A church in Washington state had a COVID outbreak, told the congregation only in a roundabout way, said nothing to local health officials, and is continuing to host in-person maskless events without requiring teen or adult participants to be vaccinated.
While the story is about Stanwood Foursquare Church, it could easily be told about many other Christian churches across the country that are prolonging the pandemic for everyone.
Here’s a timeline that was sent to me by one reader who wished to remain anonymous.
July 2, 2021: More than 40 members of the church returned from a two week mission trip in Montana. Some of these members were already showing symptoms of COVID, though that’s not indicated in these Facebook posts:
July 4, 2021: The church held a Fourth of July event without notifying anybody about the COVID outbreak.
July 7, 2021: According to the tipster, someone who works at the church found out about the COVID outbreak after a supervisor began exhibiting COVID symptoms. That supervisor later tested positive. (I cannot confirm that.) Still, there was no messaging from the church warning members about the possible exposure or urging them to quarantine.
July 8, 2021: Finally, Pastor Tim Poetzl sent an email to church members letting them know about the problem. Here’s the entire message, which was forwarded to me:
As many of you know, last week we sent a team of 40+ people to the YWAM base in Lakeside, Montana for our Vacation With A Purpose outreach.
I want to update you to let you know that several of the team members have come back and tested positive for Covid-19. Those who have tested positive are recovering at home and we would ask that you would pray for the healing and safety for the team as they complete their quarantine.
We are in communication with each team member and are being updated regularly.
Thank you for your prayers and support.
Notice that this is only a request for prayer. It doesn’t tell people to get tested, get vaccinated, or quarantine themselves. It doesn’t give information about how people can get tested or vaccinated. It doesn’t say church services are moving online. It doesn’t say who may have been exposed or for how long. Pastor Tim wants prayers for the sick while doing nothing to prevent further sickness.
More concerning, I’m told, this email was sent to church members. It was not sent to community members whose kids may attend youth groups (or other events) because they’re not official members.
July 14, 2021: A week after that email was sent out, the church held a Vacation Bible School that was open to the public. Here’s one image from that camp, showing kids (who can’t be vaccinated) alongside adults who aren’t wearing masks. It doesn’t look like anything has changed since the outbreak.
The tipster also told me this is when they contacted the Snohomish County Health District about the outbreak, only to find out this was brand new information for them. Which means no one at the church ever told local health officials what happened.
Today: The church continues to hold in-person, maskless events. (COVID outbreak? What COVID outbreak?!)
All that said, the church has taken stronger precautions in the past. When the pandemic began, they were up front about a COVID case in the congregation and moved all services online for a while. It’s not clear why they’re treating everything so differently now.
In case you’re not familiar, by the way, the Foursquare Church (which is Pentecostal) believes in “divine healing” — that prayer can fix health problems. It wouldn’t be out of character for this kind of church to reject science-based health advice. In their minds, there’s no virus that can’t be overcome with God’s help.
I emailed the church on Sunday asking about these concerns, but as of this writing, I haven’t heard back.
(Featured image via Facebook)