From Bishop Wright
Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we begin the season of Pentecost I write to make an announcement regarding our common life.
When the CDC released its most recent Covid guidelines, we responded with revisions to our Diocesan protocols offering choir singing, the distribution of Communion in familiar ways and opportunities for the fully vaccinated to worship without masks. At that time I told you those revisions were only an initial response.
After continued consideration and consultation, I write to announce that all Diocesan Covid protocols are strongly advised but are no longer mandatory. Going forward each congregation’s clergy, lay leaders and Covid task forces are, at minimum, to comply directly with the CDC’s Covid guidelines that include, for those who are not fully vaccinated, masking indoors for any gathering and masking outdoors for large gatherings.
With the exception of offering the Common cup, which is still prohibited, clergy and lay leaders will now have full authority to conduct worship, formation events, and meetings in compliance with the CDC’s protocols. For some this will be welcome news and for others this will provoke anxiety. But in my judgement, after fourteen months we have reached the point of making this important shift.
Still, while the data from the CDC are an important part of our decision-making equation, it isn’t the last word for the Body of Christ. The CDC guidelines for us, the followers of Jesus, represent a floor height for our understandings and undertakings not the ceiling height! For us there are theological principles and a moral imperative that guide how we live with and for one another. In short, our calling is to “…esteem one another higher than ourselves” and to “…respect the dignity of every human being.” Phil. 2:3-5, BCP pgs. 304-305
As your Bishop and Chief Pastor, I continue to implore you to err on the side of caution and community over the individual freedoms of a few. I urge you to mount congregational vaccination campaigns among your members to be vaccinated as soon as possible. I invite you to pace the embrace of this new shift at a rate that is best for your specific community. And, I reassure you that you are not alone as you take up this work. Your colleagues as well as my staff and I remain beside you as resources and partners.
Our journey together for more than a year has been a difficult one. We have lost loved ones. There has been isolation, fear, disorientation, even anger. But there has also been interdependence, faith, generosity and innovation. This Covid fire has scorched us, but it has also refined us.
An immense debt of gratitude is owed to our Diocesan Covid Task Force: Dr. Jodie Guest, Mr. Mike McAuliffe, the Rev. Caroline McGee and Canon Alicia Schuster-Weltner. I ask that you join me in thanking God for each of them and their willingness to stand at the very complicated intersection of science and faith in support of our well being. They will continue to be a council of advice for me in the days ahead.
Finally, both professional and recreational athletes understand the phrase “a second wind.” It refers to a person’s ability to breathe freely after having been out of breath. It refers to new strength and energy to continue something that is an exertion. My hope and prayer is that with this announcement we will experience our second wind individually and collectively in the service of Christ and our neighbors.
I sincerely thank you for your prayers and partnership, especially these last fourteen months. Know that you remain in my prayers.
Phase 4 Regathering Protocols
As of May 24, 2021, the COVID-19 Task Force established the Phase 4 regathering protocols. The documents and details around those protocols are being used by clergy and lay leadership across the Diocese.