A Letter from a Member Congregation
Recently a church in the Presbytery with a near 100 percent vaccination rate experienced an outbreak of COVID 19 after a worship service. Seven people, as of Thursday evening, had tested positive, including two children. This was 10 percent of those in attendance.
Sunday School families were notified and all members who have tested positive have been contacting people with whom they were in close contact. It could not be known exactly how many people were exposed before coming to church; therefore, the congregation was told to assume they had close contact.
This church had a policy in place for such an occurrence. Both the COVID task force and the session had met expediently upon the report of the first case. Each meeting was started by consulting directly with a medical expert on COVID who is daily treating acute COVID patients and patients with COVID Long Hauler symptoms.
It was learned that even the medical community has been surprised by how quickly this current surge came upon us. Many organizations are experiencing breakthrough infections in vaccinated people. Although rare, breakthrough infections can be severe. Blessedly those who have tested positive in this church have communicated they are experiencing only mild symptoms and it looks like there will be no further positive cases.
The following policy adjustments were made in this congregation through careful deliberation after listening to expert medical advice:
- The church was placed on a fourteen day institutional quarantine retroactive to the day of the outbreak. The following Sunday service was digital. All meetings at the church were suspended. The church building will be closed and sanitized. (This follows the congregations COVID guidelines and conforms with CDC guidelines)
- Sunday School was suspended until January
- Coffee hours and meals were suspended until further notice
- All gatherings at the church will now happen masked.
- During the passing of the peace we will remain in the pews and greet one another in place.
- After the quarantine it was made clear that Zoom options must be offered to those not comfortable meeting in person. Committees, bible studies, or fellowship groups that meet in person must now need in larger areas where social distancing is possible.
- Positivity rates will be monitored continually and adjustments to these policies will be made as is appropriate.
Spiritual siblings of the Baltimore Presbytery, It is understood how fatigued we all are with COVID. This virus: however, knows no fatigue. It is therefore important that our churches be prepared to make necessary adjustments to keep one another safe.
The good news is situations that occur like the one above no longer have to shut our churches down indefinitely. The science is clear that when people gather masked and vaccinated it protects ourselves and others. It makes the risk of transmission extremely low. Much more is known about this virus now. Such measures ensure that we can continue to worship safely and in person.
Psalm 118:26-28 “Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord, From the house of the Lord we bless you. The Lord is God and he has given us light. Bind the festal procession up to the horns of the Altar. You are my God, and I will praise you. You are my God and I will exalt you!!”
A blessed Christmas season in the name of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, from whom all blessings flow to all in the Service of Christ Jesus our Lord.