Wellspring Opens “Mask Friendly” Section!
Way back in the last century–when I was in seminary–we did not take any courses in Leading a Congregation Through a Pandemic. Nor did we have any classes in our pastoral leadership courses on how to handle the issue of face coverings. It has been a learning curve while we have been on this journey of flattening the curve!
Overall, I have been very pleased and impressed with the Wellspring congregations’ response to the whole issue of face coverings. It has not helped that the guidance we have received from government authorities and from the medical experts has been all over the block on this issue. Even this week (six months into this pandemic!) the CDC released a new report that contained a footnote stating that they have no hard data to determine if face coverings are effective or not in protecting the general public from Covid-19. It has been frustrating. Masks remain a very personal and symbolic issue and this issue strikes many of us in very intense ways—on both sides of the matter.
So it has been hard to craft a policy and response that seeks to take seriously the realities of a highly contagious virus and to honor the varying perspectives and opinions of a very diverse congregation. I believe one of our Covid-free guidelines has served us well: No guilt; no judgment. And our basic policy at Wellspring remains the basic guideline issued by the CDC: We encourage you to wear a face covering when you cannot maintain social distancing. Our sanctuary is certified by the local Fire Marshall to seat 555 people. That means, given the current generous spacing of chairs, we are able to achieve social distancing during our in-person gatherings that have been averaging less than 100 people per service.
Recently, however, some members have requested a Mask Friendly section in the sanctuary during the Sunday services, where everyone who sits in that section will wear their mask during the entire service. These folks would feel more comfortable sitting in a section where everyone is wearing a mask. They want to gather for in-person worship and they don’t want to be concerned about health risks while they are here. Our answer to this request is: Yes! So, beginning this Sunday, the section nearest the Lincoln Street entrance will be designated Mask Friendly. If you would like to come and wear your mask throughout the entirety of the service and be seated with other folks doing the same, this section is reserved for you!
For the rest of the congregation the policy remains the same: we request that you wear a mask when you cannot maintain social distance. And we have been encouraging folks who want to fellowship after the service to do so outdoors, where we have set up ample accommodation for you to be able to do so.
Some members have asked me, “Why, if we are declaring Wellspring to be a Covid-free zone, and if we have faith in God, are we asking folks to wear masks at all?” That question requires a longer answer than I can give here, but I can give the beginnings of a response.
The declaration that “no plague shall come near our dwelling” is a faith declaration from Psalm 91. We believe it and we do pray/declare it in faith. As far as we know, no one has become infected with Covid-19 while here at Wellspring. However, many in our congregation have had the virus. Are they lacking in faith? I don’t believe so.
This pandemic is, I believe, an expression of God’s judgment on our nation (and the entire world). For this season at least, God has allowed this NEW corona virus to spread rapidly around the globe and to affect millions. That said, we all are subject to the effects of this judgment. To seek to deny and defy this reality would be, I believe, to operate more in presumption than in genuine faith. Believers are needing to walk through this pandemic along with everyone else. We need not operate in fear, but neither is it wise to operate in presumption. Our declaration of Psalm 91 is a real (and really needed) defense: No plague shall come near our tent!
All that being said, I look forward to seeing many of you on Sunday! Those of you whom I won’t see in person, I look forward to “seeing” you online!
Blessings, Pastor Rick