Tuesday, February 15th, 2022
I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his word I hope; my soul waits for the Lord more than those who watch for the morning, more than those who watch for the morning.
My siblings in Christ,
We have waited and watched in hope through the cold of January and the isolation of Omicron. Although spring is still some weeks away, Jesus Christ continues to renew our spirits and our hearts are lifted with the news of dropping numbers of cases and the lessening of restrictions.
In terms of what a church can or cannot do, we continue to empower each church’s leadership to decide what is right for their own people and context. As before, they should bear in mind a variety of factors such as the percentage of vaccination, positivity rates in their community, size and configuration of their space, capacity for ventilation, and their people’s comfort level. Ultimately, I trust the clergy and vestries to determine what is right for the situation.
As your church considers its options, it is important to consider the feelings and needs of all involved, especially those who may be anxious due to medical vulnerability or because they live with young children or other family who are not yet or cannot be vaccinated.
To assist you in your preparations and planning, we offer the following guidance:
Although PCR tests are now more available, we continue to have a small number that can be made available to clergy (or the primary lay worship leader of a church without regular clergy) and essential outreach workers if they have in close contact with someone who tested positive or have symptoms of COVID. Please contact The Rev. Canon Toneh Smyth at email@example.com to see if any tests are currently available.
My previous pastoral directive for the clergy regarding in-person leadership should they test positive remains in effect.
Beyond this, churches should continue to make use of the tools available: masking, distancing, increasing ventilation and minimizing the length of time together indoors continue to be the main tools we have to reduce risk. You may also wish to review past protocols and guidance for tools and suggested best practices.
Even as people come back to church in person, I encourage you to continue offer options for virtual participation. If you need help in upgrading your technology or improving internet connectivity for your worship space I encourage you to apply for a technology grant. If you need training or advice, you can also request help from our Digital Disciples.
As always, if you have questions about our protocols please contact Canon Shawn Wamsley (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Canon Kirk Berlenbach (email@example.com).
We have watched and we have waited. The light of Christ is dawning, filling our hearts and our churches with his love. As we prepare to enter the holy season of Lent, let us take advantage of this opportunity to reflect on our lives and how we might draw closer to God and in turn help others to know the name and saving power of Jesus Christ.
The Rt. Reverend Daniel G. P. Gutiérrez
XVI Bishop of The Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania