As a pastor and as a coach, I have been in the position of making some leadership decisions about what groups can or cannot do during this pandemic.
Of course, none of us have had to navigate through a pandemic before, and even experts in the field of virology and disease have been learning along the way.
So far, our church has had to “close” twice for in-person gatherings. In cross country, our team has had four seasons we have trained for only to have them postponed. At some point, you wonder, “Why even try?”
I am not an “anti-masker”. I believe this is a real disease. I have close friends who have lost family members to Covid-19. I do not think this is about politics, although it is being politicized.
The big challenge, for me, is to help people live life fully alive, through the pandemic. Safely. Responsibly. We have adapted to virtual church. I organized a virtual race for the community.
I believe churches can be safe. I believe they are essential to people’s lives. As someone has recently said, “the cure is worst than the disease”. This is true for some people. Almost every business is now considered to be essential and can let people through the doors, but not churches. For those churches that disregard all safety measures, I think they are making it more difficult for everyone.
I believe running outdoors is a safe way to exercise and even compete.
That being said, I wanted to share an email I recently sent our Country and State Officials. I also have included an email I sent to our local school board.
Since sending these emails, I have received a great deal of support and information that will be helpful in moving towards reopening once again.
I share these emails with you so that you can see some of the processes behind my decision making.
These emails represent the outcome of many conversations and a great deal of prayer, and input.
Today Faith Center is “online-only”.
We have been compliant with the guidelines of the county throughout this pandemic. We socially distance and people wear masks. They have been very cooperative and we have worked hard to keep things safe for everyone. We limit our seating to 25% capacity and turn people away when we hit that limit (we have overflow buildings for livestreaming). We keep our services to 1 hour.
This being said, I find it very unfortunate that as we go into Christmas, we are not allowed to meet any longer. Meeting outdoors is not a reasonable option for us.
The mental health issues are very real. People need connection and we are committed to the mental, spiritual, emotional, and social health of our community. What our services provide is just as valuable as a recovery group, for our people.
We have had no Covid-19 positives among our staff and volunteers. There have been no transmissions traced back to the church. I know that anyone could get Covid-19, but we provide a safe place for people to go and worship.
Can you please reconsider and make an exception for us? We have beautiful plans for the Christmas Advent services, and we would love to be able to go forward.
We had planned to participate in Toys for Tots, Angel Tree, and other charitable services, but if we are not assembling, we cannot effectively participate.
I just read an article about suicides being on the rise. There also is an increase in domestic violence and substance abuse.
We are committed to remaining at 25% capacity, wearing masks, socially distancing, and taking recommended safety measures. Please consider allowing churches to assemble while observing the guidelines.
Matt & Heidi Messner
Similarly, as a coach, I have been contending for allowing kids to run:
I have 34 kids who have been training for this high school cross country “season” since last spring, and we continue to be kept from competing in a sport that is outdoors and socially distanced. Schools across the United States have had full seasons, without Covid transmissions. I’m at a loss for the wisdom behind this decision. Our kids have been disappointed over and over again.
This is the most talented group of kids I have ever coached, and many of our athletes are Seniors. These kids are scholar-athletes, and student leaders.
The most difficult part of it for me is being told we could do one thing, and then being told we could not do it. I have trained our kids over and over again for seasons that were postponed after we were allowed to train for them. The kids trained hard, six days a week, with focus. This took place during track, during the fall for cross country, and now in the winter for cross country.
I cannot repeatedly give them false hope for something that seems safe and reasonable, only to have “officials” pull the rug out from under them over and over again.
I have chosen to work without pay nearly every day, as a coach since February, for the sake of the kids. I have been complying with the county and the school and I have observed the success of this sport across the U.S. during Covid. We can be safe, responsible, and not governed by fear. This is about the kids! Why are we punishing the kids by speculating that people will travel? We cannot control our whole community by leveraging the kids to try to stop Covid. You will lose some of your best leaders by continuing down this path.
How does this decision reflect being an advocate for our students?
Also, ______why do you recommend practices for seasons that you will not allow? You are setting them up for more disappointment. I do not suggest allowing practices if there will be no seasons.
We cannot give these student-athletes back this year, but we could give them some things to look forward to. I will continue to choose to do what is best for the kids and their parents.
This is not meant to come across as a personal attack. I appreciate the work you do. I am just wanting you to understand that as a coach, I see how deeply your decisions are impacting the lives of the athletes, parents, and coaches.