Dear Friends in Christ,
The time is at hand to make some changes to the COVID-19 precautions we’ve had in place at University Lutheran Church. I’m writing to convey my thoughts on the matter and to inform you as to what we will begin doing, effective immediately. If you have thoughts or comments on this course of action, I invite you to share them with me.
At this point here’s the situation as I see and understand it:
- COVID-19 community spread is very low. Effective vaccines are readily available to anyone who desires to be vaccinated. Some will choose not to be vaccinated, for various reasons. Many in our community – including many of you – have already been vaccinated against COVID-19.
- My understanding regarding masks and social distancing is that they are assistive in lowering risk of infection in situations of high community spread in conjunction with a large body of potential asymptomatic spreaders. In our community, and certainly in our congregation, there will always remain a very-small to small risk of COVID infection for those who are unvaccinated. But vaccinated or previously-infected individuals are at extremely low risk for both infection and spread of COVID-19.
- The CDC and the Illinois Department of Public Health have advised that masks and physical distancing are no longer necessary in almost all situations for anyone who is fully vaccinated. It stands to reason that previously-infected persons are in more or less the same boat. Essentially, the State’s recommendations tend toward creating two different classes of citizens: those who are vaccinated, and those who are not.
- In Christ’s Church we are not two bodies or classes, but one. “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28).
- It is not virtuous to avoid one another, nor to shun one another, as a general practice. “Let us not neglect to meet together, as is the habit of some, but to encourage one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near” (Hebrews 10:25).
- Virtual church is a poor substitute for the physical, in-person gathering together to which Christ calls us. Christ would have us congregate to praise Him and encourage one another, and to come unto Him to receive His rest and peace. The Lord’s Supper cannot be given to you through a livestream or Zoom session.
- It is right for someone not to gather with the congregation if he is sick. It is right that we bear with one another in love, especially in trying times and situations. It is right that we not sit in judgment of one another. It is right that we fear no disease or man or anything else in all creation except for the One who “can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28). It is right that we remember that death and the grave have no power over us who are in Christ Jesus.
All that stated, here is my suggested course of action, effective immediately, Thursday, May 20th:
- Masking is optional throughout the building at University Lutheran. If you are unvaccinated or have risk factors for serious disease, please be familiar with CDC and IDPH recommendations and consider your decision to mask or not to mask accordingly.
- I will no longer wear a mask throughout the Divine Service. As an assurance to any of you with concerns, I am fully vaccinated according to the CDC definition.
- At least until July, we will continue with every-other-pew seating and spreading out in the Sanctuary.
- We will keep the Communion distribution practice the same for now. (This is more a logistical issue than a COVID-19 issue.) Adjustments to this will be put in place later in the summer.
- If you are exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19, or any other contagious disease for that matter, please stay home and let me know. I will be glad to pray with you and visit you in order to bring you the Lord’s Supper, when appropriate.
- If you are afraid, please don’t hesitate to let me know. Christ’s Word and Spirit bring courage, comfort, and consolation. I’d love to share them with you.
Satan has made use of this pandemic to divide God’s people, and to draw many away from Christ’s gifts, even some of you. It is certainly time now for us to pray to God, that He would give us the way of escape from these temptations. And also, as our Lord Jesus fights for us, we do well to heed His encouragement through St. Paul to be prepared to defend ourselves:
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints…” (Ephesians 6:10-18)
I covet your prayers, for faithfulness and courage in this evil day. I have a list of all of you, and I pray through it day by day, that the Lord would provide all His help, strength, and comfort to you.
Christ bless and keep you,