Caution: Data ahead!
But also information about changes coming to worship and other activities at Saint Michael. So read all the way through. The good stuff is at the end!
This graph from the Douglas County Health Department, shows the number of positive Covid-19 tests. It helps us visualize the outbreak although it can never depict the human toll a pandemic inflicts upon families and communities.
Let me begin by stating the obvious:
The last 14 months have been like none other in our lifetimes.
But there is another obvious fact to contend with:
We will not return to “normal”. The way forward will be a new one… in our work, in our homes, and in our church. Stick with me for a few minutes as we lay out some of the guiding principals for easing our way forward together.
Principal one: Vaccinations are the key.
- As of May 11, 2021 52% of Douglas County (16 and older) are fully vaccinated.
- 61% have received at least one dose.
- The 65-85 year old age group is leading the way with a 90% full vaccination rate! Way to set the example!
I encourage everyone who is able, to get vaccinated. If you have questions, there are trusted medical experts at Saint Michael who can talk with you or speak with your own doctor. A vaccine cares for you but it also very much cares for your neighbor. If most of us are vaccinated, it makes all of the other decisions easier to make.
Principal Two: We care for our neighbor, in addition to ourselves.
- This, not politics, has always guided us and will continue to do so.
- This is why we distance and wear masks in a larger groups even after vaccination.
- These precautions also serve as a powerful sign of solidarity with all those around the world who continue to battle the pandemic without the aid of the vaccines and medical care.
- You never know who might be going to visit a grandchild in the NICU after worship (happened) or who is immunocompromised, or when we might unknowingly transmit a deadly and debilitating virus. The most important mandate for us to follow is to love one another, to put the well-being of others before the inconvenience we experience.
Principal Three: There is wisdom in easing our way forward instead of jumping.
I’ve spent most of my life managing risk, both physical and financial. A key component is managing emotions and examining the facts at hand. Another is working diligently on the things you can control while finding ways to mitigate or hedge the things you can’t.
Here is a chart I’ve kept throughout the pandemic. The green line totals all of the worship ‘views’ on Facebook and Youtube no matter when they happen or how long people engage. The blue (and now yellow line) are the devices (and people ) who are “live” either online or in-person. The true engagement is probably somewhere between those two lines and interestingly enough, the “350” tic line is about the average of our attendance pre-Covid.
The staff and I have worked very hard to provide a range of options that connect us as a community of faith. By the grace of God, I believe our community remains faithful and is living out God’s mission to be welcoming, joyful, serving, and good news people. We have remained generous contributors and as that continues, the finances of the church will remain capable of supporting mission and ministry.
All of which means there is little downside to easing our way forward instead of jumping into it.
Principal Four: Communication and Transparency build trust
Hey it’s the reason I’ve started this blog thing, for the “Wingtips” email every week, all the posts on social media, and the letters in the mail. Hopefully, in one way or another, you have heard:
- We have had Four Fabulous Saint Michael experts advising us:
- Dr. Kim Scarsi, a UNMC pharmacist with a speciality in infectious disease;
- Dr. Susan Puumala, an epidemiologist at SDU;
- Dr. Sherrill Murphy, a recently retired cardiologist and
- Dr. Myrna Newland, a retired UNMC professor with family connections to the CDC.
- And did you know?
- The sanctuary has a dedicated Energy Recovery Unit (ERU) that draws in outside air and heats or cools it with inside air it is exhausting? In a short time, most of the air inside the sanctuary is “exchanged” with outside air! Pretty cool! You can see the vents outside on the north side.
- Small groups are meeting at SMLC and if they are 7 or less and all vaccinated, they can meet without masks.
- Pat Stevens provided a wonderful, sit down lunch for the staff using the new kitchen. What a treat!
- We are trying to chart a “middle course” through the range of risk assessments, while also doing our part to drive down transmission of the virus so that the whole community can build back.
So what about worship?
Ah yes, just like the grocery store, I made you walk through all the aisles before getting to the essentials 😇 Even though we are easing our way forward, some substantial changes are coming to worship:
- Pentecost weekend (May 22/23) will be Affirmation of Baptism for our eighth graders. The worships will be live-streamed at 11:00 am Saturday and 2:00 pm Sunday. Please join us!
- Of course sign up for in-person worship 5:30 pm Saturday and 8:15 am Sunday for this weekend.
- At the 10:00 Livestream on Pentecost, you will notice a transition. First, it is a major festival so expect a procession and a lot of great music. Wear the liturgical red vestment of your choice even at home! Second, all of the worship leaders and musicians are bringing their families to the livestream. The intent is to have enough people in-person for everyone to get the sense of what the livestream will look like from here on out. There will be less video and more actual “live” things happening.
May 29/30, Holy Trinity Weekend, all three services are available as in-person worship. The times are Saturday 5:30 pm, Sunday 8:15 and 10:15 am. (The extra 15 minutes helps with air exchange). We will then livestream the 10:15 in-person worship on Sunday. Livestreaming will continue indefinitely. It is here to stay but it will be a livestream of an in-person worship. We will celebrate Holy Communion at all three worship services. For now, we will continue to use the online signup but that will eventually fade away.
- We will do some singing when we worship together, which is another reason why we are wearing masks. It is our way of easing our way forward. As circumstances change, so will the things we do to care for one another.
- Children’s time will be live and in-person and there may also be donuts and fellowship time. We are planning on having a few picnic tables outside for people to enjoy conversation freely.
And because 400 of us had such a wonderful time outside at Easter, I’m thinking we need to do that again… before next Easter! Maybe this summer or to kick us off in the fall. Something where all of us can be in one space and not spread out over several worship services. A time when the whole community can worship with one voice and give thanks to God for holding us up through times of grief and loss, times of joy and celebration.
And finally, let us give thanks that despite the hardship of separation, the Spirit has enabled new and creative avenues for being in community and worshipping together. A great number of people have told me how much they appreciate being able to see various people reading scripture, creating works of art, sending greetings from far away, and sharing ministry activities through video. It was one of the best things about worshipping online and we should have a serious conversation about how that might continue even as we worship in person.
We have never been a congregation that follows a bouncing icon along to song lyrics on a screen but we are a congregation that highly values the visual arts and rejoices in the creative expression of God’s people. There are beautiful and high quality ways to bring those experiences into worship so let’s talk about that and see where the Spirit leads.
As always, feel free to comment here with questions, call me, text me, email me, catch me in person, send a FB message, Tweet, or pen a letter in longhand!
To God always be the glory, and the praise!