*My strongest plea to churches and Christians if you are toeing the line*
𝐈𝐟 𝐰𝐞 𝐬𝐩𝐞𝐚𝐤 𝐢𝐧 𝐭𝐨𝐧𝐠𝐮𝐞𝐬 𝐨𝐟 𝐚𝐧𝐠𝐞𝐥𝐬, 𝐡𝐚𝐯𝐞 𝐚 𝐟𝐨𝐨𝐝 𝐩𝐚𝐧𝐭𝐫𝐲, 𝐚𝐫𝐞 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐬𝐢𝐭𝐞 𝐨𝐟 𝐚 𝐂𝐎𝐕𝐈𝐃-𝟏𝟗 𝐭𝐞𝐬𝐭𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐬𝐢𝐭𝐞, 𝐨𝐫 𝐡𝐚𝐯𝐞 𝐟𝐚𝐢𝐭𝐡 𝐭𝐨 𝐦𝐨𝐯𝐞 𝐦𝐨𝐮𝐧𝐭𝐚𝐢𝐧𝐬, 𝐛𝐮𝐭 𝐡𝐚𝐯𝐞 𝐧𝐨𝐭 𝐥𝐨𝐯𝐞 𝐭𝐨 𝐨𝐮𝐫 𝐧𝐞𝐢𝐠𝐡𝐛𝐨𝐫𝐬 𝐭𝐡𝐫𝐨𝐮𝐠𝐡 𝐚 𝐦𝐚𝐬𝐤 – 𝐢𝐬 𝐭𝐡𝐚𝐭 𝐚 𝐜𝐥𝐚𝐧𝐠𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐠𝐨𝐧𝐠? (𝟏 𝐂𝐨𝐫𝐢𝐧𝐭𝐡𝐢𝐚𝐧𝐬 𝟏𝟑 – Friendly neighbor epid paraphrase) =)
If you are hearing urgency in this post, there is a reason why. Our cases in the US are more than doubling every two weeks. Deaths are increasing by 23% and hospitals are being overwhelmed. This is not fear-mongering – this is just the state of the pandemic right now and what lots of the country will experience in the next few months. All data indications point to this (see sources).
I don’t know how to sugar coat that any more. As a pastor’s family, I deeply understand how church leaders are having to listen to all voices about masks and COVID-19 – especially here in the South. I know you have to tow the middle line right now. I know that indoor worship and not wearing a mask has somehow become a statement of not living in fear, for reasons I do not understand as a Christian and a scientist. And, you as the church leaders have to balance all of those voices.
But being polite, politically correct, or “living in faith not fear” is contributing to the problem in terms on infections, hospitalizations, and deaths to our neighbors. It needs to stop. 𝐖𝐞 𝐡𝐚𝐯𝐞 𝐚𝐧 𝐨𝐩𝐩𝐨𝐫𝐭𝐮𝐧𝐢𝐭𝐲 𝐭𝐨 𝐛𝐞 𝐚 𝐰𝐢𝐭𝐧𝐞𝐬𝐬 𝐭𝐨 𝐨𝐮𝐫 𝐧𝐞𝐢𝐠𝐡𝐛𝐨𝐫𝐬 𝐢𝐧 𝐰𝐨𝐫𝐝 𝐀𝐍𝐃 𝐝𝐞𝐞𝐝 𝐫𝐢𝐠𝐡𝐭 𝐧𝐨𝐰. But, what many outside of the church are seeing are Christians trying to prove their faith through unwise activities that goes against what we clearly know regarding COVID-19. Is that a witness or an echo chamber?
It makes no sense for churches in Texas (ex. Lubbock) to be meeting indoors without masks (really, indoors at all) as tent hospitals are going up.
It makes no sense for churches in New Mexico to be meeting indoors without masks while people with COVID-19 are being life-flighted to other states because New Mexico hospitals have no more room.
It makes no sense for churches in many (most) parts of the country to be meeting indoors without masks at all times as cases double every two weeks.
It makes no sense to let mask wearing be optional as a statement of faith and freedom. It should be mandatory as a symbol of the Gospel. If you go to a church with a mask but are around others without one, that is risky. We all need to do it for masking to work.
𝐏𝐚𝐬𝐭𝐨𝐫𝐬, 𝐩𝐥𝐞𝐚𝐬𝐞 𝐡𝐚𝐯𝐞 𝐜𝐨𝐮𝐫𝐚𝐠𝐞 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐜𝐡𝐨𝐨𝐬𝐞 𝐭𝐨 NOT 𝐛𝐞 𝐢𝐧 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐦𝐢𝐝𝐝𝐥𝐞-𝐠𝐫𝐨𝐮𝐧𝐝 𝐚𝐛𝐨𝐮𝐭 𝐂𝐎𝐕𝐈𝐃-𝟏𝟗 𝐫𝐢𝐠𝐡𝐭 𝐧𝐨𝐰. 𝐇𝐞𝐫𝐞’𝐬 𝐰𝐡𝐚𝐭 𝐈 𝐰𝐨𝐮𝐥𝐝 𝐚𝐝𝐯𝐢𝐬𝐞:
– If you meet indoors – masks need to be worn at ALL times – it does no good to require masks walking in and out of the building/sanctuary and then allow people to take them off in the sanctuary. The RISKIEST place is in the sanctuary without masks.
