The Rev. Ellen Ely of First United Methodist Church of Marble Falls and the Rev. David Sugeno of Trinity Episcopal Church of Marble Falls are among 12 Highland Lakes pastors signing a statement of unity encouraging people to wear face coverings out of love for Christ and one another. Staff photo by Daniel Clifton
It’s something Highland Lakes clergy and their congregations have wrestled with: wearing face coverings as part of COVID-19 health and safety protocols.
“We’re all struggling with the issue,” said the Rev. David Sugeno of Trinity Episcopal Church of Marble Falls. “On one hand, we have a group that won’t come back (to worship) until there’s a vaccination. Then on the other, we have another group who won’t come to church as long as they have to wear masks.”
So 12 members of the Highland Lakes Ministerial Alliance representing several denominations decided to make a statement of unity on face coverings.
“It’s very important (our congregations and the community) see us stand together,” said the Rev. Ellen Ely of First United Methodist Church of Marble Falls. “By wearing a mask, we protect out of love.”
In the statement, the 12 ministers say as one: “We therefore join our voices in urging our fellow citizens to be faithful in the wearing of masks, maintaining social distancing, and following guidelines given to us by our local health authorities. We recognize and we share in the difficulty and pain caused by these guidelines; but we believe that maintaining these guidelines, especially the wearing of masks, is a sign of the love that we have for one another, and our willingness to endure inconvenience in order to protect one another. Masks, we believe, are not a sign of fear; they are a sign of love.”
The statement came out of a recent conversation among alliance members when one local pastor shared how so many people in their church simply refused to wear face coverings. As the members discussed the problem, and reflected on their own struggles with the issue, the Rev. Harold Vanicek of St. Peter’s Lutheran Church of Marble Falls pitched the idea of making a statement of unity.
Ely and Sugeno acknowledged face coverings have become quite politicized, but they and the others see it differently.
“We wanted to put it in a theological framework,” Sugeno said.
“We show our love for each other by wearing a mask,” Ely added.
The alliance includes pastors from multiple denominations, including Episcopal, Lutheran, Roman Catholic, Methodist, Presbyterian, Baptist, and Church of Christ. Sugeno pointed out that if all of those different denominations can come together behind this statement, it shows how important of an issue protecting one another from COVID-19 through lovingly wearing face coverings and social distancing is.
“Nobody likes wearing these masks,” he said.
“But it’s where we are right now,” Ely added. “I think it’s important to wear a mask out of love for one another and Christ.”