Dear Members and Friends of Old Stone Church,
We are heartbroken to bring this email to you, but we are going to have to return to on-line only worship from now until at least January 16, 2022. It is a tremendously hard decision to close down Christmas Eve services again this year, and only have online worship available. But we believe it is the right thing to do.
As you know, COVID-19, now including the Omicron Variant, is spreading at an exponential rate within the United States and Northeast Ohio. Following the science is where we start. Cuyahoga County is up to 199 cases per day for every 100,000 people. It is at a higher rate than ever since the pandemic began. More concerning than that is the rising number of deaths per week.
In practical terms, there have been alerts from the Cleveland Clinic, MetroHealth, and other hospitals that their emergency rooms are being overwhelmed. As the news stories have documented, there are fewer medical staff to care for these patients, and those who are there are exhausted with the long-term challenge of caregiving throughout this pandemic. They need community leaders like Old Stone Church to set an example of not risking public gatherings at this time.
Other major institutions are again stopping in-person events, including Playhouse Square and the Cleveland Orchestra, And the Rev. Sharon Core, General Presbyter of the Presbytery of Western Reserve, has recommended that churches go virtual again.
The Old Stone Church COVID-19 Taskforce met Monday afternoon and gave the recommendation to Session to move to virtual services including Christmas Eve. Session met in an emergency meeting Monday night and voted to stop in-person worship for all services through February 13, 2022.
This decision came with great difficulty, but we knew we had a personal responsibility for the well-being of our church members, friends, and staff. We ask that you please take this pandemic very seriously and get vaccinated, including your booster shot. When you are in public places, please wear a mask. You matter to us, and when we gather again, we want everyone to still be with us.
Keeping the safety of our congregation and staff is of utmost importance as we progress through this pandemic. Thank you for your understanding. We can be grateful that our broadcast equipment can help us to still be part of a wonderful Christmas Eve. We will broadcast at 5:00 pm, 7:00 pm, and 9:00 pm. We wish you a Merry Christmas!
Rev. Dr. Andrew McDonald
Interim Senior Pastor and Moderator of Session
Old Stone Church.