from Pastor Eddie
As I write, we are experiencing dramatic change in the pandemic regulations across the United States and the world at large. While some public health officials caution against carelessness and remind us that not everyone has been vaccinated, the public at large appears very desirous of putting the mask and social distancing restrictions into the past. We understand the tension between these two.
Specifically in the case of Pathways, at this very moment we are hosting a vaccination clinic for hundreds of neighbors from our community, which has been identified as an “underserved” area of Montgomery County. It is an answer to prayer that following months of hosting COVID testing, we are now privileged to offer this blessing to friends and neighbors.
MORE SPECIFICALLY FOR PATHWAYS MEETINGS: months ago, our Elders made clear that we would be following CDC guidelines for public health during the pandemic; we have faithfully done so with masks, social distancing, numerous hand sanitizing stations, and cleaning procedures between services. The CDC announced recently a significant shift and removed masking and distancing requirements where everyone present has been vaccinated.
The preceding phrase has been italicized as a way of acknowledging the complexity of these changes for public gatherings such as worship services. We generally respect the privacy of members on personal health decisions and recognize that a variety of attitudes towards vaccinations exist. We want to continue to respect those as much as is practicable while also fulfilling our responsibility to members and guests to provide the safest experience reasonably possible. It also remains true that Montgomery County is running a bit “behind” many other jurisdictions, and the CDC guidance is that local public health authorities should guide the timing on changing restrictions.
THEREFORE, we want to advise and inform our Pathways family that we WILL MAINTAIN current mask and distancing requirements for a few more weeks. After that, we expect that there will be different options for those vaccinated and those who are not; this is not due to any political stance, but because the presence of children under 12 (vaccines not yet available) and immuno-compromised people (some vaccinated, some not) means we have to be thoughtful in how we protect everyone. As we have noted throughout the pandemic, we expect that Pathways will not be among the first to make radical changes, nor will we be among the last; we will be attentive to what is happening in our locality and among other churches over the coming weeks and will adjust in a safe and timely manner, anticipating a phased reopening over the course of the summer and fall. The same will be true for our partner congregations.
WHY ANY DELAY? In any larger group, like churches, there will be people who CANNOT be vaccinated for various reasons. There are also some who choose not to be vaccinated. This affects CDC and medical guidance for churches.
WHAT ABOUT MEETINGS OTHER THAN WORSHIP? We have asked Sunday School teachers to talk over possible options with class members, and Student and Children’s ministries are having similar discussions. Smaller rooms still present problems and we are awaiting more guidance. Expect some outdoors opportunities and gradual expansion of building use over the coming months.
Our Pathways Staff, Deacons, and Elders remain ready to serve. Please call upon us and we will do the best we can for you—that is part of what church family is all about! Let us all thank God for His deliverance thus far, and commit to move wisely into next steps as a church.