Churches, Ministries Continue with Mask Requirement
By LORETTA FULTON
Many churches. ministries, and religious institutions are continuing with COVID-19 protocols, including wearing a mask, despite Gov. Greg Abbott’s announcement that the statewide mask mandate will be lifted effective Wednesday, March 10.
The governor’s order also allows restaurants to return to 100 percent seating capacity, effective March 10. Reactions to the governor’s announcement vary from “it’s too early” to “it’s about time.” A spot check of some local religious institutions shows that many are following the “it’s too early” line of thinking.
The bishops of both the Catholic Diocese of San Angelo and the Episcopal Diocese of Northwest Texas, which include Abilene and area congregations, issued statements requiring that everyone participating in services will be required to wear a mask and practice social distancing. Their full statements are pasted at the end of the article. Episcopal Bishop Scott Mayer was adamant:
“I am requiring, not urging, that masks be worn, and worn properly, at all worship services and at all meetings and events held on Episcopal Church property,” Mayer said.
Go to the Highland Church of Christ website, http://www.highlandchurch.org, and you will be greeted with the following “Masks at Highland Gatherings” statement, including a directive in bold face type:
“In light of Governor Abbott’s recent executive order, lifting the statewide mask mandate, you may wonder what this means for Highland. Our leaders have decided that we will continue to require masks at all Highland gatherings for the immediate future.“
A statement on the St. Paul United Methodist Church website concurs. Part of the statement follows:
“Though Gov. Abbott has declared the state wide mask mandate over, St. Paul is choosing to keep following mask and social distancing protocols. We have masks available at the church if you need one on Sunday.”
Local feeding ministries Breakfast on Beech Street (BOBS) and City Light Community Ministries at First Baptist Church will continue to require volunteers and guests to wear masks. Meals on Wheels is continuing to require volunteer drivers to wear masks. Steve Smith, chair of the BOBS board of directors, sent a letter to volunteers. Part of his statement follows:
“…the BOBS Board does not feel the need to rush decisions concerning how BOBS will transition back to 100% capacity. Therefore, we will not change our current Covid policy until the BOBS Board agrees that is safe to do so. Our current policy is: volunteers wear masks and gloves and social distance while preparing and serving food and guests wear masks and social distance when they are in the BOBS area.”
John Moore, pastor for missions at City Light Community Ministries, said volunteers, employees, and guests will be required to continue wearing a mask and practicing other COVID protocols.
“Nothing has changed for us yet,” Moore said. “We’ll continue serving like we’ve done for this last year at least through March.”
|Statement From Bishop Scott Mayer Episcopal Diocese of Northwest Texas|
Texas and national public health officials are clear that the spread of the Covid 19 virus has been slowed as more people have gotten vaccinated, masks have been worn consistently, and people have stayed safely physically distanced.
There has been progress. There is real hope. The supply of vaccines is being drastically increased, with enough to vaccinate every adult in the United States by May.
With this in mind, and with love of neighbor as my guide, I am increasing our disciplined response to this virus.
I am requiring, not urging, that masks be worn, and worn properly, at all worship services and at all meetings and events held on Episcopal Church property. All safety procedures must be observed — safe distancing from one another, washing of hands, wearing of masks.
This is how we will model responsibility during this very serious moment. It is going to take all of us to slow the spread of this virus – which will save lives.
The Rt. Rev. J. Scott Mayer
Bishop, Northwest Texas
Statement from Bishop Michael Sis, Catholic Diocese of San Angelo
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
In light of Governor Greg Abbott’s recent decision to end a statewide mask mandate, some are wondering if any of our coronavirus protocols in the Diocese of San Angelo have been changed.
While we are moving in the right direction, and the future looks optimistic, we have not yet arrived at a point where it would be prudent for the Church to relax our requirements. We still need more people to get vaccinated.
In the meantime, we still expect the wearing of masks over the mouth and nose, social distancing, proper sanitizing, and good ventilation in our church facilities.
This is to protect the health of our more vulnerable members, and it is consistent with what we know from science and medicine.
In summary, all our diocesan coronavirus protocols remain in effect until further notice.
I ask for your continued vigilance to stop the spread of this virus, and for your patience with whatever inconvenience may be caused by our safety measures.
In the joy of Christ’s service,
Bishop Michael Sis
Diocese of San Angelo
I’m so pleased that our community leaders are making wise decisions even if they may be unpopular with some people. I hope we all support their decisions by continuing safe pandemic practices.