|Dear People of Trinity,|
In light of increased COVID transmission rates in Montgomery County (up 83% in the last week), I have made the difficult decision to return to masks for ALL while indoors on church property, as prescribed in recent CDC guidance. When masks are not feasible (coffee hour) we will be reminding people to practice social distancing. I am hopeful that our transmission rate returns to “yellow” level soon and we can resume our policy of allowing vaccinated folks to attend without masks. We will continue to “make a joyful noise” and sing in church. We will also still be allowing vaccinated folks to sit together, if they are comfortable doing so. Of course, the safest way for small children (who cannot mask) and the immunocompromised to attend church will be online, but our masking does help mitigate some of the risk for those members.
It might seem a little incongruent, but we will also be returning to offering the wine on Sunday. To partake in the wine, the priest will intinct(slightly dip) the host in the wine before distributing to the communicant. Of course, some may choose to continue to participate “in one kind”, so we will also have a non-wine option for those that choose to take the bread only.
As of right now, we are continuing with our fall program plan as is, perhaps with the addition of some “hybrid options” (in-person and Zoom) so that folks can participate from home. We will continue to allow in person meetings with masks at the church. This is all, of course, subject to change. The situation seems to be changing quickly not just in our county, but around the country.
I know we are all feeling so weary. It is discouraging because it feels like we were *this close* to “precedented times.” However, we must not lose heart. It is our Christian duty to go the extra mile by masking. “Going the extra mile” is one of those idioms that actually comes from scripture. In the Gospel of Matthew, Christ says, “But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile. Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you.”
It’s a provocative phrase because, in Jesus’ time, Roman soldiers could force people to carry their equipment and walk with them for one mile. “You mean, we have to carry their stuff TWO MILES?” Jesus reminds us that our obligation to help extends beyond the familiar or the convenient. Our call to generosity of spirit calls us to uncomfortable and sacrificial places, even for those that we might consider an enemy, like a Roman soldier.
Personally, I do not feel that wearing a mask in church is a particular hardship, but I know that some of you do. Especially if you made it your business to be vaccinated and create safe spaces for others. To you, I say that I’m sorry. Because I am. I’m truly sorry that our world has not yet figured out the best way to protect the vulnerable. I’m sorry that you have made sacrifices when others have not. I’m sorry that worship does not look or feel the same, that the world does not look or feel the same. I’m sorry that our losses seem to be compounding. It is not fair.
As sorry as I am, I am still asking you to go the extra mile for your neighbor. Put those masks back on for a while and talk to your doctor about vaccination if you are not yet vaccinated. Remember the “extra mile” that Christ traveled for you – the last mile that led to the cross, a place of ultimate sacrifice and ultimate love. That last mile led to your salvation. This next mile might lead to someone else’s.