Dear First Church,
Wow, it has been a roller coaster of a year! I am so grateful for First Church’s compassion and commitment to one another other and to the health and safety of our community in these intense, difficult, and ever-evolving pandemic times.
The First Church COVID Re-Opening Team has been hard at work developing guidelines for when and how we will re-open the church safely. You can see their work in the related post. The scientific community continues to learn about this virus and its transmission, and conditions continue to change, so our COVID Re-Opening Team will keep adapting this policy and procedure to match current conditions and science. This is happening already, as the Center for Disease Control (CDC) released new guidelines 48 hours before we sent this draft policy to Members! The Team plans to continue to watch the conditions in Milwaukee closely over the summer, and monitor how the CDC and Milwaukee’s guidance affects transmission rate and disease incidence.
While keeping care for our members and the public at the core of our choices, the Team has tried to balance many different needs, including the needs of families, elders, people with health concerns, folks who are longing to reconnect, marginalized communities, and public health. The resulting policy is more cautious and slow-moving than some other institutions in the area, for several reasons:
First and foremost, our mission as a church is based on the values of love and justice. Our reason for being as a community is to care for one another and the world and our goal is to be welcoming and inclusive in our gathering. This is a different mission than a store, or even a theater. Our first priority is the care and well-being of all our people, and the public at large.
Second, we are an intergenerational community. This means we have elders and children in the same community at the same time, and we know our elders are more susceptible to the worst cases of the virus and our children are not yet able to be vaccinated. When we talk about “things vaccinated people can do,” we must remember that children are people, and they are members of our intergenerational community.
Third, we will not be requiring proof of vaccination for our members and friends to attend church or church events. This means we will not know the vaccination status of adults at church.
Finally, we understand from the health care professionals on our COVID team that a portion of the general population is not going to get vaccinated, which means we will likely not reach herd immunity, at least not soon, and the best indicator of public risk is the level of incidence (new COVID cases over 7 days) in Milwaukee.
We understand that individual assessments of risk, particularly for people who are vaccinated, are different than institutional / public assessments of risk. We are making policy for the latter, based on our priorities of care for an intergenerational community in which we do not know peoples’ vaccination status. That means our level of caution, and precaution, is higher.
We also need a little time to prepare to open the building and get ready for in-person gatherings, while simultaneously creating online gatherings. This is all new for us, and doing church both in-person and online is twice as much doing!
We are so looking forward to seeing you all again, and so grateful for your patience and your compassion as we prepare to re-open safely, inclusively, and with care, love, and justice at the center of what we do.
Rev. Jennifer Nordstrom, Senior Minister
and The COVID Re-Opening Team
Erik Alexander (Chair)