June 25, 2020
Greetings Parkway Family,
Over the past week we have watched the number of tests and confirmed cases related to COVID-19 continue to climb at unprecedented rates. In response to those rising numbers in our county, in Harris county and in the state overall, Governor Abbott has restated the importance of social distancing and the wearing of masks. Additionally, county judges, with the Governor’s blessing, have issued mandatory mask wearing orders for commercial businesses in both Harris and Fort Bend counties. Closer to home, the Mayor of Sugar Land has cancelled the July 4th celebration due to not being able to guarantee/maintain social distancing at the fireworks event and required masks to be worn in public places through July 7th.
As a recognized church in the state of Texas, we are legally exempt from those orders based upon constitutional rights. This helps to ensure the separation of church and state (or government of all levels). However, we do have the choice to support and comply with those requests if our leadership deems that it is in the best interest of the health and welfare of the church and the community at large.
Over the past 24 hours, I have been in contact with several of our church leaders, our staff, and members from the congregation, as well as gotten updates from other churches that have experienced exposures and potential exposures in their congregations, and I believe it is in the best interest of the church and surrounding community to make some changes to the ways in which we gather for worship and other programming.
First, due to the uncertainty of asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic COVID-19 transmission, we will be requiring that face masks or coverings that cover both the mouth and nose are worn into and during Sunday morning worship on site. Volunteers and staff that are speaking or singing may do so without their mask while they are on stage (and adequately socially distanced from others), but will be required to wear masks as they come off stage. Musicians or volunteers with non-speaking roles on stage should continue to wear their masks while performing. For those that arrive without a mask, we will provide a disposable mask for them for the service (in case they miss this notification).
Second, even though we have pre-packaged communion elements and we can minimize the handling of those elements to gloved personnel or volunteers, the requirement of having to lower, raise or remove a mask in order to partake makes it potentially impossible to keep people safe during communion. To that end, we will be delaying communion services until such a time that we feel that it is safer to do so for our community.
Third, we have now required staff and volunteers in our Kids Adventure program to wear masks. Kids ages 10 and up will be a part of this requirement. We will also be encouraging some of our younger children to wear their masks beginning next week.
Fourth, Launch Academy is requiring all students and teachers to wear masks.
Fifth, we will also be requiring those participating in AA or Al-Anon to wear masks to their meetings.
Finally, staff will be required to wear masks when they are not able to socially distance from others (i.e. They can take their mask off if they are alone in their office and feel comfortable to do so).
Please know that we do not make these decisions lightly. I know that there will be some that will not come now that masks are required. That saddens me, but I understand. I know that there were some that did not come when they were not required. That also saddens me, but I do understand. These decisions are not meant as an affront to anyone. They are simply the best thoughts of fallible human beings trying to navigate and lead in unprecedented times. We hold in the foreground our Wesleyan General Rules to do all the good that we can, in all the ways that we can, for as long as we can; to do no harm; and to lean in to the ordinances of God on a daily basis. To that end, I invite you to continue with me in prayer as it relates to the eradication of the corona virus, and for the health and well being of all of our neighbors.
Grace and peace,