For the past 18 months, we have faced great emotional, spiritual, and physical obstacles and roadblocks as a people, nation, and church. These past few weeks are just another chapter in this story and another fork in the road.
We all know friends, family, and acquaintances who are in the hospital with severe and potentially life-threatening cases. COVID is very real and very dangerous.
Tuesday the CDC provided new guidance that areas of the country with ‘substantial or high transmission’ 50 or more cases per 100k of COVID-19 should return to wearing masks indoors, due to the Delta variant. 1
News for Jax reported that four of the top five counties in the US reporting the most COVID cases in the last 7 days are in Northeast Florida counties. Duval county has reported 670 cases per 100k people.
Meanwhile, Baptist, Mayo, & St. Vincents COVID patients are rising substantially
Dr. Michael Mayo, President and CEO of Baptist Health, reports that they have surpassed 400 COVID patients as of yesterday. 97% of whom are NOT vaccinated. 2
He cited The Lancet, more than 1.5 million children lost a primary or secondary caregiver due to COVID-19. As a pro-life pastor, this stat startles me and grieves me. 3
How is this different than last year?
We know the delta variant is more contagious and spreading much faster. 4
We have a vaccine that has been proven to be incredibly successful at protecting people from the virus and restricting its effects.
Yesterday, I received a phone call from a health care worker on the front lines who painted a sobering picture of the grim reality of our battle with COVID. They said we need to take extra steps to protect our church.
1. We will only be having Sunday Morning worship for the month of August
No Wednesday Evenings in August daily
No Sunday School in August
Postpone the Member’s Meeting that was scheduled for this Sunday to September 5th.
2. We are asking everyone to wear masks while inside the building (both vaccinated AND unvaccinated).
Please honor your elders who are seeking to protect the congregation and the privilege we have to gather together.
This request should also not stop you from gathering for worship.
I hate face masks and I hate singing with a facemask on…but I know I have a God-given command and a joy-filled blessing to gather for worship each Sunday with my church family.
I will not disobey God’s call to worship or discard the blessing of worship because I have to wear a mask.
While the world forms petty battle lines over every issue imaginable…Ocean Park will be united around the gospel, and love each other well…sometimes that means laying aside our freedoms, privileges, and comfort to worship our God who is worthy of our worship and to love our brothers and neighbors well.
We know the vaccine question is personal and a divisive one. However, we encourage you to get the vaccine to protect yourself, your neighbor, & those who cannot get the vaccine.
3. Above all else…Love one another.
This is not a political statement.
This is not a business decision.
This is your elders seeking to be faithful to shepherd the flock while obeying God’s command to gather for worship. We will stand before God on how we shepherded this flock
“So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” 1 Peter 5:1–5 (ESV)
We believe that the wisdom of healthcare professionals is God’s common grace towards mankind. We will heed their warnings.
We also believe we have a command by God to gather together for worship on the Lord’s day. We will obey that command.
Pray especially for the healthcare professionals who are on the front line of the fight against COVID. Pray for the doctors, nurses, and patient care technicians who face the harsh realities of COVID on a daily basis. They are weary. They are understaffed. They are heroes.
I also covet your prayers for the elders of our church in the coming days and weeks and months.
I look forward to gathering for worship this coming Lord’s Day at 10:30 a.m.
Patrick, S., & Wallace, E. (2021, July 29). Greater Jacksonville LEADS florida, nation In COVID resurgence. WJXT. https://www.news4jax.com/news/local/2021/07/28/greater-jacksonville-leads-florida-nation-in-covid-increases/
Mayo, M. (2021, July 27). A ruthless, unrelenting virus is the enemy. Message from Baptist Health CEO about COVID-19 surge . https://www.baptistjax.com/juice/stories/covid-19/a-ruthless-unrelenting-virus-is-the-enemy.
Hillis, S. D., Unwin, H. J. T., Chen, Y., Cluver, L., Sherr, L., & Goldman, P. S. (2021, July 20). Global minimum estimates of children affected by COVID-19-associated orphanhood and deaths of caregivers: a modelling study. https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(21)01253-8/fulltext.
Juice Staff. (2021, July 7). Is delta more dangerous? Is the COVID-19 delta variant more dangerous? | Baptist Health. https://www.baptistjax.com/juice/stories/covid-19/is-delta-more-dangerous-.