– If you have singing and/or orchestra, the risk of COVID-19 goes up significantly. Face shields do not work.
– If you meet indoors and you let people choose whether or not they want to wear a mask, doesn’t that make loving our neighbors optional? We need to set an example of “seeking the welfare of the city” (Jeremiah 29) and “using our freedom to love our neighbors – in which the whole law can be summarized” (Galatians 5).
– If you pastors need guidelines on when to stop meeting indoors, take this post as that. I will put a link at the end of this post to look at the positivity rates, hospitalizations, and cases per population in your state or county. But, pretty much all states are seeing record increases of positivity rates over 5-8%, cases above 10-20 per 100,000, and hospitalization increases. These metrics collectively show widespread transmission and are alert indicators of uncontrolled spread.
Christians, let’s stop shaming people for wearing masks, as if doing so amounts to living in fear. I have heard that personally, I’ve heard it come from pulpits, and I’ve heard it shared on social media. Masks are symbols of Jesus and courage – not fear.
Now more than ever, we need churches and Christians to take this pandemic seriously and just wear a mask, distance, and move to online worship again proactively. The more proactive we can be, the better. Let’s lead the way and show a world in deep need of Jesus’ love what that really means. We have an opportunity to witness. I think we are losing that when non-christians see us meeting indoors for worship or participating in large outdoor worship services with no distancing or masks. I have personally heard this from non-christian friends – you probably have to.
I will be holding a webinar in the next few weeks on how to navigate the upcoming months from a church standpoint and will keep you posted when that is scheduled. I’ll discuss how to watch the data for your area regarding the key metrics (cases per population, positivity rates, hospitalization rates, etc). Until then, please consider moving to online worship our outdoor services (masked and distanced) again and proactively leading the way in word and deed.
-Friendly neighbor epidemiologist
Praying Psalm 91 and living Galatians 5
Faith over fear – https://tinyurl.com/yxsaatcf
***Please know that I say all of this with deep care and love for the Church and understanding of being a pastor’s family for nearly 20 years now and since I know many of you personally. I say this not to shame other Christians, but with hope that we could see the opportunity to show Jesus’ love. I’m also a scientist and know what is likely coming from looking at the data. This is catching many of you in churches by surprise and does not have to.
***To Christians who have followed the science and believed in praying Psalm 91 and living Galatians 5 from the beginning – You are not alone. This little FB site is reaching 1-2 million people per month at this point and I hear from a LOT of you that feel alone as a Christian. You are not alone, I promise. You’re just quieter than a vocal minority voice of the “faith over fear” statements. Take courage and be courageous. It might be time for those of us being quieter to stand up more for what we believe loving our neighbors means.
To the pastors who have followed the science from the beginning – I know many of you have led the way courageously on this and it has cost you congregants, jobs, or friends. There are many of you out there. My family and I are in our own transition in ministry – so, we understand this cost. Thank you for your courage. We need that leadership now more than ever and in especially in the coming months. Be encouraged that you are not alone. I receive quite a few messages from pastors just like you.
State-specific data: https://www.covidexitstrategy.org/
State and county-specific data (click on your state to see the county data):https://www.covidactnow.org/?s=1311324
𝐎𝐭𝐡𝐞𝐫 𝐩𝐨𝐬𝐭𝐬 𝐈’𝐯𝐞 𝐝𝐨𝐧𝐞 𝐫𝐞𝐠𝐚𝐫𝐝𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐟𝐚𝐢𝐭𝐡, 𝐜𝐡𝐮𝐫𝐜𝐡, 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐂𝐎𝐕𝐈𝐃-𝟏𝟗:
1. What if Christians led the way out of this? Redefining our freedom according to the Cross-https://tinyurl.com/y2qoow7t
2. How to navigate church in a pandemic based on data.https://tinyurl.com/y9gpyte2
3. Who is the neighbor? – https://tinyurl.com/y9ykykve
4. What about singing?- https://tinyurl.com/y9vcnhco
5. Other good articles. – https://tinyurl.com/yb4s3w6c
6. A guide for closing and re-opening based on data -https://tinyurl.com/y9gpyte2
7. A cautionary tale for churches – https://tinyurl.com/yxklylpo
8. We cannot draw water from an empty well https://tinyurl.com/yxc57ecm
9. Discussion with church leaders on leading during COVID-19 – https://tinyurl.com/y5zxfbz5