“I am the Lord your God; you must love your neighbor as yourself. You must keep my rules.” Leviticus 19:18 & 19
We frequently associate the concept of loving our neighbors as something Jesus said when asked what the most important commandments were. Well, the expectation of God, which is actually called a rule of God, that people of faith must love all our neighbors goes back to the beginning of our Bible. So if we wear the facemask that the United Methodist Church recently supplied St. Paul’s with, we are showing that love by wearing the mask.
As 2021 ended, one of my dearest friends up in the Buffalo area was talking to me about church. I was shocked when I was told that their pastor was being buried … but then saddened to hear that their pastor had died of COVID, was unvaccinated and had been encouraging the people of the church not to vaccinate. My friends have not attended church since COVID because they are fully vaccinated and immune compromised.
As 2022 began, I had to reinstate a mask requirement for everyone who comes into St. Paul’s to worship. No longer was wearing a mask a voluntary action, but once again the increasing numbers of cases of COVID in Gloucester County required us to take our small step by mandating masks. I was in full consultation with our COVID leadership team in making that decision.
We are hoping that our actions will help keep each person who chooses to worship at St. Paul’s safe, at least from the possibility that you or I might spread COVID to them. Masking is an act of love for our elderly friends, our friends with health concerns, and our friends who are completely healthy but at risk just like my two friends in their mid-50s who are today in Atlantic City Medical Center’s ICU with COVID. Neither of them was vaccinated, but you couldn’t tell that by looking at them. In fact, you or I may be asymptomatic but still be capable of spreading COVID through our breath.
Believe me, I pray each night for those with COVID, for the health care workers, for those who have not been vaccinated, in hopes that they will get the easily obtainable shots. I also pray for our world, that scientists will find answers beyond the vaccines that will help us reduce the impact of this vile pandemic. I grieve for the many who have died, including my friend’s pastor.
We do not want to return to assigned seating and we definitely do not want to return to not being able to worship God inside our beautiful sanctuary.
I so appreciate the positive response from all of you during the worst parts of the pandemic when we weren’t meeting or only meeting outside. I appreciate your cooperation now. I am so thankful for the Worship Team’s leadership and for our staff, who are such amazingly dedicated people.
If you have any questions, please call. And if you have any family members who become ill, please let Patty or myself know so that our awesome prayer team can lift their names up.
All of you know how close this hits to my home, knowing that if Megan got COVID she would have a difficult time fighting it, even though she has both shots plus her booster.