When we gathered at Felicita Park on August 15, 2021, for our first in-person worship service since March 8, 2020, we invited congregants to place stickers on your clothing to indicate your comfort level in getting close (or not) to others. At that time, we defined the stickers this way:
- Red = Let’s wave hello at each other
- Yellow = Elbow bump is fine
- Green = Comfortable with hugs
We used this same system for our October 17 hymn sing service, also held at Felicita Park. But we soon came to an uncomfortable realization: having people define their own comfort level this way didn’t necessarily provide sufficient protections for our community. It has been one of the most difficult discoveries of post-vaccine life that many (not all!) unvaccinated people—instead of observing all safety precautions—are unwilling to wear masks and might describe themselves as very comfortable with hugs. In other words, an unvaccinated person might select a green sticker for their clothing, when the intention of the stickers is to indicate something about safety, not just personal preference.
So for our December 12th Spirit Booster Gathering at Chalice, we refined the sticker definitions.
- Green = I am fully vaccinated and comfortable with close contact
- Yellow = No hugs or handshakes please
- Red = I am unvaccinated and/or I am not comfortable with close contact
We probably need to go a step further and clarify that yellow also means fully vaccinated.
Why do we need to use stickers at all? It appears we will be living with variants of COVID-19 for some time. We are still in the middle of the omicron surge, with over 200,000 people in San Diego County testing positive in the past four weeks. Hopefully we will see numbers return to a more reasonable level by the end of February.
Whatever the course of the virus in the coming months, part of our work as a community is to do what we can to keep each other safe. It is also part of our work to be honest and transparent with each other in order to help manage our collective risks. The sticker system is one tool we can use to help us return to in-person gatherings.
One last note about the stickers—when presented with the sticker system, one of our (unvaccinated at the time) Chalice children started to cry at having to wear a red sticker. (We let her go with yellow.) But one savvy congregant (and I don’t remember who! But thank you, wise congregant) suggested that the red stickers could be heart stickers to make wearing them feel a little easier for the wearer. So, we will have red heart stickers the next time we gather, for those of us who need some distance.
It is not easy wearing the red sticker, by the way. I know because I always choose red, not because I’m unvaccinated, but because I have an elderly father, and so I am as careful as I can be. Please remember when you see one of us with a red sticker that we do want to visit and feel connected to others. We just want or need to be as careful as possible.
Blessings and love to you,