The Church Council and I have talked and prayed and (honestly) cussed as we grappled with our very torn feelings about what to do regarding in-person worship in the light of the rapidly rising numbers of COVID during this Delta surge.
With this in mind, the Faith Church Council has decided to move to online/Zoom worship services until further notice. This decision is effective immediately and means that there will be no in-person service this Sunday (8/15/2021).
None of us want to go back to Zoom-only, even just for a few weeks. It seems most to all of our folks, except our children under 12, are vaccinated. Everyone has been SO gracious about masking properly, giving distance, staying home if exposed, and self-selecting to worship with us via Zoom if they feel at risk–which has also served to keep the numbers in our sanctuary at a lower and safer number.
Though the risks of death and serious illness to those fully vaccinated are low, they still exist and already we are finding some having more long-term effects from this variant, even if vaccinated. I personally know over 3 dozen vaccinated persons who have had breakthrough infections with severe symptoms and at least 6 of those I know of had to be hospitalized.
The Herald-Zeitung reported yesterday Comal County’s hospital usage hit an all-time high number of patients being cared for with COVID and I’ve heard from some of you that friends with other serious medical conditions are being turned away from hospitals because there is no more room to care for them.
The head of the ICU of one of our local hospitals shared that healthcare workers are breaking down and feeling betrayed now more than ever. I’m seeing the same in my students and clients in healthcare. The patients they are caring for and venting are MUCH younger than ever before and our children are being hit harder by this surge than any other, which impacts us all emotionally that much more.
Most of our children and teachers are returning this week to classrooms where masks cannot be required, so numbers are expected to only go up significantly in the coming weeks.
We made the decision to return to in-person worship (along with continuing Zoom) June 27th when the number of daily cases remained under 20 per 100,000 people in Comal County for more than 14 days. As of this past Sunday, that number was 66 per 100,000 and that number is projected to climb to 121 by this Sunday and 135 by the following (8/22).
You can see the numbers and forecast by state and county through the Mayo Clinic website here https://www.mayoclinic.org/coronavirus-covid-19/map/texas
Therefore, we have decided to resume Zoom-only services for a period of weeks as we watch the numbers and await cooler weather that will allow outdoor services until worshiping indoors again feels safer for us all. We do not yet know what this means for those who rent our space, and will be making those decisions and discussing our thoughts with them in the coming days.
TO BE CLEAR, WE ARE NOT CLOSING!!! The church is not closed. WE ARE THE CHURCH (yes, I’m shout-talking, here!) and the Still-Speaking God has MUCH to say in and to and through us in the coming weeks.
Come to worship on Zoom and come on camera–we need each other and to see each others’ faces and hear each others’ voices.
Continue to give as you are able–giving is up by about $13,000 compared to this time last year, but we’re still about $5,000 below budget. Rather than pinching pennies, skimping on our needs, and being distracted by anxiety about our financial health and sustainability, I’d rather spend our time serving and finding new ways to meet the needs of our community.
Keep inviting your friends, even those out of state–now more than ever people need community and want one that matches their beliefs and lives but cannot find that in their community. We can be that place for them.
Engage in our social media–share posts, share recordings of our services, send me items you think would work well to be shared on our Faith Facebook page. Visitors are finding us on-line and through our website. The bigger our presence there, the easier it is for them to find us.
Prepare to participate in discussions with our Pastoral Search Committee about the future of Faith Church and where God is calling us.
Prepare to participate in a Zoom study on the book of Job later in September.
Prepare to participate in an on-line watch party of a movie with a spiritual theme and then to discuss it afterward (it’s called Reel Faith and is tremendously fun!).
Reach out and ask myself and Council questions as you have them and if you hear others with questions or concerns, please send them to us directly so we can be clear and communicate openly with one another.
And more importantly, do not despair, but join us in seeking God’s face about where God can work through this circumstance to bring the most good, the most healing, and use us to spread the Good News of God’s hope amongst ourselves and to those around us.
Peace be with us all,