Holding Space for Frustration and Hope
We are entering into a time of hope. I’m not talking about the religious season of Lent, though that is wonderful: I’m talking about this time in our church in relation to COVID-19. Transmission of the virus is dropping dramatically in our area, and vaccinations continue to increase. We are all hopeful that we are seeing the end of the pandemic. Of course, we know that this does not mean the end of COVID-19, which will likely be with us for the rest of our lives. But, understanding that, we are seeing a shift from pandemic to endemic, we are shifting slowly out of crisis mode, and beginning the work of creating our new normal. This is quite a gift.
I am very excited that the recent case surge is coming to such a rapid end. With current case numbers finally dropping from "High Transmission" to "Substantial Transmission" for the first time in months. We are excited to reintroduce congregational singing to our worship, and to allow eating indoors again: These developments are life-giving for our community, and they are a sign of things to come!
Rules around COVID-19 are likely going to be changing at a quick pace in our country, and it will be natural for us to wonder what that means for how Church of the Redeemer gathers. I think it’s a good time to remind you of the decision-making process that is in place for COVID-19 protocols in our worship community.
In the late Spring of 2020, I organized a team of experts from among Church of the Redeemer staff and parishioners. They are called our CARE Team - which stands for COVID-19 Advisory Response Experts. The CARE Team consists of a practicing pediatric pathologist with an advanced degree in epidemiology, a CDC employee with advanced degrees in public health who focuses on occupational safety & health and oversees a team that responds to COVID-19 outbreaks across the country, a communicable disease expert from Hamilton County Public Health who works for the county's COVID-19 task force, the retired Chief Nursing Officer of Tri Health, and the retired principal of Walnut Hills High School. The Team is managed by our church's Health and Wellness Minister, Becca Morehous, who is herself an RN. It’s worth reading that list again: the advice I have received throughout this pandemic has been brilliant and incomparable.
The CARE Team has been meeting regularly (at the height of the pandemic, weekly, other times monthly - we are currently meeting biweekly) to discuss where we as a church, school, city, county, and country are in the life of this pandemic, to sort through data together, and to talk through best practices and policies based on that data and the needs of our community. This group does not make decisions for the church but advises me so that I may make the best decisions possible during this impossibly difficult time.
At present, we are on the downslope of the Omicron surge, which you know. What you may not be aware of is that during this surge, children aged 0-4 were being hospitalized for COVID-19 at 4 times the rate they had been during any other time in the pandemic. This recent surge has, in plain terms, been the most potentially dangerous for the youngest members of our church and school community – who are not yet able to be vaccinated, and we have taken that very seriously.
In casual conversation, many people have referred to the Omicron variant as not dangerous or not that bad. It’s true that it has been generally less vicious than Delta. But our hospitals have been full during this surge, our healthcare workers have been overtaxed to the breaking point, and deaths have been astronomical. We are tired. I know it. And we want this thing to be over. But we want to be careful in our fatigue about how we understand the severity of recent events.
I am really tired of masks. I don’t like wearing them, and I don’t enjoy enforcing masking for this community. I am very much looking forward to the time when I can lift the requirement for masking at Church of the Redeemer. I cannot give you a date as to when that will be because I do not know it yet. Masking, however inconvenient, slows spread and saves lives. We are Christians, and we must do inconvenient and difficult things for the care of others. This sacrificial love is one of our defining features.
I understand that the decision for us to remain masked and to hold to some of our restrictions is not shared by all other churches. I cannot speak to who is advising them in their decision-making, what data they use, or what their process is. So, I will not try to guess why I have made different choices for this community than other leaders have made for theirs. I can only say I have used the most up-to-date, reputable data possible, kept regular counsel with experts, prayed to God for guidance, and made the best calls I could make at any given time. If you are a member of this community who disagrees with how we’ve handled this pandemic, I’m comfortable with that disagreement. I love you and am grateful you are a part of Church of the Redeemer, and I’m at peace with the decisions we’ve made.
In terms of the effectiveness of masking, distancing, and vaccinations, I am not interested in going into the weeds on these issues. I trust the experts. While I spend a lot of time on the internet, it has not made me an authority on public health and safety, or disease spread in large groups.
Even as I write this, I know that the CDC is preparing new guidance around COVID-19 measures. That news may come out before you read these words. Our CARE Team is meeting in the coming week and masking policies will be the first point of conversation. It is our desire to be as responsive as possible to current numbers and CDC guidance.
This Sunday, our CARE Team will be hosting the Adult Education hour at 10am in the Great Hall. It’s called "Holding Space for Frustration and Hope: A Christian perspective on living with COVID-19". They will be discussing the state of COVID-19 from their various professional lenses, sharing a little about the shift from pandemic to endemic, and will be responding to your questions. I hope you will join us this Sunday to take advantage of the wealth of wisdom and expertise this stellar group offers to their church. Through all of this, I ask that you keep this group, and the leadership of Church of the Redeemer in your prayers, as we seek to make decisions that safeguard your health while nourishing your heart and soul. And I thank you for being a part of this beloved community.
Tags: Rector's Blog