3/12/2021 PNC COVID-19 Update

Dear Siblings in Christ:

Take a deep breath. Let it out slowly. Take another deep breath. Let that one out slowly, too.

This week’s lectionary text from Numbers 21:4-9 starts with these words:

“From Mount Hor they set out by the way to the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom; but the people became impatient on the way.”

Can you relate? I can relate. I’m tired of COVID, too.

That said, there’s been a lot of good news in the last few days:

  • Even though COVID will probably be here to stay in some form, the pandemic’s days are numbered.
  • The vaccines seem to, at least, lessen the effects of most of the most widely known variants.
  • Yesterday, Washington State’s Governor announced that the whole state would be under significantly reduced restrictions starting March 22nd. Updated and less restrictive guidelines for religious gatherings are going to be coming soon.
  • Yesterday, the President announced that he’s asking all the states to offer a vaccine to any adult starting May 1st. That doesn’t mean that every adult will be vaccinated by then but all the varieties of the “Do I qualify?” questions will be over.

We’re getting there.

Take a deep breath. Let it out slowly. Take another deep breath. Let that one out slowly, too.

But we’re not there yet. We’re so much closer, but we’re not there.

  • A year ago today, as we were just moving into this time, there were 405 new cases that we knew of diagnosed across the country. Yesterday, 62,690 people tested positive.  A year ago today, six people died of COVID. Yesterday, 1,522 died. That’s progress over the 300,619 who tested positive on January 8th and the 4,103 who died from COVID on January 26th, but it’s still too many (https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/us/coronavirus-us-cases.html)
  • We don’t have vaccines for children yet. Yep, they’re low risk, but we’re still learning what the long-term effects of even an asymptomatic case of COVID might be. “Low risk” doesn’t mean “no risk.”
  • The variants are not wholly predictable or understood. Some are more communicable. Estimates suggest anywhere from 30% to 110% more communicable. Others have varying levels of resistance to the currently available vaccines.
  • Some states are making decisions that will result in more people becoming infected and dying.
  • But vaccinations are going up! As of yesterday, 11.2% of those who live in Washington, 10.5% of those who live in Idaho, and 16.7% of those who live in Alaska are fully vaccinated. That’s fantastic news!

Take a deep breath. Let it out slowly. Take another deep breath. Let that one out slowly, too.

I get it. We’re all tired of this, but this isn’t a time to give in to impatience and rush it. It’s time to take the time to put one careful step in front of the other as we emerge out of the tomb and chrysalis that the last year has been.

When the pandemic started, it was wise to try and be a bit more restrictive and careful than was being recommended by public health authorities. For the most part, that’s what you all have done. Because of that, I’m not aware that any of our churches were the places where people were infected. You did that. Your actions have helped protect the lives of thousands of church members in this conference and the thousands of people they could have infected. 

Let that settle in for a moment.

Take a deep breath. Let it out slowly. Take another deep breath. Let that one out slowly, too.

At this point, as public health authorities announce plans for getting everyone vaccinated and begin to cast visions of what might be possible soon, it will be wise to continue to be cautious. I strongly suggest that you make plans based on the conditions these visions are dependent on much more than the proposed timing of these visions, exclusively. 

I’m not suggesting that these visions’ timings are impossible or even unlikely, but this is still a little like predicting the weather several months out. Things could be better than we hoped for sooner than we expected, or a currently suggested timing might end up being more optimistic than hoped. 

For example, you can and should continue to make plans for in-person indoor worship to happen at some point. Yes, it is possible that this might be able to occur by late summer/early fall. But, ultimately, don’t base your decisions or planning on a schedule alone. Base your decisions and planning primarily on the conditions being in place to make this possibility safe.

This could mean that your church might not be the first in your community to open your doors or meet in person. However, it will mean that when you open your doors, you will be better equipped to be the healing place this world is going to need as we recover and emerge.

Take a deep breath. Let it out slowly. Take another deep breath. Let that one out slowly, too.

If we do this right, we’re going to be able to do that breathing together in the not too distant future. We’re getting there, but we’re not there yet. Over the coming weeks, there will be more for us to discuss and more resources to share. We’re getting there. We might even be almost there. But we know this, for sure: we’re getting there.

With hope, Mike

——–Rev. Mike Denton, Conference Minister of The ​Pacific Northwest Conference of The United Church of Christ.

You can give to the ministries of the Pacific Northwest Conference by going to www.pncucc.org and clicking on the “Donate” button​. ​Follow me on Twitter @denton_rev

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