Dear friends in Christ,
I write in response to yesterday’s good news from the Center for Disease Control (CDC).
Now, fully vaccinated persons without a mask may “attend a full capacity indoor worship service, sing in an indoor chorus and attend small outdoor gatherings with fully vaccinated and unvaccinated people.”
These new liberties however are not extended to the unvaccinated or the partially vaccinated. They are “less safe” and “least safe” in a gathering of people from multiple households or in a full capacity indoor worship service. For those who have yet to be fully vaccinated, the CDC continues to urge the wearing of masks and use of social distancing both indoors and outdoors.
Therefore, while the CDC’s new guidelines are welcome news for us as individuals, they represent continued complications for us a community of faith made up of vaccinated, partially vaccinated and unvaccinated persons, as well as overwhelmingly unvaccinated young people and those of all ages who are immunocompromised. Please also bear in mind that presently, the percentage of Georgia residents that are fully vaccinated is 28%, and those having received one dose is 37%.
“The Episcopal Church Welcomes You”, is what the sign outside most of our churches reads which means practically, our clergy, vestries, and Covid Task Forces, in each context will have to decide how best to honor both the freedom of some and the welcome of all, equally. In our enthusiasm, my hope is that we will not inadvertently shame people or develop two tiers of membership in Christ’s church. In the words of the Apostle Paul, “ Be careful not to let your freedom become a stumbling block to others….” 1 Cor. 8:9
As only an initial response to the new CDC guidelines and in an effort to continue to support your work in creating safe and equitable opportunities for gathering, I offer the following list of revisions to existing Diocesan protocols that may be implemented as soon as is best for your worshipping community:
– In the event a congregation or specific worship service is only attended by fully vaccinated persons, singing is permitted and no masks are necessary.
– In worship services where the vaccination status of participants is unknown, masks remain required.
– Pre-Covid worship practices may resume, e.g. Processions and the distribution of Communion in one kind at the altar rail without tongs, etc.
– Fully vaccinated clergy, lay worship leaders and lectors may go without a mask while actively leading worship except when distributing Communion.
– Fully vaccinated choirs may rehearse and sing indoors and outdoors without a mask.
– Congregational singing may resume outdoors with masks.
– Generally, masks should continue to be worn by all in settings when vaccination status of participants is unknown.
This list, of course, is not exhaustive. In the days ahead I will be in conversation with our Diocesan Covid Task Force in support of the safe and equitable advancement of the work and privileges Christ has entrusted to us.
With every blessing,
Phase 3C Gathering and Worship Protocols
As of May 14, 2021, the COVID-19 Task Force established the Phase 3C gathering and worship protocols. The documents and details around those protocols (located on the Regathering Resources webpage) are being used by clergy and lay leadership across the Diocese.