Pandemic Fall-Out and Masks

Greetings, darlings.

What weirdness abounds!
Thanks be to God for seeing us through this far. If you are reading this, you may be serving in parish ministry and if you are, congratulations for surviving. Friends in the search and settlement and clergy coaching business, and news about religion in America, plus many conversations with clergy colleagues, inform me that this is an unprecedented time of resignation from parish positions. I want to talk more about that later and especially to create a space for the sharing of anonymous testimonials that have led to your decisions to leave your ministry positions or to pursue other kinds of work entirely.

I have heard too many stories over the past months of pastors being forced out of their pulpits by anxious congregations who expected their clergy to be able to pivot with no warning and no training and not enough support or grace to on-line worship leaders and crisis response expert. I am angry and devastated by the unfairness of these scapegoatings and shocked by the horrible acting out I have heard clergy share on social media. I am not an unconditional supporter of clergy: my loyalty is to God and the gathered people of God trying to live faithfully into our covenant with the divine, and I do not stand in defense of ministers out of professional courtesy or anything else. But I have seen too many worthy pastors with their heads on the block for deficiencies for which they should not be held entirely accountable, since those deficiencies are explicitly related to the “failure” to perform functions for which (say it again for the cheap seats) they had no preparation, no prior experience, minimal to no support, and no training. The heartlessness shown by some congregational leaders has been shocking and I use the term scapegoat very intentionally. It is obvious to me that some people just wanted to punish someone for their fear and frantic loss of control.

Shout out, praise hands and a shipment of chocolate to all the lay leaders in all ministry settings who were compassionate with each other and their clergy, who grieved what we all had to suspend without acting out about it, who served on COVID-safety task forces and tech teams and offered their time and expertise to church when their own lives were exceedingly stressful and who took the many frustrations we all experienced as we coped with this strange and scary territory in stride. God bless all of them.

THAT SAID, let us discuss masks!

I am so grateful to be back in the sanctuary with my congregation, and although I did manage to learn a lot of video editing and online skills in 2020, leading worship on Zoom was a creative and psychic drain unlike anything else I have ever experienced in this work. I have certainly had seasons when it was a particular struggle to stay connected to the soul or to feel and articulate the living God, but there has not been anything remotely close to the demands of maintaining a preaching ministry online during a pandemic.

So I am just incredibly glad to be with the congregation even in masks, and even with all the protocols in place that are keeping us safer while denying us cherished fellowship traditions. I assume these measures are temporary and I will gladly endure them rather than live in isolation trying desperately to connect with people over Zoom.

I get tested weekly and am of COURSE vaccinated. Our first week back, I did not remove my mask. Let’s take a look. Click to enlarge

Nice satin pink, cone shape didn’t rest on my face but it was actually much hotter than a surgical mask and I had to really project the whole service. Overall, though, workable. Then the choir and the congregation encouraged me to remove the mask when I speak. I wear an ear-worn microphone so I had that, and the mask ear loops and occasional use of reading glasses to deal with. I decided not to remove the mask entirely but to pull it under my chin. The result is definitely an “Oh honey, no” look. Is that a FEED BAG?

Click to enlarge

So this doesn’t work, and the only solution is going to have to be to remove the whole thing for the sermon. I don’t mind the chinstrap silliness for some of the service but I think it’s distracting enough to need a fix for the sermon. I have heard of preachers letting the mask dangle off of one ear but that doesn’t seem like a good idea and also possibly a fire hazard.

What are you all doing with your masks?

Kiss of peace, PB

4 Replies to “Pandemic Fall-Out and Masks”

  1. My sweet considerate spouse gave me the mask lanyard his employer gave him. Before that, I would put it in the pocket of my robe. I feel a little like I’m wearing a bib, but it’s been the best solution so far.

  2. My congregation asked me not to wear a mask at all while I’m leading the service because they felt that it “muffled” the sound of my speaking voice.
    I process into my small church with it on, and remove it when I arrive at the front and before I process back out again.
    I put it on to distribute Holy Communion.

  3. Seconded on the lanyards. I also know someone who uses an eyeglasses chain for this purpose. Same concept, a little fancier.

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