The 2021 Feast of Tabernacles
The Feast of Tabernacles for 2021 is now concluded, with overall comments and experiences noted as being very positive. The vast majority of members and families were able to safely assemble and observe the Feast.
While most festival sites in the United States and abroad reported no incidences, the surging Delta variant of the coronavirus did significantly impact four sites in the United States: Bend, Oregon; Glacier Country, Montana; Pewaukee, Wisconsin; and Panama City Beach, Florida. The Church activated its protective protocols during the Feast, including closing some sites to in-person attendance and conducting virtual services.
A number of members have asked how the Church prepared for possible situations. As noted on several occasions, the United Church of God takes public health issues and the safety of its members very seriously, including holding public worship services on a virtual only or virtual optional basis to help protect its members as circumstances dictate, and also setting standards regarding the positive use of protective masks and other measures.
Recognizing that the annual Holy Days are biblically commanded assemblies, the Church looks to maximize safety precautions and protocols for in-person gatherings, while at the same time creating personal options that can be positively exercised.
In addition to conducting virtual services to promote safety, the Church strongly encourages and requests personal responsibility in both taking care of oneself and also in helping to protect other members. This was reflected in the Church’s online registration process, which enables members and families to note that they would elect to observe the Feast at home or via online services.
As current reports show, more than 500 members and families exercised this option. Actual attendance at many festival sites was lower than what was registered, reflecting the fact that several members opted to exercise the online option during the Feast. Daily online unique connections to services during the Feast peaked at more than 2,700.
Prior to the festival, event planners and Church administrators intently and prayerfully reviewed options and set in place standards to help prevent COVID-19 infections. This included input from medical professionals and event industry planners.
As part of its advance planning, the Church put in place protocols to follow if an outbreak was suspected or occurred, which remains in effect for local church services. Members and families were asked in advance of the festival and also several times during the Feast not to attend services if they exhibited any symptoms—including mild flu-like symptoms that may not typically be associated with COVID-19—and to take advantage of appropriate testing and quarantining as needed. These protocols also included careful on-site monitoring of potential trends, which in some cases resulted in in-person services being cancelled.
Despite prudent safety measures, including separate meeting rooms, a number of COVID-19 cases did materialize as the festival proceeded. That, as noted, resulted in a few sites suspending services and going to an all-virtual service.
As a further precaution, many U.S. congregations proactively suspended in-person local services on the first weekend of October. A number of virtual worship services were available for members to safely take part in from their own homes.
While reports indicate that the current Delta variant outbreak has peaked nationally and new infections are presently declining, the Church maintains vigilant caution. The planned in-person pastoral refreshing program at the home office has been postponed until early 2022, and the Church is reviewing trends and protocols for other planned events. Prayers for all operations of the Church in this continuing time of pandemic uncertainty are requested.
Members who did contract the coronavirus are encouraged to seek appropriate assistance to facilitate recovery and are also encouraged to quarantine in accordance with professional standards. The Church will continue its positive commitment to sound public health during this challenging time of Delta variant infections.