Southern extends mask mandate, allows in-person attendance for convocations and Vespers

An in-person audience watches silently as the LAC Vespers worship team performs. Southern administration approved in-person Vespers attendance with every other pew seating, contact tracing and no congregational singing. Friday, October 8, 2021. (Screenshot from LAC Vespers live stream recording)
An in-person audience watches silently as the LAC Vespers worship team performs. Southern administration approved in-person Vespers attendance with every other pew seating, contact tracing and no congregational singing. Friday, October 8, 2021. (Screenshot from LAC Vespers live stream recording)

Southern is extending its indoor mask mandate until October 25, according to an email sent to the student body by Interim Vice President for Student Development Lisa Hall on Tuesday, October 12. The email stated that administrators would consider lifting the protocol if COVID-19 cases continue to drop on campus and in Hamilton County.

“We are all ready for our campus to return closer to pre-COVID normal, and hopefully that day is not too far in the future,” Hall stated in the email.

In an October 6 email sent to the student body by Teri Reutebuch, administrative assistant to the vice president for student development, Reutebuch stated that convocation programs will be held in-person in either the University Church or Iles Gymnasium with every other row seating and contact tracing. Convocations have not had in-person attendance options since September 2. 

Friday Vespers services have been held in-person since September 24 during Week of Prayer. According to Vice President for Spiritual Life and Chaplain Joseph Khabbaz, administration approved in-person attendance for Week of Prayer and Vespers services with every other row seating, contact tracing and no congregational singing. 

In an interview with the Accent, Khabbaz said Week of Prayer was initially planned to be held outdoors at Goliath Wall. However, they moved the services indoors due to weather. Khabbaz said they received administration’s approval before confirming the decision to move in-person.

Masking is still required for all in-person enrichment credit events. 

“When students come into the church, we have greeters that check that they are wearing masks, and also announcements are made [to wear masks],” Khabbaz said. “There’s PowerPoint slides provided to remind them that [masks] are meant to remain on. … If there’s a reason why they may be having difficulty having the mask on, they are meant to leave the church to remove their mask and be outdoors.”

If students notice that someone is not wearing a mask during the Vespers service, Khabbaz said they should tell a leader.

“We can’t [necessarily see] everyone at the same time, but if there is someone, we do encourage students to come and tell us,” Khabbaz said. “That’s always the case on campus. If there’s a student not abiding by the policies that we have, we invite students to come to a leader and let them know, ‘Hey, so and so does not have a mask on. You may not be aware of it, can you do something about that?’”

Khabbaz said leaders can be recognized at Vespers by either their name badges or maroon Office of Ministry and Missions shirts.

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