COVID Guidelines (May 16, 2021 Update)

Dear Siblings in Christ,

Grace and peace to you in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! I wanted to share with you some updates about our health and safety procedures at Avery UMC.

Throughout the past year, our church’s leadership has relied primarily on the wisdom of guidelines from the CDC, the Pennsylvania Dept. of Health, and our Western PA UMC Abundant Health Team. We continue to do so as we map out reopening plans for the coming weeks and months.

On Monday, Church Council met and agreed on summer plans for worship, meetings, and office hours. Those were included in the newsletter emailed and mailed out on Thursday of this week. You will note that, particularly with worship, we are relaxing mask wearing guidelines from “required” to “strongly recommended.” Even with the CDC guidelines released on Thursday evening, we still believe outdoor worship to be the best course of action for May and June, especially since we have some baptisms scheduled and wish to allow those families to invite as many people as they wish to celebrate with them. However, starting Sunday, May 16, mask wearing will be optional for outdoor worship if you are vaccinated.

When we move inside in July, we will continue to strongly recommend masks for vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals. Part of the reason for this is that we have a significant number of children under 12 in our congregation, who are not currently eligible for vaccination. As Christians, we have a responsibility to care for the most vulnerable among us.

The new CDC guidelines have said that fully vaccinated people do not need to wear masks or social distance indoors, and we celebrate this development as a sign of God’s continued healing. However, to care well for the entire congregation, we will recommend the continued voluntary wearing of masks and distancing as much as possible during indoor worship for the foreseeable future. Although many aspects of life are returning to normal, crowded gatherings indoors, particularly with singing involved, are among the most risky activities during this pandemic which is not quite over yet.

In order to preserve the personal integrity of our congregants, we will not police these matters and will leave decisions to the discernment of individuals and families. I believe that distancing and mask-wearing is an expression of our commitment to congregational safety. However, I also believe we must avoid stigmatizing or shaming anyone for their personal decisions, since such a spirit is contrary to the Way of Jesus.

I encourage you to pray about this matter and make the safest decisions possible for yourself and your family. Through it all, be patient, gracious, and cautious, so that our church might bear consistent witness to the love that Jesus calls us to practice as we continue to experience God’s healing and deliverance in the days ahead.

Updated COVID Guidelines for Avery UMC

Approved by Church Council May 10, 2021

Office/Building Use and In Person Meetings

All church staff will be fully vaccinated by May 18. After that date:

• Masks are recommended for unvaccinated individuals.

• Fully vaccinated individuals and church staff may meet and work inside without masks unless an unvaccinated individual is present.

• Distancing and limited capacity is encouraged for all meetings. Mask wearing is strongly encouraged when non-vaccinated individuals are present.

Worship May & June will be outdoors, weather permitting, with the following recommendations:

• Mask wearing & distancing encouraged.

• We have resumed singing.

• If inclement weather requires indoor worship, it will follow the recommendations listed below for July worship.

July 4 worship TBD

July 11 & following, worship will be in the sanctuary with the following recommendations:

• 60% capacity (90 persons)

• Resume singing.

• Masks strongly encouraged for all.

• Distancing measures strongly encouraged as much as possible.

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