Update: Based on several inquiries, we are sharing information on the vendor from which the special singer’s masks were purchased for use during the 2021 Annual Conference Memorial Service: MyMusicFolders.com (thanks to Inglewood First UMC). Whether live or for a recording, if signing in the presence of others, same precautions should be taken.
The Delta variant of COVID-19 is increasing transmission rates at an alarming pace. According to the LA Times, “The US recorded more than 100,000 new confirmed COVID-19 infections this past Saturday. There were about 250,000 cases last January, and in June, at 11,000 per day, but six weeks later the number is 107,143.”
The CDC and California State, County, and City have responded by issuing the following: “To maximize protection from the Delta variant and prevent possibly spreading it to others, wear a mask indoors in public if you are in an area of substantial or high transmission.”
Since we have always followed the guidance of our State, County, and City guidelines, we are now asking all local churches in California to mandate mask wearing if they are meeting for indoor worship, and strongly suggest wearing a mask even if the service is being held outdoors.
Indoor singing has been the most challenging practice facing our churches, and with this recent Delta surge, I am recommending that no singing be allowed without a mask. At our recent Annual Conference Memorial Worship Service, our guest Los Angeles Choir wore special masks that allowed them to sing and be heard while still protecting against virus transmission. Not only did they protect, but they inspire us to do what is possible to care for one another as we worship!
I realize that a fairly large percentage of our annual conference members have been vaccinated, and I applaud this action. However, vaccination is not a complete shield against getting COVID-19, for as many experts have noted, it is like an umbrella during a strong downpour. It will keep you from getting drenched, but not from getting wet completely. Crossover transmissions from those who have been fully vaccinated are much lower than for those who haven’t been vaccinated, but they are still happening. We want to keep everyone safe at our local churches, and we need to reinstitute many of our safety guidelines at the height of the pandemic.
This means mandatory mask wearing, not singing without masks, and observing safe distancing indoors. Your appointed pastor and Administrative Council/Board has the final say on most safety issues. Please reach out to your District Superintendent if you have specific questions or concerns.
We need to be reminded of John Wesley’s first General Rule: “Do no harm.” If we can practice this, we will get through this next wave of the pandemic.
Be the Hope,
Bishop Grant J. Hagiya
Los Angeles Area Resident Bishop