A Statement from Steering Cabinet, January 2021
Whereas the coronavirus pandemic is not over, new more contagious strains are circulating, and it will need all of our cooperation and determination to help it eventually come to an end, and whereas vaccines are coming available for the state of Maryland, the Steering Cabinet of Baltimore Presbytery endorses the following statement and attached rationale.
As the COVID-19 vaccine becomes available for our church members, we encourage you to move forward to get it as you are able. Both doses are necessary for the currently available vaccines (Pfizer and Moderna) to be fully effective. Johnson & Johnson vaccines need only to be administered once. Once vaccinated, we encourage all of our members to report same to their church offices if that does not violate your sense of privacy. It will put members of your local church community more at ease and will likely factor into your Session’s decision-making around returning to worship and other activities. No pastor or other staff members leading worship should be expected to return to indoor worship without the vaccine unless that pastor/staff member clearly and freely states for the Session record that s/he is willing to do so. Masks and social distancing are still essential requirements until most people are vaccinated and the virus is under control according to the CDC and local health departments. All CDC/Health Dept. guidelines should still be followed by our churches.
The vaccine is based on a decade of science creating a new method which does not require introducing any dead cells of the virus in order to vaccinate against it. The vaccines are based on telling our messenger RNA what to fight against, and look to be a wonderful new method that we can thank our scientists for creating. However, the vaccine is still not completely effective at preventing someone who has been vaccinated from contracting COVID-19 afterwards if they are in close contact with someone who is positive, or during the window before the vaccine becomes effective. Since early research indicates at least the potential that vaccinated people can spread it to unvaccinated people, we remind everyone that masking and social distancing is still necessary. Our children and young families are last on the list to receive the vaccine, and some of them could be deeply affected by COVID-19. So please continue to mandate masks and social distancing in any activities you undertake.
We still recommend that churches worship online until the COVID numbers are back under 5% positivity (10 per 100,000 diagnosed) or less and falling for at least two weeks. All recommended precautions as presented by the CDC should be taken if returning to indoor worship or other activities, and churches should still provide in the best way possible for their members not ready to return. By this, we respect everyone, including those who cannot or do not wish to get the vaccine, and those who do not wish to socialize until the virus is gone.
As I Corinthians reminds us, we are all members of the body and we all need and support each other. “Now the body is not made up of one part but of many. If the foot should say, “because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,’ it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body…The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I don’t need you!’… all parts should have equal concern for each other. Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.” (I Corinthians 12, selected verses) May God empower us all to be good strong parts of the body, supporting and encouraging each other, just as God in Christ loves and encourages us.