Dear friends in Christ,
As June approaches, it is time for us to check-in about in-person gatherings. The messages coming from our elected leaders can be contradictory and confusing.
- Governor Brown has allowed 31 of the 33 Oregon counties (not the Portland-metro area) to begin phase 1, which allows for groups of up to 25 people to gather with social distancing.
- President Trump has deemed churches and other houses of worship “essential” and has called on governors across the country to allow these places of worship to reopen.
- Public health experts warn us that the nature of the virus has not changed; it is still highly contagious and our communities are still vulnerable.
More troubling news comes from those churches that have already attempted to reopen.
- At least 107 people became infected after attending or coming into contact with someone who attended a service at a German baptist church, despite church officials insisting that social distancing and hygiene guidelines were upheld during the service.
- A Baptist church in Georgia stopped in-person services two weeks after reopening as several families came down with coronavirus. Again, the church states that all modes of social distancing were practiced and followed by the families attending.
- A Catholic church in Texas also closed after it was discovered multiple members had contracted the novel coronavirus and one leader had died. Again, the parish had followed cleaning, sanitation and social distancing guidelines prescribed by State health officials.
Here in Oregon, we are blessed with the opportunity to learn from these churches experience and protect our ministers, lay leaders, members and communities from risk. In-person, indoor gatherings of people from different households are high risk and they are a risk we do not have to take. We know we are essential, but it is not essential to gather in person at this time.
Our priority is protecting the well-being, health and safety of ALL members of the Oregon Synod: congregants and staff. Therefore, we advise that church buildings remain closed to all but essential staff for as long as in-person, indoor gatherings remain high risk.
Thank you all for taking care of each other during these troubling times. Let us continue to pray for those who are sick, those who have died, and for the good health and welfare of all members of our communities.