Greetings Dear Church, Grace, Peace, and Mercy are yours from the Triune God. Amen. While this is undoubtedly not a sermon, I desired to begin with the same blessing that precedes the good news’s proclamation because we have indeed received some good news in these recent days! We’ve been venturing through this vast unknown for over 14 months, and finally, having news and recommendations that point towards recovery feels relieving. But it remains abundantly clear that the saga is not over yet. With your gracious willingness and participation, we have followed the litany of guidance that has come from all levels of governance and health officials; we continue to do so and will continue to do so. As you have most likely seen, Thursday’s announcement from the CDC stated that fully vaccinated individuals no longer need to wear a mask in most settings. These guidelines have been supported and implemented into Illinois’ executive actions and guidance. So, here at LCM, we plan to continue enfolding these guidelines in our practices. We already have practiced just how we will operate now going forward. When we were worshiping out on the lawn under the tent last summer, we arrived and left with our masks on, and then during worship, while we were seated and stationary, we had the option to remove our masks. We intend to implement the same practice now but in the indoor setting. Once caveat is abundantly important: The option (NOT a requirement) to remove our masks indoors is, as the CDC has stated, for fully vaccinated individuals (two weeks after the final dose). You will see worship leaders following this practice too. I want to take a moment to be direct with you all too. A part of my call is to conduct public worship, which means that it is open to all, for the good news is truly good news for all God’s beloved. I will not operate in a way that (intentionally or otherwise) creates a divided community. Regardless of how you feel personally about this COVID vaccine, irrespective of whether you have received it yet or not, you are welcome in worship. We will not be screening vaccination status. But this good news of God around which we gather demands that we as individuals work to maintain an open and welcoming community of God. Part of that work is; to be honest about what mitigation efforts you have undertaken to reduce the risk to the most vulnerable amongst us. So, if you have not received the vaccine, for whatever reason that may be, wearing a mask throughout your duration in the building is the level of mitigation required as well one of the most straightforward ways we can show our neighbor love and care. Much about the vaccine and the decision to receive it remains personal. Even with that choice, there are still those who don’t have the luxury of that choice. And for those who do not have that privilege, it is up to each one of us to maintain a safe and welcoming worship environment. Specifically, I greatly desire for August to continue his presence in worship and for any child to feel safe coming to worship. But for that to be the case, we need to provide a safe, loving, and caring worship environment. We can most clearly do so by being honest, continuing to follow the guidelines we’ve agreed to, and wearing a mask if you are unvaccinated. I know that all of this has been an unbearably long and arduous road. And sometimes, that road can feel the bumpiest at the trail’s end. But that end is in sight. As we look forward, I want to share some of what is in the works for this summer. The tent will return! Last summer, it turns out the tent was necessary, but this summer we are bringing it back by choice. I enjoyed the opportunity to worship in the outdoor setting and found additional benefits to the tent in the increased ability and ease of gathering. We’ll announce further details as they become known, but one item to look forward to is that we seek to hold the Jazz Mass for the Masses outdoors this August. All that said, I remain as grateful as ever for you, our congregation, and our community. You have continued to show strength, grace, and compassion amidst one of the most strenuous events of our lifetime. Thank you for continuing to answer the gospel’s call to service and for saying, “Yes, we will.” God’s Peace & Blessings, Pastor Dave