Trinity Lutheran Church Update of COVID Prevention Protocols
To all of Christ’s saints at Trinity Lutheran Church and School:
Greetings to all of you in the Name of Christ! Along with the Board of Elders, I want to thank all of you for your patience and teamwork this past year as we dealt with COVID-19 as a congregation and as a school. It was a very difficult time for all of us. We realize that the precautions that we implemented to help control the spread of COVID-19 were quite a change for everyone. They were necessary for the well-being of our members, but also were somewhat unpopular with many. But we all joined together to respect the guidelines and, in Christian love for our neighbor, we put aside our differences and preferences for the greater good of our church community, and for that I am very thankful and appreciative.
And now, over a year later, great progress has been made in the fight against COVID-19. Vaccines seem to be working, and the CDC has recently put out new guidelines for us to operate under which are less restrictive, and our Governor Pritzker has said that these new measures are to be put in place for all of Illinois, effective June 11, 2021.
This means that we as a church now have the freedom to modify our practices. The Board of Elders and I met on May 26 to discuss the changes that we should or should not observe as we move forward. We had a very lengthy discussion because there still are a variety of points of view on how to move forward, as well as the fact that the guidelines differ for people who have been fully vaccinated versus those who have not, and we wanted to present an approach that would make everyone comfortable and safe at worship. Please note that we intend to review our procedures every month and will modify monthly if warranted. We want to make worship less restrictive, and therefore more enjoyable, and yet be considerate of those among us who are still vulnerable and also want to feel comfortable.
As such, the following changes will be implemented for worship beginning on Sunday, June 13:
Singing by the congregational members in attendance will once again be allowed with no restrictions
There are no longer any concerns with capacity limitation
Temperature checks will no longer be taken upon entry
With respect to masks, we realize that many don’t want to wear masks, and many may still choose to do so or still need to do so, depending on one’s vaccination status. Therefore, we will try a new approach and see how it works. We are making the pulpit side of the aisle mask mandatory and making the lectern side of the aisle mask optional. Current guidelines say that if one has been fully vaccinated, then masks are optional, while an unvaccinated person is still to wear a mask. So, a vaccinated person who doesn’t want to wear a mask may sit on the lectern side unmasked during the service. If a person prefers to wear a mask or hasn’t been vaccinated, the mask required seating will be on the pulpit side. Note that we will not require proof of vaccination; we are going to operate on the honor system. Note also that all people are asked to wear a mask as you enter and leave the building, but vaccinated people may remove their mask upon being seated in the lectern-side pews, and may keep the mask off for the duration of the service, until they get up to leave, at which time we ask you to wear the mask until you have exited the building (similar to Illinois’ recent practice at restaurants for indoor dining)
Also, the following practices will still remain in effect subject to monthly reevaluation:
Social distanced seating with every other pew vacant
Please try to refrain from handshaking
No passing of the collection plate; it will remain in the back of the sanctuary
Pews will continue to be disinfected after every service
Our communion practice will remain the same, at least for the time being
Pastor and elders will continue to wear masks and gloves for communion distribution
And once again, please remember that the Board of Elders will revisit all practices every month and are prepared to make changes monthly as necessary or as updated guidelines arrive from the various health department authorities. We also realize that some may have some concerns with this new approach. Therefore, we want to hear from you. If you have concerns or would like an issue to be revisited by the Board, please communicate with an Elder or with me. We truly want to hear your voice. We do ask, however, that any discussions of COVID practice be done in a respectful, courteous manner.
Everyone wants to “be back to normal” as quickly as we can, but we also need to be responsible and to look out for the health and best interest of all members. For example, with respect to myself, I would love nothing more than for worship to go back to “the way it used to be.” At the same time, I have lost a total of three close friends of over 20 years each back home in Texas in 2021, all in their mid to late 50s, all to this horrible disease. So personally, I am emotionally invested in both points of view and want to serve and protect all of you as best I can.
Again, you all have been very cooperative and loving to each other over the past year, and it is truly appreciated. I pray, and believe, that this “love your neighbor” attitude will continue as we move towards normalcy. Consideration is also being given to moving back to in person Bible study at some point in the fall, so stay tuned for that as well. Thank you all so very much for your support, and in advance for your respectful communication. God’s blessings in Christ Jesus to all of you!