Now that I'm vaccinated

Yesterday we received our second doses of Pfizer vaccine. Our vaccination cards report that we have been fully vaccinated. It wasn’t a very dramatic event. We didn’t leap up and hug the nurse who gave us the vaccine. We waited 15 minutes as instructed and then got in our car and came home. It was raining, which is typical for our new home in the Northwest. According to the information we have, it can take up to three weeks before our immune systems have ramped up in such a way to make us unlikely to contact Covid. After that, we will continue to wear our masks, observe social distancing and be careful about hand washing and personal hygiene as we have been. For a casual observer, little has changed.

Theoretically it should make travel easier, but we traveled quite a bit during the pandemic. As more and more people are fully vaccinated it should allow for the opening of some gatherings. I participated in a Zoom meeting last night during which we had conversations about options for faith formation for adults after we are allowed in-person gatherings. The majority of the participants in the group favored continuing Zoom meetings after the church goes back to face-to-face worship. There were some who say they prefer the distance format for education and for worship. Going to church has been the center of my life for so long that I strongly prefer face to face worship. Susan reports that I have more patience for Zoom meetings than she, but I don’t feel like I have much patience for such. I’ll work to use the technology to the best of my ability, but my priority will continue to be relationships based in in person meetings. I don’t expect being vaccinated to change very much.

The return to normal, however, won’t be a return in my opinion. Instead we’ll go forward, changed by the experiences of the pandemic. More than a year of covid isolation has resulted in a year remarkably free of flu and colds. We’ve been very healthy. We did receive our flu vaccinations as we do every year, but I can’t help but think that wearing face masks and being careful about contact with others has decreased our exposure to harmful viruses in general. I’m willing to be more diligent if that keeps me from spreading sickness to others.

I suspect that public schools will not be able to return to “normal.” With the large numbers of children who have received much less schooling in the past year and the huge variations in how much educational support families have been able to provide, children will be at many different levels of understanding and ability when they return to the classroom. It has always been true that dividing children by chronological age has meant that teachers deal with a range of abilities and experiences, but I suspect that the entire concept of graded education might be seriously challenged by the wide range within a single age group. One seven-year-old might be doing math on a fifth-grade level and another struggling with basic math facts. Another seven-year-old might need some of the basic kindergarten experience. They might all need the social interaction with other seven-year-olds, but benefit from learning experiences with students of different ages in a way that is closer to a one room schoolhouse than a modern graded elementary school.

Churches will never go back to the way it was before. We’ve been drug, kicking and screaming in some cases, into the world of social media in a way that we won’t go back. Live streamed worship has become the norm and it will continue to be important for those who are shut in or isolated by health problems. Churches will continue to live stream in order to serve members who are not able to come to the church. Members will continue to connect over distances that previously were unthinkable. Congregations will find ways to remain connected to those who are in different counties, states and countries than the church building. I suspect that many congregations will adapt by changing the types of buildings they use and how they use space. Congregations that don’t adapt to the new realities will fade, losing members and financial support. Creative congregations will find new ways to use their buildings to expand their ministry and outreach into the community.

We won’t go back to the way we were before the pandemic.

I hope we will go forward with some new insights.

Having our vaccinations has taught me that while personal health is important, it is insufficient to think only of ourselves. We need to think and act with others in mind. It isn’t enough to avoid the virus myself. I must also behave in ways that help others to avoid infection. Understanding that people can spread the virus without experiencing symptoms gives a new way of understanding our responsibility for one another. I’ve got zip lock bags with clean masks in our car, our truck, on my dresser and in my pocket. I don’t expect I’ll stop carrying them. I’m more attentive to the way I wash my hands and the process of wiping down surfaces. I think we’ll continue that care. We do it because keeping others safe and healthy is important. We need our mail carrier and store clerks to be healthy. We need our first responders and dentists to be healthy. We need our teachers and office workers to be safe from infection. We all have a role in caring for one another.

As a more introverted person, and I know that will surprise some who know me, I am not big for crowds in the first place. I’m much happier at a family dinner than as a member of huge audience. I won’t miss mass gatherings, because I didn’t enjoy them that much before. But we will need to learn to be more careful going forward.

The year and more of the pandemic has offered lessons in life. I pray we have been open to learning them.