In-person worship updates June 2021.

Good news about changes to our in-person activities at Grace and Peace. Last Friday, June 11, our state entered Phase 5 of the Restore Illinois plan, which includes relaxing many COVID-19 safety restrictions. Last night, the church council was able to meet to discuss how these changes might apply to our congregation specifically, and I’m excited to announce several changes to our COVID-19 guidelines that will allow us to continue working our way back to more comfortable patterns and practices.

According to the state’s new guidance, masks are not required for those who have been vaccinated, but are still recommended for unvaccinated people or those who are at higher risk of contracting the virus. Many in our congregation have been vaccinated, but there are also those who are unable to receive a vaccine, including most of our youth, or who have chosen not to receive a vaccine at this time.

The church council has decided to lift the mask requirement at Grace and Peace, however we ask that you consider continuing to wear a mask when you are in the building to protect the most vulnerable among us. Whether or not you decide to continue wearing a face covering, please be respectful and supportive of your neighbors’ choices and needs.

Since the pandemic began, we have not been able to sing together in gathered worship—and yet, many among us have dearly missed singing, which is one of the most ancient and transcendent communal practices of the church. Beginning on July 4, we will reintroduce sung hymns into our worship service, and will continue to add back sung liturgy and other hymns as the rates of COVID-19 in our community fall. Due to the increased risk of transmission that singing carries, we ask that you wear a mask when singing in worship, even if you elect not to wear it for the rest of the service.

We’ll also be able to restore some of our more familiar traffic patterns within the church: Beginning this Sunday, we will once again have a center aisle and the ability to enter the sanctuary through the narthex. For the time being, we will continue to observe physical distancing, and so the chairs in the sanctuary will remain in their current spacing. We’ll also continue to enjoy coffee hour together outdoors, though we will no longer ask you to avoid passing through the Great Room.

As we emerge from the worst of the pandemic, we will continue to apply the lessons that we have learned throughout the last year about how to protect one another from illness. Please continue to respect the boundaries of your neighbors who wish to continue taking measures to protect themselves and their loved ones from the risk of COVID-19, which remains very real.

It has been such a joy to experience the return of in-person worship and activities in the last few weeks, and on behalf of the church council, I would like to express our gratitude for your patience throughout this process. Thank you for observing the recommended safety precautions and for hanging in there with us as we try to make these transitions as seamless as possible. We know it has been difficult, but I am also confident that we have succeeded in preventing unnecessary suffering by following these guidelines for so long. As Hebrew 6:10 says, “God is not unjust; God will not overlook your work and the love that you showed for God’s sake in serving the saints, as you still do.”

Yours in Christ,

Pastor Mary

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