Getting COVID-Concerned Churchgoers Back

"If you want people who are concerned about COVID-19 to return, do everything in your power to make your church as safe as you can." - F&T

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Mark_Smith's picture

For a couple of reasons, but the main is they refuse to take real steps to protect from COVID. At first they moved the seats farther apart, required masks, and had a one-way path you could walk through the church. But that is gone now. Its like COVID is not happening now. No masks and open flow. The seats are still farther apart, but that means nothing if you do not wear masks.

dcbii's picture

EditorModerator

Mark_Smith wrote:

For a couple of reasons, but the main is they refuse to take real steps to protect from COVID. At first they moved the seats farther apart, required masks, and had a one-way path you could walk through the church. But that is gone now. Its like COVID is not happening now. No masks and open flow. The seats are still farther apart, but that means nothing if you do not wear masks.

If attending a church in person required mask use 100% of the time, one-way traffic, no singing, etc., then most churches would lose more of the attenders than they gain.  To be honest, I'd be one of them.  I'd absolutely go back to virtual church rather than submit to living in fear.  In fact, I might even tune in a different church than my own in that case, just out of principle.  I think people should be able to take the chances they want to take, and those that don't want to should stay home.  My state is still pretty strict in their Covid regulations, but they lost a court case, and hence, can't make the restrictions apply to churches.

Just visited my daughter and son-in-law this weekend.  Their state has opened up restaurants again with no restrictions.  What a relief it was to feel human again while out with others.  Attended church with them.  Probably 1/3 of the attenders wore masks, the others didn't.  Costco, even in that state, has been pretty strict about masks.  I'll definitely be shopping there less, and my daughter let her membership lapse this weekend rather than give them any more money.  I wish more would do that.

And before you say I'm just ignoring facts, etc., etc., I'll say this -- the virus is out, we're going to have to learn to live with it, it currently looks like no vaccine will be 100% effective against all strains, and lockdowns and killing the economy haven't been the solution.  I kind of wish I were living in SD right now.  I might have to consider retiring there.  (I'd also think Sweden would be good, but that country has other issues.)  We absolutely should protect those that are at risk.  We shouldn't do that by restricting the normal lives of EVERYONE else.  It's not sustainable, and what are we going to do when the next virus comes along?  And the next?

Dave Barnhart

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

I go out of my way to avoid shopping where people are not wearing masks in large numbers, and out of my way to shop where they are required. (There's an auto parts store in town I will not be returning to any time soon!)

Other things being equal, I'd do the same for church--especially since, in Wis., masks are the law right now. Funny how some of the same preachers who would object to ignoring speed limits are perfectly OK with ignoring public health rules.

I've mostly given up on understanding why so many are so viscerally opposed to such a simple way to at least try to protect each other from harm. I realize there are other ways that are equally important. I do a lot of hand washing and sanitizer wiping etc. And I don't get in people's space at Walmart...  I wish everyone would also stay out of mine (pandemic or not, as far as that goes!), but we all get a bit preoccupied sometimes and fail to think about what we're doing and how it impacts those around us.

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

dcbii's picture

EditorModerator

Aaron Blumer wrote:

Other things being equal, I'd do the same for church--especially since, in Wis., masks are the law right now. Funny how some of the same preachers who would object to ignoring speed limits are perfectly OK with ignoring public health rules.

We're in agreement where the law is concerned.  I follow the laws in my state, though I don't follow my state's laws while in a state that doesn't have those laws, and I can't see that the Bible would require that.  We follow the law in our church as well, and we didn't open up for worship inside until the court case made clear that we could.  We take precautions like not getting too close to each other in the aisles or pews, not using every other pew row, not shaking hands, extra washing/sanitizer for both the people and pews, door handles, etc. along with extra cleaning, no passing offering plates, don't come if there is even a hint of sickness, etc.  We are following the law to the best of our knowledge and ability, and feel no need to go further.  We have some members that come with masks, though most do not, and no one gives anyone a hard time either direction.  That's our situation.  You need to follow what's correct in yours, but thankfully federalism keeps regulations from Wisconsin or New York from directly affecting our church.

Quote:

I've mostly given up on understanding why so many are so viscerally opposed to such a simple way to at least try to protect each other from harm. I realize there are other ways that are equally important. I do a lot of hand washing and sanitizer wiping etc. And I don't get in people's space at Walmart...  I wish everyone would also stay out of mine (pandemic or not, as far as that goes!), but we all get a bit preoccupied sometimes and fail to think about what we're doing and how it impacts those around us.

