As we continue responding to the ongoing pandemic and public health crisis, we are temporarily returning to mask-required mode at The Parish (for preschool and older). Given the nature of Omicron, we highly recommend investing in a high-quality mask. This move is made in consultation with our Vestry, local frontline healthcare workers, and our diocese (all churches in our network/area are taking this same step).
As we think about masking in specific and covid in general, let me start with this: I’m tired of all of it. I bet you might be too.
Even so, our desire from the outset of the pandemic has been to faithfully and prudently respond as the situation evolves. We’ve set this before ourselves as a guiding criteria for decision-making in this bewildering time: Though imperfect, it has become a helpful way to navigate reality. The criteria goes like this:
- Follow the Way of the crucified Christ, who laid his life & preference down for the well-being of others
- Follow the experts (scientists & local healthcare workers) who have trained their whole careers to be our most informed and trustworthy guides for a moment like this
- Follow the data to be grounded in what is happening in our particular context/area
A few months ago, we switched from a “mask-mandatory” to “mask-optional” status. At that time, I mentioned that we would continue to adjust our protocols if needed to respond to changes in reality. I hoped at the time to never need to return to mask-mandatory, but in the past weeks the Omicron variant has spread in our community at an absurd rate (the chart below paints the picture, and we must remember the real lives this data represents).
Fulton County Schools has temporarily halted in-person instruction, and we are well above the 100 positive cases per 100k people benchmark I referenced when returning to mask-optional.
Thankfully, it can also be said that though Omicron is wildly contagious, it increasingly appears to be milder than the Delta variant. These two facts can reasonably be put together to make the case that mandating masks (when much of our church chooses to wear them already) either won’t have an appreciable impact or may not be necessary. I understand this impulse, and agree that a knee-jerk reaction to the surge in cases may not be helpful. There does seem to be some encouraging news in the midst of so much loss, and somehow we are invited to hold these in tension.
Even so, our primary call as followers of Jesus is to faithfully forgo our preference in order to serve the community around us. So as our healthcare workers continue genuinely heroic efforts to care for huge numbers of people in need, and as portions of our church body remain vulnerable or unable to choose vaccination, it seems prudent to ensure church is as safe a place as it reasonably can be while not unduly disrupting the gathering of the community. Even for those who do not become significantly ill with exposure to Covid, each positive test means a family’s work and life is significantly impacted for several weeks and we’d like to minimize that where possible.
My hope is this pivot will be short-lived and the current surge will wane in the coming weeks. Until then, I continue to appreciate your grace, care, kindness, and unity as we walk through this latest crest of a long marathon together. Taking the wide view, we have much to be grateful for.