Evergreen’s Approach to Face Coverings
Two weeks ago, we received an email from the Washington State Department of Health. We were notified that they had received communication through the Report a Safe Start Violation site that some individuals in our establishment are not wearing face coverings as required. The message said this was a “courtesy” letter, and that if future complaints are received, we will be contacted by phone to provide us with “technical assistance.”
Very kind of them.
So, last weekend I took a few minutes at the outset of the worship services to outline the what and the why of Evergreen’s policy on wearing masks at church. In preparing my remarks, I went looking for a record of what we had said before and was surprised to find we have not said much. Clearly, we are overdue for a reminder, especially since many are newer to the church and don’t know our approach.
Talking about face coverings is a delicate task because many people have strong opinions about them. Some wish we would be more strict and require everyone to wear them, no exceptions, like at stores. Others wish we would allow more freedom, so that masks are optional, or have one service where they aren’t required. Different churches approach this matter in different ways, and that’s fine. But Evergreen is a family, which means whatever we do, we need to do it together.
So, what is Evergreen’s policy on face coverings? It is quite simple: If you are able to wear a mask, we need to you to do so, and we thank you. If you are unable to wear a mask, then we understand and don’t expect you to. You are still welcome to attend the worship services.
The key word is “unable,” and it means just that: You cannot wear a face covering without having significant difficulties. Some are unable to breathe well enough. Others experience panic attacks or feelings of suffocation (less common). Whatever the case, if a person is unable to wear a face covering without experiencing significant difficulty then we invite them to attend without one.
However, “unable” does not mean you simply don’t prefer to wear a mask. Nobody does! We’re all ready to be done with masks. But at present, that is not a valid reason to not wear one while at Evergreen. Doubting their effectiveness is also not a valid reason. In addition, some are deeply concerned about our government regulating our manner of worship so closely. (Worth noting, churches have been given regulations not only concerning face coverings, but also distancing, capacity, singing and even serving sacraments.) The Leadership Team agrees these are valid concerns that signal more difficult times in the future.
However, the authority that I am appealing to today is not the government, but the elders. The Leadership Team has prayerfully and thoughtfully agreed on this policy, and sincerely ask our people to honor their decision for our church family. Our goal in all of this is to not waste precious time, money or energy on a secondary issue such as face coverings, so that instead we can spend it on our primary mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ. Thank you for your cooperation in this worthy goal.