Our Next Step Forward: Vaccines, Masks, and Sundays
Covid-19 | by Pastor Adam Sinnett
As I mentioned on Sunday, we are once again in new territory as we navigate our way out of this once-a-century pandemic. Thank you to everyone who responded to our survey over the weekend. We heard back from ~475 people, which was very helpful.
News from the CDC and Governor Insleee
The survey was prompted by news from the CDC and Washington's Governor late last week that those who are fully vaccinated (defined as two weeks after your final shot) no longer need to wear a mask or socially distance, whether inside or outside, with few exceptions (public transit, schools, hospitals, shelters, etc). Additionally, the Governor announced that the goal for “fully reopening” the state is set for June 30th.
We must continue to wear masks when we gather
In light of these significant changes, we expected adjustments to be made to the state-mandated Covid-19 requirements for churches. Unfortunately, that did not happen. Therefore, unless we were to meet very stringent requirements (e.g. maintain a vaccinated seating section, create a vaccine verifier role, require weekly proof of vaccination status and/or negative Covid tests for kids, etc), for the time being, despite the news last week, we must continue to wear masks when we gather on Sundays.
This is a complex situation
When it comes to making decisions about our next steps as a church, amidst continually changing circumstances, the elders are navigating a number of multi-layered factors:
- We desire to obey the governing authorities, as an act of worship to God, provided they do not compel us to sin (Rom. 13:1-7). At the same time, we do not want to be more strict than the government.
- We want to maximize the number of people who can join us on Sundays. At the same time, due to social distancing, we have real space limitations.
- We desire for everyone to feel safe. At the same time, we recognizing there is a wide spectrum of opinions on what it means to be safe.
- We desire for everyone to be able to gather every week. At the same time, the restrictions make this a challenge in our current building.
So, the question we are asking is, “Is there a solution that allows us to do all of these at the same time?”
Some Good News: We have flock immunity
Importantly, 87% of those surveyed indicated they are already, or are in the process of becoming, vaccinated. That means, generally speaking, nine out of ten people who gather on Sunday are vaccinated or in the process of becoming so. In other words, you could say we have our own ‘herd immunity’—or, more fitting, ‘flock immunity.’ This means the chance of Covid spread when we gather, particularly when coupled with other safeguards (masks, hand sanitizer, etc), is very low.
Our gathering plan until June 30th
All that being the case, here is our gathering plan until June 30th, at which point we will reevaluate. All of this will begin this Sunday, May 23rd:
1) Masks: Masks will continue to be required during our gatherings, as they have been, whether you are vaccinated or unvaccinated, per state law and request of King County.
2) Seating: We will begin seating people in groups of 15—the largest group size permitted. The more people who sit in these groups, the more people who will be able to gather.
3) Distancing: For those uncomfortable sitting with others, we will have some socially distanced seating available. If you find yourself in this category, keep in mind that in addition to everyone wearing masks, 87% of people who gather on Sunday have been, or are in the process of becoming, vaccinated. We are happy to oblige, while also encouraging you to consider if there is anyone you are comfortable sitting with in order to maximize the use of our space.
4) Overflow: In order to increase our seating capacity, we are going to continue to leverage overflow seating in the Commons while adding seating in the Multi-Purpose Room downstairs (four groups of 15, who will participate via a live feed). Seating will be on a first-come-first-served basis.
5) Every week! Given the number of people who desire to gather, coupled with overflow seating, we believe we can accommodate everyone, every week, between our 9am and 11am services.
6) Pre-registration: We will continue to ask for everyone to pre-register, but only to ensure we have enough seats for everyone, every week. Again, you can now attend every week, but pre-registration will enable us to ensure each gathering is evenly distributed.
7) What's next? As we approach June 30th, and learn more about what our state’s reopening plan looks like, we will reassess.
So, that’s our plan: masks + groups of 15 + some social distancing + overflow + weekly participation (!)
Again, this begins this Sunday, May 23rd. You can register here.
While this isn’t the end of the pandemic, it is an important step in that direction. We’re almost there, so don’t lose heart (2 Cor. 4:16). Let’s continue to pray (Eph. 6:18). Let’s pursue unity (1 Pet. 3:8). Let’s love one another well (Rom. 12:10). Let’s ask Jesus to protect us (1 John 5:18). His story continues to unfold and we’re a part of it (Rev. 22:20-21). His mission continues (Mt. 28:18-20). There are still many in our city who have yet to gladly surrender their lives to him (Acts 18:20). We will reap, if we do not give up (Gal. 6:9).
See you Sunday, Lord willing!
Christ is all,
P.S. Don’t miss that we’re now permitting everyone to gather every week for worship.