Updated Shalimar UMC Covid Protocol for Holy Week

As of Palm Sunday, March 28th, we will slightly revise our Covid-19 Protocol. As the positive trends show an upward number of vaccinations and a lower number of Covid cases in Okaloosa County, we believe it is time to acknowledge these trends. The change will be on the protocol about masks. Our protocol will change from “mask required” inside buildings to “mask recommended.” If conditions warrant, we will consider additional changes as needed.
This change comes as a result of recognizing our congregation is currently at a lower level of risk. We are seeing a substantial swing in the number of persons in our congregation who have been vaccinated. It is especially true of persons over the age of 65. In addition to having large numbers of all ages, Shalimar UMC has a very large constituency of persons over 65. We may have the largest number in this age group of any church or organization in Okaloosa County. Vaccinations for this age group have been available for months now.
Please keep in mind moving from “mask required” to “mask recommended” does not change the other SUMC Covid protocols at this time. “Mask recommended” means mask-wearing will be encouraged, and masks remain available for use for our indoor events. We will continue to promote social distancing, frequent handwashing, and the use of hand sanitizer. We continue to benefit from using a topical CDC (Center for Disease Control) approved germicide to kill Covid. Our church will continue to make your safety a number one priority.
Let me share two very positive notes. First, we learned on Wednesday that our air purifiers installed throughout our campus have been tested and do kill Covid-19. These air purifiers also kill many other germs. In short, our campus setting now has more built-in practices and preventatives from contagious disease than one year ago. Second, our Livestream and online church have dramatically grown in this year of Covid. We expect our robust online presence and social media to remain with us in the post-Covid church.
The change of our mask protocol does have other considerations which are beyond our control. As we continue to encourage social distancing, higher attendance events will present challenges. Through-out this pandemic, we have not and will not turn people away who want to worship. This has been very positive even in such a year!
As I write this article, I know this revision will make some persons ecstatic and others anxious. Please know we have agonized over every decision made this year. This one is no different.
As your pastor, I ask for your cooperation and respect for all persons in our church and community. In this time, let us love everyone, especially those who may see life differently from us. I am grateful to our Covid-19 Task Force, Lead Team, and Staff for phenomenal leadership this past year. Overall, I am very proud of how our church has responded to the Covid-19 Pandemic. In the coming months and years, we will continue to benefit from the lessons learned! We are still learning as well!
Let me end with something I think we can all agree on! There has never been a time when people need God and the Church more! This is why we have focused on discipleship with SIMPLE during Lent! Let us seek to follow, learn from, and imitate Jesus into Holy Week! This upcoming week could be a most remarkable time for all of us! Have a blessed and inspirational Holy Week and Easter!

Philip McVay

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