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A pastoral letter from Bishop Gonia on the latest Covid surge
January 6, 2022
Dear beloved in Christ,
As we begin this new year, we find ourselves in the frustrating situation of yet another Covid surge. I am grateful that the news related to this current wave of Omicron infections includes some hopeful signs. While the Omicron variant is clearly much more contagious, it would appear that the actual infection is less severe for many people, particularly for those who are fully vaccinated and boosted. The greatest risk remains for those who are unvaccinated, including children under the age of five who are not eligible for vaccinations. Therein lies the concern: the sheer number of people being infected during this current surge is already overwhelming some of our hospitals and health care systems, and still poses a risk of serious illness and death for the most vulnerable.
How shall we, as Christ’s Church, respond? By this stage of the pandemic, most of our congregations are well versed in adjusting their plans and practices to accommodate the duel needs of every faith community: keeping one another safe and staying connected. Rather than ask our Synod Council to issue updated Covid recommendations, I’m instead offering pastoral encouragement as you pivot yet again to navigate this current surge.
In the short term, I strongly encourage you to take advantage of your online worship options, especially for the sake of those who remain vulnerable in your own congregation, but also for the sake of minimizing risks to the wider community. For congregations that continue to choose to offer in-person worship, I encourage you to be extra vigilant in practicing trusted Covid protocols: use of masks (especially N95 or KN95 masks which provide far better protection from Omicron than cloth masks), adequate social distancing, robust air circulation, and limited congregational speaking or singing.
With you, I am trying to walk that fine line between holding back for the sake of the public good and learning to live with the inherent risks posed by this pandemic with its ever-changing forms. It’s exhausting to constantly make decisions in a landscape where we have such diverse perspectives about what is safe and what is possible. This is a time to be gentle with ourselves, gracious to others, and focused on the big picture.
There are indications that the current surge will not last indefinitely, and that its impact can be mitigated if we have the collective patience to continue practicing measures that safeguard the welfare of each and every neighbor. I pray that we, as members of Christ’s Church, will lead the way in modeling a life of loving service for the sake of the Savior we worship and proclaim.
Yours in Faith,
Bishop Jim Gonia