We are encouraged by yesterday’s announcements from both the CDC and Washington State that fully vaccinated people are able to resume pre-pandemic activities, including not wearing face masks or social distancing in most environments. This is a significant and positive step in the right direction after a very long year!
The CDC has stated that local guidelines should still be followed. Governor Inslee has said that Washington State will fully adopt the new CDC guidelines and that more details for businesses and other entities are coming as soon as possible. The local guidelines have not been updated to reflect the CDCs announcement and a target date of June 30th has been set by the State for ending the emergency proclamation and associated restrictions.
While we may be in the home stretch, this transition period of opening up raises many logistical questions for Bethel and how we operate, both on Sundays and throughout the week. I want to briefly share what we know at this time and also let you know our path forward from here.
Weekend services this coming Sunday, May 16th, will look the same as they have in the past several weeks. We will continue to ask that you wear a face mask and socially distance this weekend the same as you have been. While we have a picture of what is coming, we don’t yet know the details. We don’t want to rush by creating an environment that would make any in our faith family uncomfortable in any way.
Bethel leadership will gather next week to discuss the changes that can take place immediately as well as charting out our path towards opening up. Our decisions will continue to be shaped by the local, state and federal guidelines as we seek to honor the authorities, walk in humility and integrity, seek unity, and love our community well.
Many in the Bethel family are high risk and will continue to wear a face mask for the foreseeable future. For many others, face masks have become a symbol of control. They are politicized and divisive for our entire country. In a spirit of love and for the sake of unity, we ask that you do everything you can to not allow the enemy to use this to create further division within the body of Christ. In John 13:35, Jesus reminds us that our unity is foundational to our testimony, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another”. The new CDC guidelines should not become a platform to judge and break fellowship.
Finally, I ask that you be gracious to each other. Extend grace on top of grace. Some of the Bethel family have lost loved ones to COVID, as recently as this week. Others have been deeply hurt by the economic impacts of COVID or division with their brothers and sisters in Christ. This last year has been a very trying year for both the local and global church and many are still working through the impacts. We are called to love and serve each other.
There is far more that unites us than divides us. COVID restrictions will end, but our call to unity and discipleship will not.
For the kingdom,