July 30, 2021
To the Saints of the Nebraska Synod
Dear Fellow Members of the Body of Christ:
I’m writing to share with you my deep and abiding gratitude for your ministries and for all the efforts you have invested in keeping one another safe through these 16 months (and counting) of pandemic. I’m also writing to confess to you the frustration I know you share; the frustration with our inability to cross the finish line of herd immunity and an end to concerns and cautions.
As you know, the growing prevalence of the Delta variation of the COVID-19 virus has led to new increases in infection, hospitalization and death rates across the country. It has also led the CDC to propose revised guidelines for precautions in public gatherings.
One thing is clear and must be stressed: the single most effective thing one can do to protect oneself—and others—is to get vaccinated.All of the data, all of the science, supports this conclusion. For those of you who are already vaccinated—thank you. For those of you who have been hesitant: now is the time to review the reliable, reputable information and get your vaccine; if not for yourself, then for the sake of others.
Love of neighbor is the fundamental Christian ethic. It is our guiding principle as disciples of Jesus Christ. As such, we are attentive to things like vaccinations, and to taking appropriate precautions when we gather together.
The new CDC guidelines emphasize what this office has stressed all along—each of us needs to pay attention to trends in our own communities. There is no one-size-fits-all recommendation. Rather, the CDC recommends, and this office supports, masking for all in public gatherings when infection rates reach a certain level. We have learned that even the vaccinated can transmit the Delta variant virus, so even we who are vaccinated will wear masks to protect our neighbors when our local conditions warrant it.
The current recommendation is that masks be worn when local infection rates are “high” or “substantial.” The county-level infection rate site can be found here: https://covid.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker/#county-view. In addition, you are encouraged to monitor your local public health authorities and to follow their recommendations for your specific area.
It remains a challenging time to be a congregational leader charged with responsibility for making decisions about such matters. I pray that you will appreciate and uphold their decisions, trusting that they are made in good faith and with the best of intentions. Now is an especially good time to practice grace in our interactions with one another—including the grace of “masking up” and taking other precautions for the sake of others when conditions warrant.
With persistence, we will achieve the level of immunity that will make such precautions a rarity—perhaps even just a memory. Until then, we remain vigilant, faithful and rooted in our commitment to the one who called us to “love your neighbor.”
In gratitude and hope,
Brian D Maas