April 9, 2021

Dear CrossWay Family,

At our meeting last night, the elders decided to begin making masks optional for our Sunday morning gatherings, effective this Sunday. We want to both explain the reason for this decision and communicate our care for all of you, as we know this decision will affect each of us differently.

We have for more than a year been paying close attention to the dynamics of the public health situation created by COVID. This has always been the primary driver of our precautions. In that regard, as Pastor Mike announced at our Family Meeting in late February, we have been giving special attention to the availability of vaccines to those at greatest risk of severe illness and to the level of hospitalizations. We have also wanted to pay attention to what our government is saying. On both the public health and government fronts, significant movement has recently occurred.

From the beginning, our precautions on Sunday morning have been motivated by a desire to ensure that even those at elevated risk from COVID would be able to worship in person if they chose to do so. In our assessment, the protection we have been trying to provide through wearing masks can now be provided by COVID vaccines. The vaccines have been available to those 65 and older in Wisconsin since late January, and at present two-thirds of Kenosha County residents in that age range have been fully vaccinated. (We’re aware that the vaccination hasn’t progressed as quickly in Illinois but are very encouraged that nearly three-quarters of those 65+ in Lake County have received at least their first dose.) The vaccine became available in Wisconsin to those with underlying health conditions in March and to the general public earlier this week. We know that not all of us will or should get vaccinated, but the rate and availability of vaccination encourages us that we can take another step towards more normal Sunday mornings.

Hospitalizations due to COVID also remain low. It would not have been wise for us to change our precautions at a time when hospitals were having difficulty caring for COVID patients. Happily, hospitalizations have continued to fall locally since the beginning of the year and are well within the capacity of the health care system.

Finally, on the government front, the statewide mask mandate was overturned last week by the state Supreme Court. We recognize that making masks optional represents a deviation from the guidance of health authorities like the CDC and the county health department. We value the expertise of these authorities and desire to learn from their counsel, but as elders we have a set of concerns that includes the physical health of our congregation and community but also extends beyond it. We bear responsibility for the fullness of our life as church, including our gathering together, our singing together, our relating to one another.  We have tried to honor health concerns with our criteria above. Having done so we think we can responsibly take this step, which seems to us to best serve the spiritual health of our whole body.

We anticipate that some of you who have been faithfully participating in worship virtually will resume in-person gatherings now that masks are optional. To accommodate the increased attendance, we will be changing half of the seating in the auditorium to a non-physically distanced arrangement. The other half will remain in distanced pods. The ionizing air purifiers we installed will continue to provide an additional layer of protection from the spread of the virus in the building.

We know that this announcement will create varied reactions. Some will celebrate this and look forward to gathering in person for the first time in a while. We are eager to see you! Others will experience a new hesitation about gathering, knowing that some will not be wearing masks. Perhaps there are some who were looking forward to regathering soon who will feel a need to rethink their plans. Know that we have not made this decision without thinking of you and feeling the weight of how this might affect you. If it’s wise for you to continue wearing a mask on Sunday mornings, please do so. If it seems best to you to not gather in person for a time, we’ll miss you and do everything we can to keep you vitally connected to the life of your church family.

CrossWay, let’s allow no room for judgment this Sunday. Do not, in your heart, judge those who choose to wear a mask as fearful or lacking in faith. Do not, in your heart, judge those who choose not to wear a mask as reckless or lacking in love. We are the temple of God’s Spirit. Let us bear his fruit: charity and peace and kindness. Let’s look for opportunities to honor those who choose differently; if you choose not to wear a mask, you might bring one anyway so you can put it on when you have fellowship with those who choose (or especially need) to wear one. Let this Sunday be a moment when we reaffirm that the ground of our unity is our salvation by the grace of God in Christ and our devotion to him.

More information will be coming about how this decision bears on children’s ministry, student ministry, Gospel Communities, and our other gatherings. For now, please know we dearly love you and are eager to worship with you on Sunday, whether you’re with us in person or not.

With great affection,
The Elders of CrossWay
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