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Beloved in the Lord,

There’s nothing quite like a pandemic update to start the new year. Rest assured that God is still with us in this wilderness and promises to never leave us or forsake us. We will get through this phase of the pandemic together, just as we’ve gotten through every other phase over the past 2 years. We know that case numbers are high, our local hospitals are at “orange” status (meaning they’re running out of beds and having to cancel surgeries), and the omicron variant is incredibly contagious but doesn’t always show strong symptoms. This means it is possible to have it and not realize it. Because of these facts, our Safe Start Task Force, Council, and staff have decided to re-invigorate our efforts to mitigate the spread in our community.

We cannot stress this enough: in addition to getting vaccinated and boosted, proper mask wearing (over the mouth and nose) and keeping our physical distance are the most important things we can do to stop the spread. We are committed first to the health and well-being of our community, and then to continuing to worship, learn, and serve together in person as much as possible, which means we need your cooperation and vigilance in masking and distancing. While no in person option can be completely risk free, we will do our best to lower the risk when we gather because it is one of the ways we can live in God’s love. In order to do this, we need every member and guest at Prince of Peace to help.

Here are the three basic rules to follow:

1. Face Coverings are Required in the building - To attend worship and other in person events you MUST wear a properly fitting mask that covers both your nose and mouth. - Remember, Omicron is very talented!  Please wear the best face covering you have access to if you choose to worship in person. Learn more about effective masking here: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/your-health/effective-masks.html  

2. Keep YOURSELF safe Please consider attending remotely if: - You have not had a COVID vaccine or booster in the past 6 months - You have other health problems like cancer, heart disease, lung disease, kidney disease, or other problems.  Talk to your doctor about it! - You cannot safely or comfortably wear a face covering for the duration of the worship service or event you would like to attend.

3. Keep OTHERS safe You must participate from home if: - You have had a known COVID or influenza exposure in the past 10 days - You have ANY symptoms of COVID (fever, chills, sore throat, cough, congestion, persistent headache, muscle aches) even if they're mild! - You have been diagnosed with COVID-19 and are still in your quarantine period

To assist in these efforts, beginning this Sunday, the following procedures will be in place:

  • Every other pew will be blocked off during worship and households will be encouraged to sit 6 feet from other households.
  • Ushers will dismiss each row at the end of worship to encourage distancing as people exit the sanctuary.
  • For 2 weeks, we will return to pre-packaged communion that is distributed before worship so it is easier to keep our distance.  We have ordered higher level masks for ushers and communion servers to wear so we can resume regular distribution as safely as possible. 
  • Faith formation classes and other groups may continue meeting, but food will not be provided so masks can remain on. 
  • If your small group, class, or committee would feel safer meeting on Zoom for a while, the group leader can contact Mike Whately (technology@popportage.org) to request a link.
  • We’ll update the signs around the building to help remind ourselves and everyone who enters to wear their masks over their mouths and noses whenever they are with other people.

Our Safe Start Task Force and Council will be communicating frequently as things develop. Please keep an eye to your e-mail for further updates and know that we are doing what we can to keep you safe because we love you! We encourage everyone to get their COVID vaccine and booster. Please contact the office if you need help finding a vaccine site. We also encourage anyone who is experiencing symptoms or who knows they have been exposed to someone with COVID to get tested. This site can help you find a testing location near you: https://doineedacovid19test.com/

Stay safe and well.

Shalom, Pastor Rachel