December 19th, 2020

Good morning Salem Evangelical Church Family,

Merry Christmas!

I have some good news to share with you this morning.  As a pastor of a local church, I have been included in updates from the Oregon Health Authority, specifically from the Faith Liaison Team that formed early on during the pandemic in which faith leaders from across the state joined together to stay informed of the many changes that would unfold from then until now. I received the following news at 3:58 pm, yesterday afternoon via email, and I am now quoting from the office of Governor Kate Brown:

“Hello Faith Leaders,

The Governor’s Office has made some updates to the faith institution guidance that I’d like to share with you.  These changes are effective immediately.

Dear Faith Leaders,

I write to inform you of a legal change to the guidance for faith institutions, which the Governor authorized a few days ago.  As you may be aware, a series of recent court decisions arising in other states have appeared to modify the legal analysis that some courts may apply to certain public health restrictions that are specific to faith institutions.  In light of those decisions, the State has opted to modify the guidance for faith institutions so that, as a legal matter, the capacity limits for faith institutions are public health recommendations only, and not enforceable.  Other requirements (e. g. masks and physical distancing as outlined in the guidance) remain mandatory.”

They also wrote, “Please note that the only reason for this legal change is the recent shift in the legal arena.  The science, data, and our assessment of what is necessary to keep the community safe has not changed.  Accordingly, our public health recommendations regarding capacity limits in faith institutions remain unchanged as well.”

What does this mean?  It means several very important points.  One, we are not limited legally to 100 any longer under the extreme risk category.  Two, we are still in the extreme risk category because Marion County is still experiencing a high volume of positive cases.  Three, social distancing is still required.  Four, wearing face coverings is still required.  Five, we will continue to have our pews taped off to match the social distancing requirements.  We ask you to please social distance from others within the row you are sitting in.  Six, the 9:15 service tomorrow is no longer limited legally to 100.  You are welcome to come tomorrow on Christmas Sunday and are asked to follow the requirements of social distancing, face coverings and washing your hands and or using the hand sanitizer stations at the entrance you enter at.  Seven, classes will remain in place tomorrow, December 20 as planned with there being no prayer service as planned.

The Christmas Eve Communion service will now be adjusted to match the new ruling which means we can have more than 100 per service.  You will receive an email on Monday explaining how we will adjust to this new ruling.  We will still have all three services to accommodate plans already made by your family.

On December 27, there are no activities at the church other than the morning service at 9:15 as scheduled.

We will send out communication between now and January 3, 2021 to explain what this ruling means to our schedule going forward.

If you are concerned about having contact with others, having a compromised condition, and are 65 years of age or older, PLEASE DO NOT attend for your safety and peace of mind.  There will likely be more people attending not less.

In Christ,

Pastor Randy R. Butler