Last night our Staff and Vestry met to discuss a plan for when and how to gather for Sunday worship, Table Groups, and DNA groups now that the “shelter-in-place” orders are being loosened for Indiana. This letter will communicate our plan for the next few weeks, and the rationale and data we are using to come to these conclusions.
We will continue to meet online for all official gatherings through at least the end of May.
While churches are officially allowed to meet this month, the latest CDC statistics show that the infection and death rates in Indiana aren’t yet going down. In addition, the latest CDC projections forecast that, with many states loosening social distancing requirements, daily deaths could double by the end of May.
Additionally, historical precedent suggests that beginning to gather too soon in the midst of a pandemic can have dire consequences. The last pandemic of this scale, the Spanish Flu of 1918, saw a resurgence after a brief plateau, due in some measure to the loosening of social distancing protocols.
Because of all this, we don’t have confidence that gathering in-person as a church is safe, wise, or loving at this time, even with sanitary measures in place. As we have been doing for the last two months, we continue to reevaluate as more data and statistics come in.
Many of you will be relieved by this decision. We have heard from several of you that you wouldn’t be able to gather with us had we decided to gather in-person. On the other hand, many of you will be disappointed by this decision. We know that many of you are desperate to get back to person-to-person contact with each other. We can empathize with this. We’re feeling impatient and frustrated that continued social distancing seems to be the best practice for us right now. We are in this together.
Our focus is, and will continue to be, on how we best love God and our neighbor in this time. Keeping love at the center allows us to make faithful collective decisions for our community, and helps us avoid making decisions from merely personal or partisan interests. At this time we believe the most loving course of action is to maintain social distancing protocols through the end of May as a church.
In the meantime, we are actively creating the procedures and protocol we need to safely re-gather in worship and smaller groups, so that, when it seems wise to gather again, we are ready to do so in a safe and meaningful way.
A few considerations:
- There are a variety of personal convictions at The Table on how best to endure the COVID-19 pandemic. We strongly encourage our congregation to continue to look to the CDC for guidance on best practices and protocols while we endure this pandemic.
- It seems to us that the potential cost of gathering in-person too soon (contributing to the sudden spike of a virus for which there is no vaccine, no highly effective treatment, and no sustained period of abatement or decline) is significantly higher than the cost of a delayed “re-gathering” (more weeks of isolation and loneliness). We cannot in good conscience risk contributing to the spread of this virus for the sake of our desire for person-to-person contact.
- But we also understand that the cost of social isolation and quarantine is high as well. We are aware of the toll this is taking on our mental health: adults and kids alike. We ask that you monitor your family’s mental health and reach out to us to get help if you need counsel or support in this time (look for the links below to do this).
- This is the first pandemic any of us have ever lived through. We don’t know for sure what will happen, we don’t claim to be mistake-free in our decision making, and we are learning every day how to lead and love well in this time. We thank you for your trust, patience, and honesty with us as we all walk through this together as a community.
We want to create spaces to process and discuss how this prolonged quarantine is impacting you and your family, and we want to hear from you if you want to ask any questions, discuss anything in further detail, or talk more about your particular perspective. If you’d like to schedule a time to talk, click the links below:
Finally, thank you for your prayers and solidarity during this time of discernment. We consider it an honor to serve you, a joy to lead this community, and take your support and encouragement to heart.
With deep gratitude and affection,
Fr. Matt and Fr. Ben,
On behalf of the Staff and Vestry of The Table
P.S. While we endure this painful trial, let us continue to pray for the eradication of this virus and the stemming of the tide of this pandemic. God shares his power with us in prayer, and invites us to cry out to him for life to prevail in the face of death and devastation. Pray with us:
Oh Lord, you who are the refuge of the poor and needy, we ask that you would save us from the pestilence that stalks in the darkness and the plague that destroys at midday. Be our sun and shield. Be our fortress. Be our comfort this day. May we not fear any evil but rather trust in your might to save and your wisdom to guide, so that we might rest always in the shadow of the Almighty. In the name of the One who heals our diseases. Amen.