Dear Resurrection Family,
As you know, the COVID numbers in the Kansas City Metro area have skyrocketed in the last month. Daily new cases have increased by nearly 400%. Hospitalizations are up and so are deaths. This afternoon, I spoke with two area hospital CEO’s with large numbers of COVID patients. Both are at the peak of COVID cases they’ve seen, adding ICU and PCU beds, and each expressed concern about the rampant community spread they are seeing. They were both even more concerned about what happens after Thanksgiving.
We’re seeing the spread of COVID among our members and staff too. In the last two weeks we’ve had multiple staff and laity contract the virus. We haven’t received any reports of the virus being contracted at church, but it is spreading. Fortunately, all of these have experienced mild to moderate symptoms.
In response to the recent rapid spread of the virus, Johnson County has re-instituted restrictions on public gatherings of more than 50 people and Kansas City, Missouri’s restrictions go into effect this Friday limiting public gatherings to ten people. While churches are exempt from these restrictions, the question is whether we should continue holding in-person worship and programs or not.
We discussed this last week with our lay leadership, our Church Council, and again this morning with our lead staff which includes our campus pastors. Our consensus is that we should do our part as a church to reduce the likelihood of spread of the virus by suspending in-person worship until at least the end of January and possibly to the beginning of the season of Lent in February. If conditions change, vaccines become rapidly available or the numbers of daily new cases drop precipitously, we will re-evaluate. I truly hate suspending our in-person worship. It grieves me. But, I believe this is what God would have us do.
We’ve spent the last two months calling our community to “Love Your Neighbor.” We believe suspending in-person worship is an expression of our church’s love for our neighbors. We want to do our part to keep our area ICU’s and PCU’s from overflowing. We want to help reduce the chance of spread among our members, particularly those members who might be most impacted by the virus. And, we want to set an example to other churches and organizations by doing what we can do to limit the spread of the virus.
On that note, I believe loving your neighbor includes wearing a mask in public, maintaining social distancing, and being wise next week as you make Thanksgiving plans with family and friends. This year LaVon and I are not hosting the large gathering we usually do to minimize the chance of the spread of COVID from or to our family.
Here at Resurrection, with the suspension of in-person worship and most programs, we’ll continue to offer outstanding online and televised worship and online programming. Starting in December we’ll begin offering two different options for worship, a more modern service and a more traditional service. We’ve got an amazing Advent planned and what will be a beautiful Candlelight Christmas Eve online and on TV – it will be amazing. And don’t miss this weekend’s service; it will be inspiring as we focus on gratitude in preparation for Thanksgiving.
Finally, join me tonight for Tuesday Night Vespers on Facebook Live from 7:30 to 8 pm Central time where I’ll share a bit more about this decision, and we’ll focus on hope and gratitude in the midst of this pandemic.
In Christ’s Love,
P.S. – I listened this morning to a speaker who believes that we need to simply let the virus run its course, focus on protecting the elderly and vulnerable, but for everyone else, simply live as we have. He believes masks, social distancing and restrictions are not ultimately helpful in combatting the spread of the disease or saving lives. I want to acknowledge that I have heard this view. His degree is in history, my degree is in theology, and neither of us have degrees in epidemiology. This speaker had one way of interpreting the data on the spike in infections (masks and social distancing don’t make a difference), while others interpret the same data completely differently. Like you, I’m left trying to make the best judgment call I can for the church and in my personal life. If I’m going to err, I’ll err on the side of precautions that could prevent the spread of the disease.
One final word. While there are some who dismiss the threat from COVID, there are others who are really anxious right now. Here I’d remind you of what we’ve known from the beginning of the pandemic: There are 11.3 million people who have tested positive for COVID – about 3% of the US population. There have been 247,000 deaths due to COVID – about .07% of the US population has died due to COVID. On average, you have a 99.93% chance of not dying from COVID. You don’t need to live in fear. But most believe that these numbers could go up or down based upon the precautions we do or don’t take in checking the spread of the virus.
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