To the Friedens Family from Tom Holley:
The first case of COVID-19 in Ozaukee County was confirmed on 18 March 2020. As we approach the one-year anniversary of the pandemic in our community, and as we approach Easter, it is a good time to review the Friedens response. Some facts as I understand them include:
We have followed CDC, Wisconsin, and Ozaukee County guidelines in order to protect each other. The wearing of masks and social distancing has been inconvenient but, by and large, you have complied. Currently a state-wide mask wearing mandate is in effect. It is set to expire on 20 March 2021. It is unknown whether the disagreements between the Governor and the Legislature, as refereed by the courts, will lead to changes in the current policy.
Existing Friedens ministries are being conducted with a combination of online services, reduced capacity in-person worship services, youth programs with safety protocols, and small groups in person and online. I applaud the staff for their competence and the congregation for their good spirit in adapting to our current “normal”.
We instituted teams to provide additional care to the congregation and the community. Both the increased spiritual needs and physical needs associated with the pandemic are being addressed. The congregation’s generosity to fund the physical needs of others has been particularly noteworthy.
The financial health of Friedens has been solid throughout the past year in spite of personal financial hardships suffered by some members.
The congregation mourns the passing of two members due to COVID. Fortunately, the transmission of the disease does not appear to have occurred at church, which, although it is small comfort for the families, is supportive of the cautious approach we have taken to protecting each other.
Three vaccines have been approved. While manufacture, distribution, and deployment will take time, these vaccines hold the hope of finally controlling the pandemic. Many of you have cited the hand of God in various aspects of this pandemic. I see it clearly in the miracle of producing safe and effective vaccines in such a short time frame, based on the many past years of dedication by vaccine researchers.
All COVID statistics in Wisconsin (e.g., cases, deaths, positivity rate) are down roughly a factor of ten from peaks in Nov. 2020.
At least two of the new variants of COVID from the U.K. and South Africa has been identified in Wisconsin. History suggests that others are here as well, or will arrive in the coming months.
The reduced level of Christian fellowship during the past year has weighed heavily on the congregation - and on some members more than others. Our current in-person worship and small groups have mitigated this concern somewhat but not eliminated it.
As in all matters, reasonable people can interpret these facts differently. As always, I urge you to prioritize unity of the congregation and the opinions of others in your own judgment as you have done over the last year. Pray.
After careful consideration, the Leadership Board believes that if current trends continue, the day is coming in the near future when we can safely increase our in-person worship capacity and Christian fellowship time on Sunday mornings. We all look forward to that day, especially to support members of the congregation who are suffering from a feeling of isolation under our current arrangements. We recognize that “health” is not just a matter of physical safety, but also spiritual and social fellowship. In the interim:
Worship Services and Sunday-Morning Classes. Current limited capacity in-person worship will continue for the time being. Online worship will also continue. Note the silver lining, that the online worship has been an entry point for several new families. Classes will continue as now, with the addition of in-person children’s classes starting in April. Families that prefer to continue the children’s classes with packets at home will still have that option. The church’s guidelines regarding masks will continue until further notice, while the Leadership Board continues to monitor state and national guidelines.
Sunday Fellowship. The Fellowship Hall has been open but hardly used Sunday mornings, except for an adult class between services. The staff is looking for opportunities to resume some socially-distanced fellowship after worship services. Watch for announcements. Of course, as the weather improves, outdoor gatherings will also become feasible. In addition, if you know of individuals in the congregation who are feeling isolated, take action: call them, go for a walk, etc. You know what can be done safely. In addition, the Community Care Team (Pastor Michael at firstname.lastname@example.org ), the Leadership Board (Tom Holley at tkholleyFamily@sbcglobal.net), and the church’s Staff Team stand ready to help.
Spring is coming. The daylight is lengthening. The vaccine is becoming available. Please excuse me for the mixed metaphors: The battle is not yet won but the tide has turned. Until we can declare victory, please continue to support each other.
Tom Holley Chair of the Leadership Board