Dear Waco Church Leaders,
Each fall, as Baylor’s campus comes alive with the joy and excitement of a new year, I reflect with gratitude on the deep connections between the University and our local churches. As part of our Christian commitment, we encourage each Baylor student to become actively involved in a Waco-area church. When we survey students and alumni about their time at Baylor, their responses reinforce what we know and observe – that local churches have a profound impact on their personal and spiritual development. On behalf of the Baylor Family, I thank you for the innumerable ways your congregation nurtures and challenges students during this formative season in their lives.
Since March, when the COVID-19 pandemic forced our rapid transition to online course delivery, we have established extraordinary precautions and guidelines in order to reopen our campus and to resume our social, economic and spiritual involvement with Waco and its surrounding communities. These precautions include requiring members of the Baylor community to commit to face covering, social distancing, handwashing and symptom monitoring, both on- or off-campus.
Baylor University unequivocally is an advocate for religious freedom and liberty, as well as the autonomy of individual churches. However, we also know that church gatherings, particularly when facemasks and social distancing are not required, could have the unintended consequences of contributing to the community spread of COVID-19 now that students are filling places of worship across the community.
Based on what is currently known about the spread of COVID-19 through droplet and aerosol transmission – especially during unmasked congregational singing and loud speaking – we are very concerned church gatherings can be sites where the virus is quickly spread. With this scientific research regarding singing, our School of Music has taken significant precautionary measures regarding vocal training, rehearsals and performances this fall, including the use of an open-air tent on our campus.
Because of our partnership, I write to ask for your assistance as we seek to prevent and mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Specifically, I encourage your congregation to implement universal facemasking and social distancing at all services, events, and activities – as we have done in all classes, events and activities on our campus. In this way, we provide a consistent message to Baylor students and hopefully avoid the potential stumbling block of differing standards. Finally, we ask this to help keep both our students and your congregations safe and healthy.
We have requested that our students follow “Baylor rules” when attending your places of worship beginning this weekend. Thank you for considering this request, and for the ways that you serve this community and our Baylor students. We are grateful for you.
Linda A. Livingstone, Ph.D.