Updated Guidelines (5/17/21)

Monday, May 17th, 2021

Logo for the Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania

Dear family in Christ,

Last week we released updated guidelines, and within a few days, the CDC issued new guidance allowing fully vaccinated individuals to go without masks in most indoor settings. As a result, we have revised our protocols concerning the gathering and the expansion of services.

Beginning 6/6 for churches outside Philadelphia and 6/13 for churches inside Philadelphia, our churches may do the following:

  • Expand to their total occupancy capacity.
  • All parishioners may sing both indoors and outside and choirs may expand to their full membership. It is my pastoral guidance that all choir members be vaccinated, if at all possible. If all members are vaccinated, choir rehearsals may also expand.
  • As discussed in our last update, coffee hours and fellowship, may resume. It is my pastoral advice to avoid potlucks and communal serving dishes. Individual containers and servings continue to be the safest method.

In the meantime, all of our previously published protocols remain in effect. In addition, I wish to emphasize that:

  • The Eucharist should continue to be offered in one kind only until further notice. For the safety and comfort of all, the priest should remain masked when administering the host, even if they are fully vaccinated.
  • Per CDC guidelines, activities for children and youth should continue to operate under our previously published guidance which include masks and distancing for all participants.

While there is great excitement in the expansion of our options, it is vitally important that each church proceed cautiously as you discern when and how to lift restrictions. We must remember that while most adults have had the opportunity to be vaccinated, children under 12 are still not yet eligible and youth 12-16 have only recently become so. There are also those who cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons. I also ask that you hold deep pastoral sensitivity for those who may be cautious during this time.

Therefore, I strongly encourage that masks should continue to be worn by everyone and distancing maintained in settings when the vaccination status of any participant is unknown or may be difficult or pastorally insensitive to ascertain. Please, also continue to make hand sanitizer available. I also encourage you to continue to make use of your outdoor options.

As you discern your plans you may wish to consult our recently developed theological guide. In addition, the diocesan Health Committee is developing a guide to assist churches in discerning how best to adjust their activities and safety measures based on their own particular circumstances such as size of building, availably of outdoor space, demographic profile, etc. This document will be released in the next few weeks.

If you need further assistance, please contact Canon Shawn Wamsley, swamsley@diopa.org, or Canon Kirk Berlenbach, kberlenbach@diopa.org.

I also encourage you to please, continue to livestream services even when you are back in-person. This lifts up the Church and remains a good way to reach people with the Good News. Any church wishing to upgrade their technology or improve internet connectivity in their worship space can apply for a technology grant. For those who need training or advice, you can also request help from our Digital Disciples.

We also continue to expand our diocesan vaccination clinics in partnership with health providers. For the latest, contact Canon Toneh Smyth, tsmyth@diopa.org. Additionally, churches that may need to apply for emergency assistance because of the pandemic can contact Canon Doug Horner, dhorner@diopa.org.

You have displayed great care for one another, and I urge you to continue. If a parish discerns that they are unable or choose not to resume, you have my full support.

Over these past 14 months, we were challenged as a church and a people greater than any time over the past 100 years. We responded and grew stronger in faith and courage. You deepened the community bonds, you continued outreach to the neediest, and your resilience and strength are inspiring. Now let us step forth into the world with the determination to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ, support our churches and one another, and address the pain, poverty, and suffering of the world. I am blessed to journey and serve you as Bishop.


God bless you and our beloved diocese.

Bishop signature

The Rt. Rev. Daniel G. P. Gutiérrez

XVI Bishop of The Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania