Dear Members and Friends,
It is with heavy hearts that we write with this update from the Reopening Task Force. Like many other congregations, we have made the difficult decision to recommend that Council return Rock Spring to online-only worship services as we collect additional information about the recent surge in infections and presence of the omicron variant. We know that this is especially difficult news as we approach the holiest night of the year, Christmas Eve.
There are several factors that contributed to this recommendation.
- When vaccines became available, the Task Force expanded our policy to state that we would undertake our strictest protocols if there were 50 new cases per 100,000. We have well surpassed that benchmark as Arlington County is currently at 73 new cases per 100,000 and the rate of infection appears to be climbing.
- Kathy, Laura, and Ashley attended a meeting this morning with other area faith and public health leaders, including Dr. Reuben Varghese, the Public Health Director for Arlington County. At this meeting they heard concern about the unreliability of rapid tests, the difficulty in scheduling PCR tests, and the strain this variant is putting on our health system.
- As important as it was to review the statistics, we also talked about our values and asked whether our actions as an institution are fighting or enabling this variant. How will our decision impact our fragile, strained healthcare system? While we are a highly vaccinated congregation and may have significant “personal” protection, we can also be carriers and transmit the disease to people who are vulnerable or not vaccinated not only causing harm to individuals but also adding additional strain to our healthcare system.
Here is the current plan:
- We will still hold our 4:30 p.m. Outdoor Family-Friendly Service. We ask that everyone wears a mask and remains socially distanced while gathered outdoors
- The 8:00 p.m. Christmas Eve service will be online-only, available on Streamspot and all of our broadcast channels.
- We plan to hold online-only worship services on December 26 and January 2 and then re-evaluate as we receive more information.
The entire Task Force agreed that while this recommendation is painful, it is the responsible next step for our church community as well as the wider community to not propagate the spread. We thought we were coming out of this pandemic, but we are not there yet. Thank you for your continued resilience, your patience and understanding, and your continued support.
While we will not be together in person for our Service of Lessons & Carols this year, Christmas will still come. We will celebrate the birth of Jesus and the gift of love that lives amongst us.
The Reopening Task Force