Emerging from Omicron (2/15/22)

Tuesday, February 15th, 2022

Logo for the Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania

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.

Psalm 130:5-6


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:

  • Churches in Philadelphia should continue to comply with the City’s mask mandate until such time as it is lifted. Please note that the city recently changed its vaccine requirements for in-house dining.
  • Getting vaccinated and boosted continues to offer the best protection against the virus, particularly in terms of hospitalization and death.
  • While the numbers have declined, properly worn high quality masks such as N95’s, KN95’s and KF94’s continue to offer high levels of protection for both the wearer and those around them.  They are particularly important indoors when the vaccination status of any participant is unknown or may be difficult or pastorally insensitive to ascertain.
  • Bearing in mind that eating and drinking creates a heightened risk, churches may offer food and beverages at fellowship.  This includes meals such as Shrove Tuesday suppers.  If a church offers food, they should take steps to minimize risks by spacing tables out and/or having only those who are of the same household/family sit together. 
  • Churches may resume holding meetings in-person.  However, they should continue to consider virtual options and make accommodation for those who feel unsafe to attend virtually. 
  • Diocesan meetings are now returning to in-person as well.  And, the staff of the Offices of the Diocese have fully returned to working at Diocesan House. 

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 tsmyth@diopa.org 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 (swamsley@diopa.org) or Canon Kirk Berlenbach (kberlenbach@diopa.org).

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.

Bishop Signature Updated 2021

The Rt. Reverend Daniel G. P. Gutiérrez

XVI Bishop of The Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania