Midweek Message

Update, February 9, 2021

Jim Hopkins

February 8, 2021


Today I am forwarding a letter, a set of policies and an article pertaining to the recent Supreme Court ruling about restrictions on indoor public worship. Together, they acknowledge the truth that worshipping in community matters. They reflect the fact that there is much ongoing discussion about “when it will be safe to come back to church.” They point to the many efforts taking place to prepare for safe in-person worship. They represent the plans being made to get us back together.

I don’t yet know when we will be able to return to in-person worship. I do know that doing so matters. Our Reopening Task Force will meet next on Tuesday evening, February 23 at 7:10 to consider the matter.

There is light at the end of the tunnel.

Pastor Jim

Here is a letter by our own Robert Wilkins that is being considered by the Interfaith Council of Alameda County. It’s main ask is a meeting with Public Health Leaders to craft a policy on a safe return to public worship by Easter. At its February 16 meeting the LABC Church Council will consider signing this letter.

TO: Kimi Watkins-Tartt, Director
Alameda County Department of Public Health
Dr. Tomas Aragon, MD, Dr. PH, Director
State Public Health Officer
California Department of Public Health
FR: Interfaith Council of Alameda County
RE: Interfaith Appeal for Relaxed Restrictions to In-Person Worship for the Upcoming Season of
Sacred Holidays and Religious Festivals

Greetings Director Watkins-Tarrt.

We seek a meeting with you to discuss the possibility of relaxing certain restrictions to allow various religious groups to conduct in-person worship services during the upcoming season of Sacred Holidays
and Religious Festivals.

The coronavirus came upon us a year ago like an invading force that has taken away many of our daily privileges and forced us into isolation and exile. In addition to the horrific physical toll that it has exacted upon our families and neighbors, the pandemic has brought on severe economic hardship, plunging millions worldwide into poverty, food scarcity and
shelter insecurity. The length and severity of the pandemic as well as the shutdown restrictions that have been imposed to try to contain the disease have rendered social, mental and psychological impacts
far beyond any that had been envisioned. It is well known that active practice of religious worship and fellowship delivers significant social, mental, physical and psychological benefits to its practitioners.
Among these benefits are the sense of certainty and feelings of hopefulness.

The season of sacred holidays and religious festivals is fast approaching:
Christian Good Friday April 2
Easter April 4
Hindu Holi March 29
Ramanavami April 2
Islam Ramadan April 12 – May 12
Judaism Passover March 27 – April 4
Sikh Vaisakhi April 14

This year will mark the second consecutive year that tens of thousands of Bay Area faithful may be unable to attend these highly important worship events if the current shutdown restrictions are still in
place [which it appears that they are likely to be]. This may be devastating to many of our congregants, especially our elders, many of whom are already bereft of hope and suffering loneliness.

We acknowledge that houses of worship have been the source of many COVID-19 outbreaks. As we understand it, most of these outbreaks are the result of gatherings assembled in defiance of government restrictions and without the practice of protocols that are known to curtail the transmission of the disease. Our intention is to carefully and vigorously practice and enforce appropriate protocol and to move forward only with the support and guidance of public health officials and other designated authorities. We are also aware that prior appeals from faith groups and guidelines from government agencies may have been driven primarily by political concerns. We do not make our request based on claims of religious liberty or separation of church and state. Our appeal is based strictly on the multiple and significant positive impacts that in-person worship will offer to tens of thousands of Alameda County congregants, in addition to their family members, co-workers and neighbors.

Finally, we are not seeking a blanket, open-ended relaxation of shutdown restrictions. Our request is limited to a one-time deferral of restrictions to allow the many faith traditions in the Bay Area to gather
in-person [in safe, responsible ways] for the sacred holidays and religious festivals noted previously in this statement.

We make our appeal as an integrated body of diverse faith traditions with the single purpose of instilling hope, healing our brothers and sisters and demonstrating unity for such a time as this.

Here is the link to the in-person protocols from FBC Portland. They were written in August 2020 and may be more extensive than actually needed.

Finally, an article from Baptist News Global about the February 5th Supreme Court ruling on worship service restrictions in California. While I think the Court made a fair ruling, it does mean that indoor in-person worship can be safely resumed without many precautions.

No Soup, But Study meets tonight at 6:00 on LABC Zoom.