New Policies from Omaha Mask Ordinance
The Omaha City Council approved a mask mandate for our city, effective immediately through October 20 (unless extended). Our early service at 8:00am already follows regulations that are more strict than what this new mask ordinance requires, so the 8:00am service will continue in its current form without changes.
This new ordinance carries implications that affect our 10:30am service, however. The elders and the deacons met today to discuss how this ordinance will be honored on Sunday mornings at Harvest, and here are the details for how this will apply to the 10:30am service:
- Masks will be required for all individuals age five and older inside the building, except for those who have a medical condition, mental health condition, or a disability that makes it unreasonable to wear a mask.
- You will not be required to wear your mask once you are in your seat during worship, with six feet of distance between you and others from outside your household.
- You will need to wear your mask as you come for communion, but you may remove your mask once you take your seat again.
- The pastor/worship leaders will not wear masks while leading worship.
- In order to make sure that we are able to have six feet of separation between different households, and in order to avoid turning away worshipers, we will be opening up two overflow areas that we will use after the floor and balcony areas of the sanctuary are full: the parlor (to the side of the folding doors) and the choir loft (behind the pulpit).
- The only time it will be permissible to take off a mask inside the building will be during the worship service, while seated six feet from other people in the sanctuary. At all other times (including before and after the service, and during the service while outside of your seat in the sanctuary), you must wear a mask inside the building.
We understand that there are many opinions about the wisdom and value of this ordinance; however, our Lord calls us to submit to those he has placed in civil authority:
Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. (Rom. 13:1–2)
Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor. (1 Pet. 2:13–17)
Certainly, whenever the civil authorities demand that we disobey God, our priorities are clear: “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). In this case, however, there is no conflict between anything in God’s law and this civil ordinance. Therefore, the Scriptures are clear that it is the will of God for us to be subject to the human institutions of civil, governing authorities.
In the same way that we fully and freely worship God while also submitting to the city building codes that govern repairs to the building, or to the city fire codes that govern how many people we are permitted to have in our building at any given time, so also we will worship God and observe the mask ordinance.
Submission means that we submit to those in authority over us even when we disagree with them, so long as they do not ask us to disobey God, our highest authority. It is perfectly legitimate to attempt to persuade those in authority to make a different decision, or to vote for politicians who pledge to make decisions we believe to be better. Nevertheless, submission requires us to honor those in authority, for as long as they hold their office.
We will close this letter with two pastoral admonitions. First, we would urge everyone to participate in corporate worship by physically attending either the 8:00am or the 10:30am service. God calls his people to corporate, gathered worship together, and we cannot obey that command from a distance, in our homes.
Certainly, we recognize that some have health conditions so severe that they would not be able to come physically for worship, even if COVID-19 had never happened. Furthermore, we do not wish to diminish the inconvenience that this ordinance may cause. Nevertheless, our primary desire is to gather God’s people back to worship by whatever means necessary.
So, if you have health concerns, please come to the 8:00am service, which we have made as safe as possible. Or, if you have concerns about the mask mandate, please come to the 10:30am service, where we have applied the provisions of this ordinance as minimally as possible.
Second, we would urge everyone to cultivate love and grace toward one another. In God’s providence, we have been studying 1 Corinthians 13 at a time when we deeply need to hear its message. Let us remember that, if we have all knowledge about coronavirus and the value of masks, but have not love, we are nothing (1 Cor. 13:2). Let us strive to be patient and kind, neither arrogant, rude, insistent on our own way, irritable, nor resentful, even while we rejoice with the truth (1 Cor. 13:4–6). Let us bear all things, believe all things, hope all things, and endure all things (1 Cor. 13:7). Let us remember that, above all else, this is an opportunity to cultivate love, by God’s grace, as an asset that will endure for all eternity (1 Cor. 13:13).
If you have any questions, please talk directly with the elders and the deacons. You can reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.
We hope to worship with you in person this Lord’s Day!