Covid Updates and Fall Planning (8/10/21)

Tuesday, August 10th, 2021

Logo for the Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania

As you know, the Delta variant is surging in most of the country and the CDC is recommending indoor masking for fully-vaccinated individuals in those Substantial and High-risk regions. As of August 9, all of our diocese falls within the “Substantial” risk category. 

We wanted to iterate available resources as we head into fall, and the beginning of the school year, that will help churches navigate whatever happens and provide a list of things you can do now in the event that the situation worsens.

As we communicated in July, we recommend the following:

  • Masks: We strongly encourage (but do not require) masks and distancing at all indoor church events for everyone, regardless vaccination status.  Emerging science suggests that with the Delta Variant, even those who are fully vaccinated can transmit the virus to others. 
  • Vaccines: If you still need to get the vaccine and were not able to, please contact us.  We will help you find a location.
  • Outdoor Services: As much as you can, please continue to meet outdoors as far into the fall as you can. This not only provides improved ventilation but also serves as a physical reminder to those passing by that church is open.
  • Ventilation: Continue to maximize ventilation for all indoor events.
  • Hybrid Services: To reach those who are not able to come back to church, please continue streaming your services. If you do not know how to do this while conducting an in-person service, contact us.  We have Digital Disciples who can assist. If you did not apply for one of our technology grants, it is not too late. Churches can receive $2,500 to upgrade equipment for the purpose of reaching more people.
  • Morning Prayer: The diocese has created a guide to assist laypeople in leading this service. Currently it runs through Sept 5. We will be publishing a new version by the end of August. 

All of these measures will help reduce risk and allow churches to better live into our obligation to love and care for one another. However, as with the protocols of May 17, each church must consider the particulars of their own circumstances (building size, ventilation, percentage of people vaccinated, average number of guests, etc.) and discern the correct procedures for their own context. At the present time we do not anticipate any major revisions to the May 17 protocols, but will continue to offer periodic updates via our newsletter and emails. 

Since we must always be looking ahead, it is also important to be proactive in our planning. Should the numbers continue to increase, we recommend that you consider the following options in order to be prepared: 

  • Taping music now with your choir that can be used in future online services.
  • Establishing an online donation system if you do not have one. This is good to have regardless. (Contact us if you need assistance.)
  • Create an updated list of churchgoers with their contact information in the event you need to make weekly pastoral calls.
  • Volunteer to host a vaccine clinic if/when a booster shot becomes available.
  • If you are unable to continue livestreaming, contact your Dean now to see if there is a way to work with other churches in your deanery.


You may also wish to consider what it would look like in your parish if you took any or all of these measures:

  • Consider moving your meetings back to being virtual.
  • Consider limiting your fellowship.
  • Consider resuming limits on your attendance to ensure more spacing.

We continue to hold all this in prayer and remain hopeful that the above may not be necessary. However, it is good to consider your options and have a plan in place in case it is necessary. 

As always, if you have questions, please contact Canons Shawn Wamsley ( and Kirk Berlenbach (

In many ways, these new cautions simply mean that we must continue the practices that have brought us this far, practices which, to the best of our knowledge, have prevented any cases of church-related transmission of the virus. This is no small achievement and it stands as testament to your faithfulness and commitment to one another and to our Lord Jesus. We will continue to navigate these challenges as we have always done, with competence and confidence, as one diocese, one people and one church. 

I hold each one of your in my daily prayers.

In Christ,

Bishop signature

The Rt. Rev. Daniel G. P. Gutiérrez

XVI Bishop of The Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania