Dear Church Family-

The following is a response to the new guidelines proposed by the Governor of Washington State. To begin I feel that two remarks are important.

First, whereas the Leadership Council has entrusted me with the opportunity to share these comments, they are my comments and mine alone. They lend their support and believe that I have thoroughly researched this issue.

Second, we all know this issue is highly decisive and the public and the professionals have widely differing opinions about the best way forward. It is extremely important you know exactly WHO you are listening to and WHY. Doctors, scientists, researchers and politicians will all look at the exact same data and the exact opposite in response. We have to recognize that this is because of differing objectives. Some of those standards are based upon health and some are based upon policy. Some are based upon fears and some are based upon facts. And this is no all sides of the issue. It is vital that we remain “Reasonable and Responsible” as we vowed to from the very beginning of this pandemic.

That said, my comments, observations and opinions are derived from countless hours of reflection, informative research and prayer.

I am certain that you are just as informed on all the latest developments with responses to the Covid-19 numbers raising, the vaccine roll out and the new guidelines for public gatherings.  The Leadership Council here at Fellowship church affirms that Governor Inslee has decreed a mandate that masks will be worn in all public spaces.  We will post signage about the mandates, provide supplies and clean the air with new hepa filtration in our HVAC system.  

However, at this time we do not feel obligated to “police” this mandate in our facilities.  We are not interested in political battles over the issue and remain committed to serving our family here at Fellowship.  Here are some of the basic reasons why we will not be enforcing these restrictions at Fellowship Church but leave the decision to each guest about your participation in a public.

No Clear Data

There is no clear evidence that masks will provide any additional protection now that the vaccine is widely available.  Throughout this pandemic there has been a lot of mixed data/reports about the necessity and effectiveness of wearing masks.  There are many problems associated with the mask mandates because the protection they provide is less than most people understand and the vast majority of people do not wear a mask properly to be effective. 

The most commonly used mask is a cloth mask or “gator” which provides practically zero protection.  Additionally, you should not touch the mask unless you are ready to clean or discard it.  The mask must remain over both the mouth and the nose.  Only a shield gives you protection over the eyes and only a N95 mask discarded daily offers any real protection.

So what is the point of mandating masks if we are not going to mandate N95s, worn under the strictest guidance.  I watched an interview with Dr Anthony Fauci from just this week where he was asked this question directly and his response was “instead of worrying about what kind of mask…just wear a mask.”  This is absolutely unscientific and a purely political answer.  It is like forcing people to wear a seat belt but then saying it is ok even if it is made out of paper.

The mask mandate is clearly a political tool to force everyone to comply with governmental edicts about the vaccine.  There is no real protection from wearing masks in the current format and instead we should support the vaccines but let people make their own choices as they access risk levels in their lives.

No Limiting Principle

The “advice” from governing bodies was that we needed to use our masks until we had a vaccine and everyone is able to get it.  Well, we have incredibly effective vaccines and everyone is able to get it.  In fact, the vaccine is so widely available, governments, employers and agencies across the country are incentivizing and even paying people to get it.  So what are we waiting for in terms of going back to normal life?  They continually move the goal line without reasonable assertion.

It will always be the case now that the Coronavirus will be with us.  There will always be variants and new illnesses.  We cannot escape that fact.  At what point do we accept this reality and return to our daily lives.  It seems at this point there are only two real possibilities, when do you get the vaccine or when to you get the virus.  That is the world we live in and you need to make your own risk assessments as to what is right for you.

This new round of mandates is based upon “breakthrough” cases and most specifically the Delta-variant of Covid.  I do not dispute this point.  Even with a vaccine, you can get Covid and become symptomatic.  But for the vast majority of people it means you will get a mild case of the “sniffles” or flu.  That is pretty much it.  The vaccinated are not in any real risk and our children have never been in any real danger. 

We can and should admit that, in the beginning of the pandemic there were too many unknowns and limited treatments for the elderly and vulnerable.  Even though many detractors would argue that point, we are not denying any real data on this point.  The Coronavirus took hundreds of thousands of lives.  However, today we have extremely effective weapons against this virus.  Even with the delta variant, the vaccine is miraculously effective at protecting you and remains the only real answer to ending the pandemic. 

If we say that we must go back to mask mandates because of a new strain of the virus, there will never be an end to this pandemic and there is no limiting factor to the governmental rule that we are seeing today.  We cannot continue as a free society in this fashion.  It may have been essential at first, but not now.

Religious Objection

At the beginning of the pandemic, we did not know what we were dealing with, the data and reporting was vastly confusing and changing on a daily basis.  It made sense to us as leadership at Fellowship Church to listen to our leaders and adjust accordingly.  We felt that the best way for us to “love our community” at the time was to listen to the experts and comply with their recommendations.  We wanted to protect our community as we tried to be a good example to our community as well.

Now that we are over a year and a half down the road, it has become apparent that the slogan “Not forever, just for now.” is a lie. We have been compliant and reasonable in the name of health but now we have a higher obligation to the Kingdom of God.

We are called to Worship God. We are called to be together.  We are called to minister to a hurting world around us.  We cannot do any of those things if we are not allowed to be together. 

We have brothers and sisters around the world who understand this and are willing to risk their lives to meet in secret for the purposes of growing their faith.  They know that if they gather in the name of Jesus, they are risking their property, their family, their health and even their very lives.  But they are willing to take on that risk because their faith is that important.  I don’t think it is a stretch to say that the American church has become far too complacent and comfortable.  We have forgotten the God is our First Love.  We have forgotten how vitally important our faith and duty to God really is.

We have lost several families in the church over the course of this last year because they have fallen out of fellowship and disconnected from those relationships.  Whereas going to church does not make you a Christian, those of us who value our faith as the bedrock of our lives realize that being together is an anchor in the week that helps to remind us, encourage us, even challenge us to remain devoted to Christ.  The lack of church attendance is often an outward sign of an inward drift away from Jesus.  We are losing friends from the church and possibly from eternity.


Pastor Cary Peden

Fellowship Church / Pastor