As we emerge from the deep thaw of our COVID-19 crisis, I am encouraged by the availability of the new vaccines. We have not arrived yet for a just distribution schedule, and I especially lament the inequality of distribution for our poorer and racially segregated populations. However, government officials are trying to do their best, and with a greater percentage of our population receiving vaccines, I am hopeful that we can emerge from our deep isolation.
As we set the stage for our own Cal-Pac Annual Conference response, one of our prime objectives is to emerge out of our COVID-19 crisis as safely as possible. Once again, we are not there yet, and we have to be diligent in our safety protocols to ensure that our churches do not transmit the virus.
One of our present realities as a large and diverse annual conference that covers thousands of miles and a whole ocean is the fact that “one size does not fit all.” We have multiple colored tiers of COVID safety, and even different state regulations we have to consider. It sometimes comes down to a case-by-case basis for us to approve various ministry plans. This is the reason why we have multiple sources of approval for reopening plans that includes the local church appointed pastor, church Administrative Council and District Superintendent.
Even this multiple approval system is not perfect, as some pastors can feel pressured to open up to in-person worship by congregation members when they have deep reservations. With this in mind, if you are in a red or purple tier, and if your pastor has not been vaccinated (twice), I believe it is unsafe to reopen to in-person worship. It is too great a risk to your beloved pastor, and because of the place of leadership she or he serves in the community at large, it is in the best interest of everyone to wait until your pastor is vaccinated completely. Our entire appointed Cabinet is in agreement about this policy, and our District Superintendents will enforce this policy.
With the vaccination schedule accelerating, it is only a matter of time before your pastor and a large percentage of your congregation will receive the vaccines. As a people of faith, we understand what patience means, and a few months can mean all the difference in the world to protect as many people as possible.
I am deeply grateful that so many of you have been patient, and have prioritized safety over convenience. We have been rewarded by low transmission rates overall for our clergy and laity, and if we can hold on a little bit longer, we will reap that which we sow: the health and safety of each and every member of our annual conference!
Let me close today with the words in Romans 8: 24-25:
“For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope, for who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.”