Covid Update: Easter Guidelines (3/9/21)

Tuesday, March 9th, 2021

Logo for the Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania

My siblings in Christ,

As we see in the story of the resurrection, Jesus always leads us forward. As we continue our journey through this pandemic, Jesus Christ goes ahead of us, leading us on and filling us with hope for the future. Yet even as we look to the joy of Easter and our continued progress against this terrible disease, we cannot become lax. Even as more and more of us are vaccinated and the numbers continue to decline, we will be using masks and distancing for the foreseeable future. 

It is still safer not to gather in-person, especially indoors, at this time. Thankfully, with the promise of spring there is the option for expanding activities outside. If you gather indoors, in addition to all other protocols, please be sure to both maximize your ventilation and minimize the length of time you are together.

As you make your plans to observe and celebrate the holiest days of our faith, there is both hope and caution. This year promises greater flexibility than 2020 but will still not feel like 2019. After carefully studying the latest scientific and medical guidance, consultation with the Health Committee and prayerful deliberation, I offer the following updated guidance:

Starting Easter weekend (April 3-4) the following will apply:

  • Indoor capacity may increase to up to 50%. Please remember that you must allow a minimum of six feet in all directions between individuals/household groups when calculating capacity. Please note, that at this time Philadelphia has limited indoor church gatherings to 20% of capacity. I therefore ask that all churches in the City observe this lower limit. As soon as it increases, you may raise your limits to match. 
  • Outdoors gatherings have no specific limit so long as everyone is masked, distanced and there is sufficient space to allow for safe movement into, out of an around the gathering as well as sufficient bathroom access. 
  • Baptisms may resume following the Phase III Protocols.
  • The number of choir members/section leaders may increase to up to 8, following the previous protocols.
  • Any brass/wind instruments must use specialized sock coverings to limit aerosol emissions. Special precautions should be taken when dealing with spit valves. 
  • While you may gather for fellowship, no food or drink is permitted at this time.
  • Activities for youth 12 and older may resume as under Phase III.
  • When determining your schedule for disinfecting spaces between uses, you may reduce the interval from six days to two. This change is effective as of March 13th. 


I also offer the following guidance in terms of the specific liturgies and celebrations:


Palm Sunday

  • Consider doing the Liturgy of the Palms outdoors and then streaming the rest of service.
  • Unlike last year, it is safe to distribute palms in whatever way meets the needs of your congregation.
  • No in-person Agape Meals. Virtual gatherings/meals are fine. 
  • Foot washing, if offered at all, should be done only by members of same household/pod. There should be no reuse of the implements by another group without being disinfected first.
  • Stations of the Cross should be offered virtually or outdoors. If it is offered indoors then the congregation should remain stationary so as to avoid clustering together. 
  • There should be no physical contact if venerating the cross.


The Great Vigil

  • Please remember that the rubrics are very flexible about what is done and when it happens. I encourage you to take advantage of this when planning.
  • As with Palm Sunday, consider holding the Service of Light outdoors and streaming the rest of the service.


Easter Sunday

  • Know the limits of your capacity and have a plan ready before making any public announcement.
  • Clearly communicate all safety measures and expectations. 
  • Train your ushers to welcome guests who may not know the rules.
  • Egg Hunts are not permitted. 


As before, if you have a need that is not addressed by or exceeds this guidance please email me directly. When you do, please explain what it is you feel called to do, why it is important to your church and what steps you would take to ensure safety for all involved. Please copy Canon Wamsley ( and Canon Berlenbach ( when you do. 

In addition, we will continue to offer our diocesan services and, to ensure that everyone in the diocese has access to worship, we will again be broadcasting our Easter service on CBS- Channel 3 at 5:30 am and on Facebook and the One Love Channel at 9 a.m.

I am pleased to announce that our vaccination clinic is almost fully booked. We are working hard to get a second one scheduled and will announce those plans as soon as they are clarified. I would also remind you that the Tech Grants are now open. Even as we return to church in-person, many will continue to rely on the watching services online. Please take advantage of this opportunity to expand your capacity to reach more people. Applications can be found here. In addition to the Digital Disciples, support will be available through the Media Tech Center that is currently in development.

Although we are still in Lent and the pandemic continues, the dawn of hope is breaking over the horizon. Each day thousands get the vaccine and we cautiously resume many of the activities we once enjoyed a year ago. Yet more importantly, we know that Christ will emerge from the tomb, triumphant over the powers of death. In this is our greatest hope and the promise of life eternal. Please know that I hold you all in my daily prayers and look forward with joy to sharing the Paschal Feast with you. 


In Christ,

Bishop signature

The Rt. Rev. Daniel G. P. Gutiérrez

XVI Bishop of The Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania