I am so disappointed to be writing this column. Just two months ago I was writing with joy to let you know our plan for re-gathering for in-person worship. But COVID is winning again. The 7 Day rolling average of new hospitalizations in Travis County today is 45 – just slightly below the threshold for Stage 5 Risk protocols (50 and up), the highest danger alert possible! If the numbers continue the direction they have been going for the past week, we should cross that threshold by Sunday!
That being said, we will return to online-only worship for the foreseeable future, beginning immediately with worship on Sunday, August 1. Your Session met and determined that this is the wisest course of action for now. Worship services will be recorded on Sunday morning and posted by 5 p.m. on Sunday evening. Only the 3-5 people necessary to lead worship and record it will be present in the sanctuary.
We are aware that CDC guidelines permit indoor gatherings with everyone masked and social distanced. But until we can safely gather, without significant risk to anyone, we will gather online. Our concern is not only for the members of our congregation, but also for our neighbors and our community, even those who are not vaccinated. We do not want to contribute to the spread of this disease in any way that might put someone in harm’s way, even if it by their own choice. Because we are a Christian community, led by love of neighbor as much as love of self, our responsibility to protect others outweighs our personal freedom to gather as vaccinated individuals.
If and when the numbers of new cases and hospitalization turn around, we will reconsider this course of action. Session continues to monitor all guidance from Austin Public Health, Travis County officials, and the CDC. A return to Stage 3 (fewer than 30 new hospitalizations per day) and a trend downward toward Stage 2 (fewer than 15) will be our indication that it is safe to return to indoor worship gatherings. Until then, please wear your mask in public, keep your distance from others, and I’ll see you online for worship!