The question I am asking the most these days is “Are you vaccinated yet?” I seem to get a different answer every time. Some church folks have both shots of Pfiser and/or Moderna. Some folks have their first one. Some are in line for the single shot from Johnson and Johnson. Some easily got shots and others remain on waiting lists with no word when their turn will come. Some have been fortunate to be in the right place at the right time to get some shots that would otherwise expire and others don’t expect to get shots for a month or two. It is difficult to know who is “out of the woods” in terms of vulnerability to COVID-19 and who is not.
One thing is for sure, even with increasing rates of vaccination and decreasing confirmed COVID cases and deaths, there is still too much risk to let our guard down. The day I am writing this, I found out a church member came down with COVID this week after remaining safe for the past year. When it comes to church activities, in light of the changing situation, I want to offer some suggestions.
Sunday morning worship--Since last July, we have offered in-person worship on Sunday mornings in our sanctuary along with streaming the service online at the church web site, YouTube and Facebook Live. This won’t change. The church board has taken no action to lesson our social distancing safety measures which have been in place since last summer. This means we will continue to require everyone to wear a mask, socially distance by at least six feet, congregational singing will not be allowed, nursery will not be provided, etc.
Since last year, we have averaged about 20 people attending the in-person service who spread out in our sanctuary which seats around 300. An additional 80 people or more stream the service online each week. Going forward, I would continue to urge people in at-risk groups to err on the side of caution. However, if you have been fully vaccinated and will abide by the required safety measures, use your best judgment about returning to worship in person. Vaccinated people may be at low risk for infection, but medical experts cannot say whether vaccinated people can carry the virus and transmit it to unvaccinated people.
Visitation--Since coming to PHCC last April, I have limited my own pastoral in-person visits to only extreme circumstances such as someone entering hospice care. When requested, I have met with church members at the church while remaining twelve feet apart from them. Going forward, I still believe it is wise for me to wait to make in-person visits with church members until both they and I are vaccinated. I will continue to meet with any church members who wish at the church in-person as long as we remain twelve feet apart. I am also glad to continue to speak with any church member by phone, Zoom or other means at any time that is convenient.
My decision on personal visits, especially as some members receive vaccinations, is an especially difficult one for me. For twenty years I have made personal visits in the homes of older members, hospital rooms, nursing homes as well as meetings at coffee shops and restaurants an essential part of my ministry to church folks. Over the past year, I have felt the lack of personally meeting with people in a deep way. Some church members have expressed a desire for me to visit them in person and it pains me to reply that we must wait still longer before that can happen.
Please know of my desire to meet with you, pray with you and support your journey in faith. If we can do that through means like phone calls, emails or Zoom, I want to make it happen with you. If not, trust me that I am eager for the day we can sit down face to face with one another.
I cannot stress enough how important it is for church members to communicate with me and the church office when they become aware of another church member in need. As soon as I hear of someone needing a pastoral contact, I reach out to them. Please help me to know when a need arises.
In the meantime, please trust that the Holy Spirit of our loving God continues to bind us together as a church. Don’t stop calling, emailing, messaging and writing to one another. Don’t stop participating in worship in person or online. Don’t stop contributing to the ministry of the church. We will make it through this pandemic together and we will celebrate together when it is safe to do so.
Grace and Peace,
Rev. Chase Peeples
We're Park Hill Christian Church in KC MO. We seek to follow Jesus by praising God, loving those we meet and serving the vulnerable.
6601 Northwest 72nd Street, Kansas City, MO 64151 | 816-741-1851