk of community spread is minimal -- that each remains unvaccinated and maintain standard precautions of wearing a mask and maintaining a distance of six feet between people or groups for all worship services and gatherings. At the same time, it is important to remember that each person and household has chosen different responses to this virus. For some, the presence of people who remain unvaccinated presents a level of risk they would rather not encounter. These people may choose to stay away from most events.
As we have noted, the COVID crisis complicates even more the already complicated system of being church. While I advise all who are able to receive a vaccination as soon as they can, I also understand that not everyone in this community will choose to do so. Once again, it is love, understanding and patience for the sake of Jesus that cuts a path through the confusion and guides us in our dealings with each other. That is how we maintain the bond of peace in Christ.
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