The topic of Covid 19 continues to affect our church gathering protocols and our daily lives. The newest, Tuesday, June 15 announcement from the Governor now removes all numerical attendance regulations for places of worship.
So where do we go from here? Though all our parish clergy and staff have been vaccinated, an individual’s choice whether to wear, or not wear a mask remains a politically and culturally charged topic. For some, it has become a complex personal choice. Some may continue to wear masks in response to caring for unvaccinated and vulnerable populations, perhaps even unrelated to Covid avoidance. Others may have a medical condition or compromised immune system. Our commitment is always to be a welcoming, safe, and non-judgmental parish to all. Do we throw caution to the wind and jump back into our old lives as soon as possible? Or has the coronavirus experience introduced a new perspective on the fragility and unsustainability of some of our former ways of life?
I have spent quite a bit of time pondering this difficult topic, talking to many, consulting with professionals, and reviewing the ever-evolving guidelines from the County and the Diocese. Several of you, in various settings, have expressed real fear and anxiety about returning to pre-pandemic times, especially as an average of 50 infections still occur daily in Contra Costa County.
As of today, regulations allow fully vaccinated people to do pretty much everything they did before the pandemic, without a mask requirement. That includes grocery shopping, going to the gym, drinking at a bar, seeing a movie, or going to church. Just a few places still require vaccinated (and nonvaccinated) people to wear masks, including hospitals, prisons, homeless shelters, during air travel and mass transit, etc.
If you are not vaccinated, you will still be required to wear a mask in all indoor public settings. How will we be able to tell the difference? That is trickier. Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly said businesses have three options:
1. Allow individuals to “self-attest” to their vaccination.
2. Implement a vaccine verification system.
3. Require everyone to wear a mask.
Diocesan guidelines, also published a couple of days ago, currently give us leeway on parish live attendance protocols. All are welcome to wear a mask while attending mass inside the church without fear of being judged or being unwelcome. CTK will continue to offer comfortable and safe choices for venues for attending mass. Our 9:00 am mass on Sundays will continue outdoors. We will continue to broadcast mass for those who wish to remain in their cars and to receive Communion outside the church. I will continue to wear a mask during the indoor services in solidarity with the unvaccinated especially children and the fearful.
This weekend we celebrate Father’s Day. Because I lost my father relatively early in my life, just six months after my ordination to priesthood, on this annual occasion, I think deeply about what my dad meant and means to me. I have plenty of happy and inspiring memories. I have tried to model after his example of hard work and a deep sense of justice and compassion.
It’s not about the gift you buy, bow and wrapping paper you use to adorn the gift, or the fancy meal that you treat your father to that’s important this coming weekend. It’s your time, your in-person visit if you can possibly manage it, or your taking the opportunity to say “Thank you for loving me, teaching me, guiding me, and encouraging me.” And if you’re a person of few words, and you’d rather not get those words out directly, then just sit quietly with your dad and “be there” with and for him this weekend. He’ll understand and know what you mean. Happy Father’s Day!