FRANCISCO-fact: What are the guidelines for going to church at St. Francis right now, and is it wrong to still be cautious?

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Through conversations and observation, many of St. Francis’s parishioners are still concerned for their health and for the health of those they love. The question of protocols and guidelines are still in flux, but we are currently

1) masking

2) keeping social distance

3) encouraging the vaccine for everyone eligible

4) requiring the ministers of the Word and Eucharist to be vaccinated

5) allowing for congregational singing of hymns and anthems

Questions of right behavior around pandemics were addressed by Martin Luther in the early 16th century. Our compulsions are still much the same. An excerpt from that much longer tract is embedded below:

“No, my dear friends, that is no good. Use medicine; take potions which can help you; fumigate house, yard, and street; shun persons and places wherever your neighbor does not need your presence or has recovered, and act like a man who wants to help put out the burning city. What else is the epidemic but a fire which instead of consuming wood and straw devours life and body? You ought to think this way: “Very well, by God’s decree the enemy has sent us poison and deadly offal. Therefore, I shall ask God mercifully to protect us. Then I shall fumigate, help purify the air, administer medicine, and take it. I shall avoid places and persons where my presence is not needed in order not to become contaminated and thus perchance infect and pollute others, and so cause their death as a result of my negligence. If God should wish to take me, he will surely find me and I have done what he has expected of me and so I am not responsible for either my own death or the death of others. If my neighbor needs me, however, I shall not avoid place or person but will go freely, as stated above. See, this is such a God-fearing faith because it is neither brash nor foolhardy and does not tempt God.[1]

Though not a precise parallel, this selection could easily be read in harmony with St. Francis’ current approach. If you have not already been vaccinated, then please, get vaccinated, the leadership of this church has been. Wear your mask to protect the young and to protect the old. Leaders and the laity have consented to this, even after they have been vaccinated. We are looking forward to children under twelve being approved for the vaccine and the return of unmasked faces, but we are not there yet. So, consider the health of others, as well as your own. Remain conscious and alert to risks. Know that holiness is complicated by community, but it is also enriched by our being together Worship with us in-person or across Zoom every Sunday at 9:00 AM.


[1] https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2020/may-web-only/martin-luther-plague-pandemic-coronavirus-covid-flee-letter.html

Photo Credit: Image: Illustration by Mallory Rentsch / Source Images: Youssef Naddam / CDC / Unsplash / Wikimedia Commons

Published by fr.david

Rector of St. Francis Church. Adopted son of the Old Dominion--Hampden-Sydney loving, Red Sox supporting, Burkean.

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