Churches and the New Statewide Mask Mandate
Greetings in the name of Jesus Christ,
I continue to be grateful for the creative ways that you are sharing the love and grace of Christ, and I rejoice at the testimonies that tell how your ministries are touching lives in many ways. In the midst of these challenging and exhausting times, clergy and laity have been working together finding new, innovative, and transforming ways of engaging in ministries in your communities and beyond to reach new people with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Recent data shows that the COVID-19 pandemic is still widespread. Here in the East Ohio Conference alone several counties have shown an increase in the number of COVID-19 cases and deaths. We, the Body of Christ, can play a vital role in helping to slow the spread of this disease and save lives. We are each called to do our part.
Within the past 24 hours a new statewide mask mandate went into effect in Ohio. The mandate from Governor Mike DeWine is for all people ages 10 and over to “wear facial coverings in public at all times when at an indoor location that is not a residence.” Since the church building is an indoor, non-residence venue, the governor’s mask order is in effect for indoor worship services, bible studies, small group gatherings, etc. Therefore, the Church is not exempt from this mandate.
The Guidelines for the Phased-in Reopening of EOC Church Buildings have consistently encouraged churches to “… follow the guidance of your local health department, the Ohio Department of Health (ODH), government officials, hospitals, care facilities, and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and pray for them.”
Friends, the governor’s order does not infringe on our right to worship as we are still allowed to meet in our buildings (but while wearing masks). The governor’s order allows those officiating worship to remove their mask (with social distancing still in effect) to lead worship.
Remember, by wearing a mask we are practicing Jesus’ commandment to love others as we love ourselves. We are doing our part to care for our neighbors. (Mark 12:31)
I hold each of you in my prayers. I encourage you to remain strong and steadfast in the Lord. By the grace of God, we will stay the course together focused on our mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.
Grace and peace,
Bishop Tracy S. Malone
Executive Secretary to the Bishop
Board of Ministry
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