Simple.  People are tired of being required to do things that *might* help.  Once you give in to that mentality, you would have to agree with setting all speed limits to 10 or less, since there will be thousands less fatalities, and hundreds of thousands of less injuries.  Or banning pretty much anything that someone thinks is at least somewhat dangerous to others.  And since viruses (including deadly ones) will always be with us, it "might" always help to wear masks.  I can't speak for you, but society has gotten along without them for thousands of years, and I'd prefer they'd not become legally permanent for the rest of my life.  Freedom isn't free, and it's not safe.  Nonetheless, I prefer it over a powerful nanny state mentality that would see to control all of our lives in the name of "trying to protect each other from harm."  Everyone has to draw the line somewhere about what freedoms they will give up in the name of "safety."  Clearly my line is different from yours.  Vive la différence, I say.

Dave Barnhart

TylerR's picture

Editor

We're growing. We wear masks. Most of our new attenders are from other churches where they aren't wearing masks and/or have decided to (apparently) never open again!

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and works in State government. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

dcbii's picture

EditorModerator

TylerR wrote:

We're growing. We wear masks. Most of our new attenders are from other churches where they aren't wearing masks and/or have decided to (apparently) never open again!

That's definitely interesting.  We're growing as well, and some of the new attenders are similar to yours -- they're from churches that are not reopening (at least not yet).  However, none of our new attenders from other closed churches are among those that wear masks.  They are very happy we are open for services.

Of course, Washington is not my state.  I was in Washington in September, and it's clear that on the western side of the state, where it's mostly liberal, from what I saw, people in general wear masks religiously.  That was much less true in the eastern part of the state and eastern Oregon as well.  Needless to say, I really enjoyed my visits out there.  One store in a small northeastern Oregon town had a sign something like this: "We respectfully ask our customers to wear a face mask or face covering upon entering the store (Not required during eating or drinking).  So please eat and drink!"  I wore my mask as they requested, but I very much appreciated the sentiment and the people out there!

Dave Barnhart

Mike Harding's picture

In Mich there is no "Law" about mask wearing.  The governor lost three times in the Supreme Court (7 to 0, 6 to 1, and 4 to 3).  Her edicts were all deemed unlawful, unconstitutional, null, and void.  Of course, she skirted the Supreme Court, the Constitution, and the Legislature by weaponizing the executive agencies which are making up their own laws and penalties without legislative authority or approval.  This will soon be struck down as well.  71 percent of all infected people were wearing masks all the time; 14% of infected people were wearing masks most of the time.  In Mich 90 percent of the people are wearing masks in public indoor gatherings; yet, we have our highest case-infection rate numbers than ever before compared to when only a small percentage of Michiganders were wearing them back in June and July.  Mask wearing is deemed "irrelevant" by the CDC and Oakland County Health Department when doing contact tracing.  An official contact is an indoor, close (within 6 ft) encounter with another human being for 15 minutes--mask or no mask.  The New England Journal of Med said in its May publication that most masks are ineffective in stopping any virus (1-3 microns). The major exception was N-95 masks which almost nobody wears because you can hardly breathe with them on.  Breathing is highly over-rated (ha).  I encourage masks (NK 95), but don't require them in church.  I require surgical masks or the like for school in the hallways, but not in class.  All seats are properly spaced.  We have had no serious illness, no hospitalizations, no deaths because of covid or with covid in our school or church.  We have Sunday School in the evening, two morning services, Wednesday prayer meetings, Expeditions for the children, children's church and nurseries.  Our school meets five days a week, all day, in person, and has done so since August 18th. With our school and church we are dealing with 900 people every week..  Cleaning protocols, physical distancing (not social), encouraging anyone with sickness to stay home, have all worked well.  I have had less sickness of any kind in our school and church this year than in years before.  Mind you that we are in Oakland County, the epicenter for Covid in Mich. Thank God for the new therapeutics by regeneron and Lilly as well as new anti-virals such as remdezivir.  Thank God for the vaccines that are coming on the market in a matter of weeks (Warp-Speed).  i will encourage all our folks to get vaccinated.  Meanwhile, get a flu shot and a pneumonia shot if necessary, take vitamin D and Zinc, and a baby aspirin.  Lose weight and get your sugar levels under control.  Most significant co-morbidities contributing to covid death are obesity and diabetes and age.  Can't do much about age!

Pastor Mike Harding

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Once you give in to that mentality, you would have to agree with setting all speed limits to 10 or less

This isn't really as it seems.

My involvement in law enforcement services takes me into traffic safety reading somewhat regularly, and quite a bit of what we do to try make driving safe is ... well, it's all probabilities. There isn't a single measure that is guaranteed to save a life. Someone could wear a seat belt for example, their entire life and never get into a serious accident. So it didn't do a thing for them.

But what we all actually do in life is evaluate the trade-offs. We do cost-benefit analysis, either consciously or otherwise. So we take risks we think are worth it. We resist safety measures that cost a lot in $ or inconvenience, or some other variable, if we don't see the likely benefit as worth the cost.

