Faith leaders support guidelines,, call for aid
On Nov. 16, Washington Governor Jay Inslee issued new guidelines for behaviors to slow the spread of COVID, which is spreading more quickly than it did even in the early days of the pandemic.
For faith communities, he set guidelines for religious services, weddings and funerals. Religious services are limited to 25 percent of indoor capacity or 200 people, whichever is less. Choirs, bands or ensembles are not to perform. Wedding and funeral ceremonies are limited to 30. Indoor receptions of any size are prohibited. In-home faith-based services or counseling are limited to five people.
Idaho Governor Brad Little announced Nov 13 that Idaho goes back to a modified Stage 2, exempting religious gatherings.
As we stated in our spring 2020 communications, we expect faith communities to follow all guidelines and expectations of the government, and that congregations and faith organizations utilize best practices outlined by their local health district, state departments of health, the CDC and the WHO. These guidelines prohibit singing in religious services—no singing the liturgy, hymns, choirs or worship ensembles.
COVID has divided our country in many ways. Our calling as Christians, bestowed by Jesus Christ himself, is to "love God, and love our neighbors as we love ourselves."
This means that we wear masks, because masks protect those around us. It means we wash our hands frequently, so we do not inadvertently spread germs to others. It means we put up with discomfort or inconvenience so that those around us do not die.
With these restrictions in place for four weeks, I urge you to make peace with Advent/Christmas seasons that will look different from what we want them to. Please hold our congregational leaders in prayer as they continue to lead in these incredibly trying times.
As the 2020 pandemic has swept around the globe, we may feel we need healing now more than ever. The incarnation has no geographic limits either. How do various world cultures understand and receive the Christ child as their own? How does music and visual art reflect and celebrate these understandings?
In this pandemic year, we can watch the National Lutheran choir's signature Christmas Festival of music, scripture, poetry and faith. Filmed in the Basilica of Saint Mary in Minneapolis and drawing on five years of live-streamed programs plus multi-media videography, the program celebrates a global nativity: Christ incarnate; being born in each of us, in every time and place. The concert is 6 p.m. (PST) Friday, Dec. 11, @ NLCA.com.
Bishop Kristen Kuempel -
Northwest Intermountain Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
I know how incredibly challenging this season has been for all of us. That being said, I believe the best course of action at this point would be to make decisions to keep everyone safe and not push for in-person gatherings in the short term. I have been greatly encouraged by our congregations' continued hope in the face of COVID-19. Even if we aren't gathering groups in person, I want to encourage you to please continue to creatively devise the best ways to connect with one another and your communities.
Everyone is doing the best they can, and I implore you to be graceful with one another. We'll get through this together. Remember we serve a God that will never leave us or forget about us!
The Rev. Gregg Sealey
Inland Missional District UMC
As people of faith, we must speak up with moral voices in support Governor Jay Inslee's statewide COVID-19 restrictions.
Economic science shows that the U.S. must get the virus under control for our economy to thrive. Doing what is right for public health is what is right for economic growth.
As citizens, we and those who govern must take this virus seriously and battle it like the invader it is. As citizens, we must reject partisanship and take science seriously. Yes, scientific advice changes as new information is revealed. That is how science works. It must look for the best answers with the measurable information we have at this moment.
As the infections rise, our hospitals fill, and our health care providers are stretched beyond endurance, please, write or call your local and national leaders. Point out when partisanship is put over citizenship. Call out those who sow divisiveness. Especially, demand that our national leaders work at the federal level to create financial relief for small business and those out of work.
Every opportunity for unity and healing must be taken to overcome the "win at all costs" attitude that has fueled divisions. We must hold our elected leadership to this task — no more divisiveness.
Rev. Gen Heywood,
Veradale United Church of Christ
Copyright@ The Fig Tree, December, 2020