A Letter from our Bishop Regarding Guidelines
Hebrews 12:1b is a favorite Scripture passage for many sports-lovers. Though written for a different situation and place, the words are an encouragement when applied to our North Alabama Conference’s response to COVID-19. “And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us . . .”
What a year we have experienced! When a year ago this week (March 16, 2020) the North Alabama Conference Leadership Team and I made the request that congregations suspend in-person worship services to help mitigate the spread of the coronavirus, we had no idea that this pandemic would result in the death of more than 500,000 persons in the U.S. and more than 2.6 million across the world. The losses have been profound with 1 in every 3 Americans grieving over someone they know who has died of COVID-19. Nor did we anticipate that we would still be dealing with the pandemic in Lent 2021.
We are grateful that the majority of our congregations honored our initial request as well as the Do No Harm Recommendations that followed. Together we have learned much about how to be the church during a pandemic.
Now we see a glimmer of the light at the end of the tunnel. Though 1,500 Americans are still dying of COVID-19 every day, cases are finally falling. It is estimated that within the next few months every U.S. adult will have had the opportunity to be fully vaccinated.
It appears that our nation has turned the corner with the pandemic. However, we are not yet to the finish line. The COVID-19 subteam makes the following requests as we finish the race.
While April 6 will mean there is no longer a state-wide mandate to wear masks, we are called to still strive to provide safe environments for worship and discipleship.
Our Do No Harm guidelines continue to be an appropriate guide for re-opening church buildings.
We continue to encourage pastors and local church leadership to make thoughtful decisions taking into account their county and its risk factors as well as their particular context and the guidance of their local government and health department.
Even in a county considered low risk, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends masking and six-foot social distancing until more people are vaccinated.
Pastors and local church leadership are asked to continue to monitor the risk levels in their counties and be prepared to return to stricter protocols if the risk level rises in their area.
Here is some good news.
In areas without mask mandates, small groups may decide to meet without masking and social distancing two weeks after all participants are fully vaccinated.
People are considered fully vaccinated for COVID-19, two weeks after they have received the second dose in a 2-dose series (Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna), or two weeks after they have received a single-dose vaccine (Johnson and Johnson [J&J]/Janssen) https://www.cdc.gov/…/fully-vaccinated-guidance.html
There is great anticipation that most people will be vaccinated by the fall if not before!
Though we still have a distance to run, the finish line is in sight. Let us not grow weary in the race we are running in mitigating COVID-19 in our churches and communities.
Thank you for all that you have done, are doing and will continue to do as individuals and churches during this pandemic.
As always, it is a privilege to serve as your bishop.
North Alabama Conference