News from the Executive Presbyter/Stated Clerk
The general population has been getting lessons in Greek over the past couple of years. In 2020, it was named tropical systems, as the number of storms exceeded the list of names, so the Greek alphabet was used. This past year, it has been variants of the COVID-19 virus.
In a couple of congregations that I visited during the holiday season just concluded, I expressed the hope that as ’22 dawns, we might finally put ’19 behind us. Unfortunately, not quite yet.
Shortly before Christmas Day, the spread of the omicron variant began to produce new infection numbers greater than at any point during the pandemic, even with 63% of the population in Florida fully vaccinated. The omicron variant seems to be more infectious and able to break through those vaccinated and boosted than the delta variant, but seems to produce milder symptoms and fewer hospitalizations. In addition, in places that have been dealing with omicron earlier than the United States, the wave has climbed rapidly and almost as quickly began to subside. Will that be out experience? Some infectious disease experts believe that new infections will be much decreased by early February.
Writing this makes me feel uncomfortable as there is so much we still do not know about COVID, as the landscape changes so quickly and a lot of the studies that are being done have not gotten the level of peer review that they would ordinarily receive. I have said previously that much of our experience of this pandemic has been a “next time” experience, as we will learn what has been effective and what has not for the next pandemic, but we will not fully know these things until after the pandemic finally ends and the medical and scientific community is able to fully assess where we have been over the past two years.
Over Christmas we visited our son, who is a medical resident at the University Hospital (LSU and Tulane) in downtown New Orleans. Jonathan’s fiancée has two doctoral degrees in pharmacy, so they are pretty well connected when it comes to the science of the pandemic, especially as it relates to preventative measures and the vaccines. Based on their connections in the medical field and their review of the journals that they read and meetings he attends, they have no concerns about the safety of the vaccines. One thing I noticed is that wherever we went, they both always wore a KN95 mask.
One of the challenges of this whole experience has been the sometimes-conflicting information we see in the media:
We are going to have to continue to learn to live with the presence of COVID, like we have learned to live with the flu, and do what we need to do to protect ourselves and those whom we care about as best we can. Many of our congregations still encourage people to wear masks at worship. Others have moved away from this as the delta variant began to die down. At least one of our congregations decided this week to return to online-only worship for the time being. Another congregation has not yet returned to in-person worship since this all began in our area in March 2020. As has always been the case, it is the session’s responsibility to determine how the congregation will manage this situation. Their decision is another instance for us to be true to the vows we made when the elders (and pastor) were installed: “Do we agree to pray for them, to encourage them, to respect their decisions, and to follow as they guide us, serving Jesus Christ, who alone is Head of the Church?”
For me, I will continue to err on the side of caution in these matters. I always keep a box of masks in my car so I can put one on when I need it. If you are ever in a meeting with me and prefer that I wear a mask, let me know. It is possible that we will learn that some of the things we have been doing to protect ourselves against the virus were not as effective as hoped. In the larger scheme of things, lacking accurate information not yet available, I will continue to do them in the belief that the potential protections to others is worth the minor inconvenience they impose upon myself.
2022 MILEAGE RATE
In case you missed it, the IRS has increased the standard rate for reimbursement for miles driven for business-related trips to 58.5 cents per mile. This amount should be reflected in terms of call. For more information on this, click here.
Executive Presbyter / Stated Clerk
Rev. Dr. Dan Williams