COVID Policy Update (Effective 5.23.21)
As I’m sure many of you know, last week, both the CDC and the State of Michigan made changes to their mask policy regarding who does and does not need to where a mask and in what settings. We did not rush to a policy change before this past Sunday, because we wanted to take the pulse of our congregation regarding our policy on masks; hence the survey that went out via email on Sunday evening.
Thank you to so many of you who completed our anonymous survey that was emailed out. We had 37 people respond, which is by far our best survey participation. Some highlights:
- 83.8% of all respondents are already fully vaccinated.
- Of the 26 respondents who have returned to in-person worship, 96% said that removing the mask requirement for fully vaccinated adults will not impact their decision to continue worshiping in-person.
- Of the 10 respondents who indicated they have “not yet” returned to in-person worship, 70% indicated that no longer requiring fully vaccinated individuals to wear masks may lead them to return to in-person worship.
Our Lead Team met on Monday evening and discussed the changes to the CDC and State of Michigan guidelines along with our congregational feedback, and we have decided the following regarding our COVID Policy that will take effect beginning Sunday 5/23:
- Masks will now be optional for those who are FULLY VACCINATED (fully vaccinated is defined as 2 weeks beyond the 2nd dose of the COVID vaccine). By no means does this policy change mean that vaccinated people have to stop wearing a mask; but rather that fully vaccinated individuals are no longer required to wear a mask. Full disclosure, Ashley and I are both fully vaccinated, and we plan to continue to wear our masks (while not on stage) because our Toddler is unvaccinated and is required to wear a mask for daycare. And he watches what we do and will want to do what we do :).
- For those who are not fully vaccinated (who have either received the 1st dose but not the 2nd yet, or who have not received either dose of the COVID vaccine) we continue to follow CDC and State guidelines which require unvaccinated individuals to wear masks. We anticipate that this policy may change sometime this summer, but for now it remains in place.
- All volunteers (vaccinated or unvaccinated) working in the Nursery, with Children’s Ministry, or with Youth Ministry, need to continue wearing a mask while serving in those ministries, at this time since you will be working directly with age groups who have not yet had opportunities to be vaccinated.
- We still encourage you to follow social distancing measures while in the Worship Center. When it comes to greetings with others at church, we believe that at this time it is best practice to assume that if someone is wearing a mask, they are perhaps not yet ready for up close conversations or greetings. We know that some of us are craving handshakes and hugs, while some of us are not yet ready to return to those types of greetings that involve close physical contact, and we feel this policy accommodates both.
**We are not going to ask you when you come in the doors of the church whether or not you have been vaccinated, so we are asking that you just operate on the honor system (after all, you will be at church), and that you continue to honor our guidelines.**
Thank you for your ongoing patience and understanding. We are excited to be able to take this next step forward, and hope to continue to make responsible progress towards getting back to normal!
On behalf of our Lead Team (Mark Ehlert, Layne Thompson, Joy Shamley, Seth Hovestol, Diane Sywak, John Ivey, Tiffany Cousino, Pastor Bob England, and Pastor Andy Bentz)
Sunday’s Message Q & A Follow-Up
This past Sunday, we ran out of time (because I preached too long) to get to our Q & A time at the end of the message. We had outstanding questions, and I wanted to circle back to them. If you missed the message, you can find it on our website. We continued our series on The Free Methodist Way. Week 1 we focused on “Life-Giving Holiness”, and this past Sunday we focused on a 2nd core value of our denominational family: “Love-Driven Justice.” Here are your questions, and some of my thoughts:
Q: Who are bishops, and are they more holy or closer to God than the rest of us?
The position of bishop varies slightly depending on the denominational family. In the Free Methodist Family, our bishops are the leaders of our denomination. They are elected to their positions every 4 years at general conference. They are nominated based off of character, leadership giftings, and ministry experience.
They are not necessarily holier than you (though I think they are MUCH MORE mature and wise than myself). Like pastors of local churches, we don’t put our bishops on a holier than thou pedestal, but we do respect and honor their position and the task before them to lead our larger church family in directions that are God honoring.
Q: What is an appropriate compassionate action when I see a homeless person?
I think we’ve all done it…you’re getting off the highway or stopped at a red light at a high traffic volume intersection, and you see the person with the cardboard sign, and you change lanes and try not to make eye contact.
I knew someone, who has now gone on to be with the Lord, who would always have pre-made care packs in their car for homeless people they saw while driving. This person had both hygiene bags as well as food bags (which contained non-perishable and non-meltable items like granola bars, nut packs, etc.). I don’t think there is a one-size-fits all response here, but I like this idea.
Q: How do you have a question about justice without it getting political?
The reality is, matters of justice/injustice can’t be totally separated from politics. Many falsely make the statement that “Jesus wasn’t political”. Jesus was very political. He took on the political powers of his time and showed how the Kingdom of God looks very different than the way political powers of the world operate.
So I think when it comes to matters of injustice, we shouldn’t look to our political parties and their platforms to tell us what matters of injustice we should or shouldn’t care about. As follower of Jesus, we look to Scripture to be informed about matters of justice/injustice in our world today.
I think what matters is not towing a worldly party line, but having political views that represent the Kingdom of God, meaning you can’t be fully one party or the other, and that applies to matters of justice. You’ll notice in this past Sunday’s message that I mentioned matters of justice that tend to fall into one or the other political camp. But I believe all the matters of justice mentioned on Sunday are something that Christ followers should be aware of and concerned about, regardless of what earthly political camp we lean toward.