So, I wonder where people are seeing wearing a mask as high cost? Where's the big downside in the trade-off?

The upside is potentially very high, though in probability, maybe not so high. But as far as I can tell, there is almost no downside at all. Low-to-no cost + potentially very high benefit (especially multiplied over millions of personal encounters in public places). 

Which is why I don't understand the resistance and resentment. Where are people perceiving cost?

Traffic laws are a useful parallel, because there is a similar multiplier effect. Though having my car equipped with anti-lock brakes may never have a safety benefit for another driver or even myself, the effect of millions of drivers having ant-lock brakes is far more substantial.

... and the reason we don't have 10mph speed limits everywhere is because of that cost-benefit analysis I referred to. The gain is not proportionate to the perceived cost in frustration and lost productivity.

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

dcbii's picture

EditorModerator

I 100% agree that all such decisions are a cost-benefit analysis.  That's why, when in Germany where it's legal, I choose to drive very fast while others drive more slowly.  I like the benefits of getting places more quickly, and I judge the additional risk of 160 or 180 kph vs 100 kph to be worth it.

On the virus, except for N95 masks or better, which almost no one has or uses, I believe the benefit to most masks is practically nil, EXCEPT in stopping droplets from coughs or sneezes (and it's easy to cough or sneeze into my sleeve), and when I'm coughing or sneezing more than normal during Covid days, I avoid going places with people.  The cost of masks is mostly somewhat harder breathing, which for me is just a pain, but for my son-in-law with asthma, is much worse.  It also seems to make my wife ill after about 20-30 minutes.  But even my annoyance along with not being able to see people's faces, fogged glasses, constant moisture on the face, etc., is not worth the minimal benefit to me.  I'd rather just stay away from most places that require masks, and I do.  Even though I'm not really interested in making Jeff Bezos even richer, I'm doing more shopping than ever on Amazon and other online locations, just so I can avoid all the nonsense at stores, and I avoid restaurants that want me to come out, but not eat there, especially when I'm traveling, since I can't take the food home.

I was at a retreat recently where we had to wear masks during all the services.  I went anyway, in part to financially support the ministry, but if I had to do that for > 1hr at a time, multiple times a week for services, I'd mostly do virtual to avoid that.  Church services these days with all the restrictions already feel a little too much like 1984 for my taste.  Masks on everyone would only make that worse.  Maybe that makes me sound spoiled.  Maybe so, but I supposedly don't live in a land where we would have to worship secretly, and as long as that is the case, I don't want to act as though I do.

There is one other cost that I think is much higher than just annoyance, and that would be normalization of the way things are now.  As I mentioned before, there will always be deadly viruses out there.  Are we willing to live this way indefinitely?  Even the Pfizer vaccine, which is reported to be >90% effective, will still leave a little less than 10% of the population without protection, and that is assuming it works against all strains, which I'm doubting.  Are we willing to go to 100% use of some type of PPE 100% of the time in order to TRY to protect the remainder from harm?  Or will we (hopefully) decide that the cost of making life a little less human by constant use of PPE is not worth the benefit to the remaining 10%.  Don't think that the answer to that will be obvious, with all the love of socialistic policies these days.

Dave Barnhart

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

This would be because masks don't work I guess...

https://www.beckershospitalreview.com/public-health/100-top-health-syste...

I don't think normalization is either all that likely or ask that horrible. In several Asian countries, due to various illnesses that did a lot of damage years ago, masks have become routine. People wear them when they think they might get other people sick or just when something's going around they don't want to get. Seems to work fine.

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

dcbii's picture

EditorModerator

Aaron Blumer wrote:

I don't think normalization is either all that likely or ask that horrible. In several Asian countries, due to various illnesses that did a lot of damage years ago, masks have become routine. People wear them when they think they might get other people sick or just when something's going around they don't want to get. Seems to work fine.

I'm going to guess that depends on the type of normalization.  If "normal" means getting dirty looks, the finger, people yelling at you, shaming you in various ways when you don't wear a mask out in public, can't do business without one, etc., I rather not that become the norm, thanks all the same.  I'd deal with that if I must, but I'd prefer that not be what happens.

The Asian model does seem to work well.  When I was in Pyeongchang in 2018 for the winter olympics, probably 30-40% of the Asian (mostly Korean) people I saw wore some form of mask, both at the olympic venues and out in town.  The rest didn't, and I didn't see shaming on either side, either for wearing one or not wearing one, and a mask wasn't required to do business.  If that is what becomes normal here, I'm fine with it.  That's the way our church already works since we could go back to meeting inside in May, and pretty much what I see outdoors in public as well.

Dave Barnhart