It is with much excitement and anticipation that I, like many of you, look forward to the return of worship in our sanctuary starting Sunday, May 30. The past fifteen months have seemed long and have been stressful on many different levels. Getting back to “normal” (whatever that new normal might look like!) is eagerly anticipated. However, the key to all this is that it is new. Gardens, like our sister churches and much of the nation, continues to try and figure out what is safest for our congregations in the reopening process. Conflicting information coming out of the federal government from the beginning often caused confusion and hesitancy. Confusion continues because of the rapidly changing information and guidelines coming from the CDC.
The original reopening plan was to continue to wear masks. Since the new CDC guidelines stated that fully vaccinated people no longer needed to wear masks in small groups inside, there was debate in Session about whether Gardens needed to reopen with masks or not. There was a vote to change the reopening guidelines to no masks required for those who have been fully vaccinated and feel comfortable not wearing masks. While the vote was in favor of not requiring people to wear masks during the service, it was not a unanimous vote. There were some expressing concern for those who cannot be vaccinated due to being immunocompromised or because they are too young to receive a vaccine at this time. The three pastors of this church were in favor of having services with the wearing of masks because of those who are still susceptible to the disease. We recognize that the spread has dramatically slowed as more people have become vaccinated, but we felt that as long as there were people in the church who could not get vaccinated, then it was the right thing to wear masks so that all could safely be included in our worship service.
First Corinthians 10:23 says: “‘Everything is lawful,’ but not everything is beneficial. ‘Everything is lawful,’ but not everything builds others up.” Session has voted to start our worship service with a no mask requirement, but your pastors are still recommending that masks be worn for the peace of mind of those who cannot be vaccinated at this time. To add to the comfort level of those who are not able to get vaccinated and for those who wish to continue wearing a mask, we will be having those who choose to be mask-less to sit on one side of the sanctuary and those who choose to keep wearing a mask to sit on the other side. You will be directed when you come to which side is which.
I know that when you called to register to come this Sunday it was with the mask guidelines. Some of you may be happy by the change in requirements, while others may be dismayed. We will be continuing to reach out to ask your opinion on how you feel the reopening is going and what you are comfortable with. If you have concerns for yourself or a family member about any of this and would like to talk, please do not hesitate to reach out to one of the pastors. We want everyone to feel comfortable as we seek to return to worship together.
Rev. Anna von Winckler
Rev. Hanlim Chae
Rev. Linda Lader