This week will mark a year since our first online services and the beginning of our attempts to continue the life of the church safely during the pandemic. We give thanks to God for the creativity, grace, and goodwill shown by our people over the course of that year. Today we're writing to update the congregation on our current situation and next steps. Please read, share, and be in touch with any questions or comments.
Where we are:
- The good news is that the vaccine rollout is ongoing and appearing to speed up. The available vaccines are extremely effective against severe COVID. Many of our members have received at least one dose and many of those have already received two. Eligibility and ease of access should be expanding soon. Daily new cases in Dallas County have fallen considerably from their January peak. If you are eligible and have not yet been vaccinated, try http://vaccinespotter.org/tx for pharmacies in addition to the local county health authorities and hospital systems.
- The not so good news is that the drop in new cases has levelled off in recent weeks at a level that is still quite high. The pace of vaccinations may not be fast enough to prevent one more peak in new cases, especially if safety precautions are prematurely relaxed.
How we're adapting:
- Starting in February, we eliminated the advance sign-up and occupancy limit for the sanctuary service.
- We open the windows (even if it's cold) for extra ventilation and continue to have full cooperation on masks. For now, two-thirds of pews are closed to maintain distance between households.
- With vaccine eligibility and availability still limited, and with children still not eligible for vaccination at all, we will continue to require masks and to enhance our ventilation even as we encourage people to return to worship, especially if you're already vaccinated. For the sake of clarity and simplicity of policy, we are continuing to require even those who have been fully vaccinated to wear masks for now.
- However, vaccinated people who wish to sit together are welcome and encouraged to do so.
- Sunday School for children and youth has moved to 10 a.m., with an in-person option for Confirmation
- Making use of our very nice courtyard, good weather, and the extremely low risk of outdoor transmission, we have begun holding coffee hour outdoors at 10 a.m., weather permitting.
What we plan to do in the coming months:
- Outdoor worship at 11 a.m. will continue, weather permitting. Outdoor transmission appears to be extremely rare, so outdoor worship is a great option for those who are not yet vaccinated or have heightened safety concerns.
- As more and more people are vaccinated, local transmission eventually slows down, and we continue using masks and enhanced ventilation for the sake of the unvaccinated, we encourage worshipers to return in person, either in the sanctuary or outdoors.
- We are discussing plans for a delayed 75th anniversary celebration in the Fall.
- As vaccine availability becomes general and population immunity is reached, hopefully this summer, we expect to be able to ease our precautions in a deliberate, ongoing way.
- This will end. We may end up with seasonal coronavirus outbreaks, booster shots for the various vaccines, and people taking precautions like mask-wearing when they have respiratory symptoms. Streaming worship and online education will be a part of our church life in the future. But the urgent situation under which we have been operating since last March will come to an end, perhaps sooner than many of us had been expecting, and we look forward to embracing all aspects of our congregational life again.
As always, your continuing faithfulness and charitable spirit has made these steps easier to take, and our addition of in-person worship options easier to preserve, than they might have been. We remember to give thanks at all times, and to rejoice at the work of God among us even now.
Yours in Christ,
Pastor Ben Dueholm, on behalf of the Re-Opening Task Force:
Connie Uhri, Council President
Ginger Hagens, Council Vice President
Sharon Karol, Council Secretary
David Marshall, Treasurer,
Greg Nelson, Financial Secretary
Dr. Hando Nahkur, Director of Music Ministry
Dr. Tina Tonti
Joanne Osterland, Director of Christ Lutheran Presch