Below, Pastor Rockford on behalf of McFarlin’s relaunch team offers an update to our Covid-19 policy and practice, to take effect this Sunday, Aug. 1, 2021. In his update you’ll see that:
Dear Faithful McFarlin,
Thank you for your unwavering commitment to loving God and to loving each other and the world as followers of Jesus Christ. Considering the impact and potential impact of the current surge of Covid-19 cases on those most vulnerable, especially on children, and on the personnel and resources of our medical providers, we are announcing an update to our protocol to include masking again.
Let me say that this change is rooted first in our faith in God and our faithfulness to God’s command in Jesus to love our neighbor and care for the lives of everyone, especially the children and the vulnerable. Second, this update is an expression of our pastoral love, care, and concern for the health and safety of all our people.
God has given each of your pastors a heart of love for you and a deep sense of responsibility not only to pray for those who are ill but also to do what we can do so that McFarlin helps to curb the current surge of the Covid-19 delta variant. Emerging data from studies show that the delta variant spreads more quickly and easily, makes people sicker, affects younger persons more often than does the original version of Covid-19, and can be spread by vaccinated persons who can get a mild case but still spread the virus as efficiently as unvaccinated persons.
McFarlin is responding in faith and love.The teachings of Jesus make it clear that every life is important. In the parable of the lost sheep, Jesus teaches us to give our effort and time to see to the spiritual safety of the vulnerable one even though it requires sacrifice and extra effort; the same applies to caring for the physical health of each and every person who is at risk—again, especially the children. (Matthew 18:10-14) When it comes to children, we hear the compelling teaching of Jesus that we dare not fail to protect the little ones who trust in him and who, by extension, trust those who follow Jesus to protect them and care for their well-being (Matthew 18:1-6).
Children depend upon their parents of course, but also upon the church to do what we can to protect them. With this new delta variant, children in the age range of those not yet eligible to be vaccinated are being hospitalized. As reported to the relaunch team by our local medical doctors, on July 19, there were 29 children in Oklahoma hospitals with Covid-19 and on July 30 the three-day average included 27 children.
There is also an outbreak of the respiratory virus (RSV) among children this summer that adds to the demand upon our hospitals and medical personnel. That outbreak has even exhausted Oklahoma’s capacity for pediatric ventilators and pediatric ICU beds.
We are all tired of the pandemic and its ups and downs and interruptions. We all do have hearts of concern for those who have or who may suffer illness, death, or grief. Still, we may feel like we cannot bear the thought of wearing a mask again. For many of us, our patience and endurance with masking and other precautions has worn thin. I know mine has! God, however, is at work in us so that we can do all things through the One who strengthens us. (Philippians 4:13)
Jesus is our example of endurance for the love of others and our Scriptures teach us to endure because we know that “endurance produces character and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 5:4-5)
God is faithfully at work in us to shape our wanting and our doing in line with God’s will so that we are enabled to sacrifice for the good of others just as Jesus sacrificed for our good. (Philippians 2:13, 2:1-11)
It is not only children, of course, who are at risk, many adults are also and especially those with compromised immunity and those with other health issues. When hospitals and ICU wards begin to fill with Covid-19 patients, then medical personnel also bear the burden of extra work and increased risk. And, patients who need care not related to Covid-19 may experience delayed access in some ways.
Our God-inspired care for all of these calls upon us to do our part.
We also recognize that we need to worship together and believe that masking is one way that helps us continue to do so.
Our relaunch team has met and prayed. We considered Scriptures and talked and prayed even more. Because of our faithfulness to God in Christ, because of our love for all who live and work near us in Norman and the surrounding area, and because we want to remain open for worship and for our church to be strong, we have prayerfully decided to set forth the following expectations both in light of the increasing numbers of persons suffering and dying as reported daily by the Oklahoma State Department of Health and in line with CDC guidance about what is effective:
Starting Sunday, Aug. 1, 2021 we will follow CDC guidance on our mask policy:
PUBLIC SPACES: Our sincere and heartfelt hope and expectation is that all who gather in the public spaces of our building will wear a face mask. We have great confidence that, because of the faithful, caring hearts of all our people, this expectation will be practiced.
SMALL GROUP GATHERINGS: McFarlin expects people in the public spaces of our facility to wear masks.
CHURCH STAFF: All church staff are required to wear masks according to staff policy.
USHERS, CHOIR, VOLUNTEERS, ETC: Those who sing in the choir and who serve as ushers, etc., will mask.
SINGING: At this point, we will continue to sing in worship with masks on.
At this point we also recommend distancing as much as possible in church settings. Our relaunch team will continue to monitor developments and consider revisions going forward.
Thank you, McFarlin, for your deep and abiding love for God and love for people as followers of Jesus Christ! Thank you, also, for your prayers and participation.
Here are several Scriptures to guide, comfort, and empower us, and I invite you to meditate on them, as well:
Grace and peace,