COVID-19 Surge: New Guidance Effective Immediately
“We are unfortunately seeing a rise in the number of COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations, and deaths,” I wrote to you, as your Bishop, just weeks ago. Since then, that trend has accelerated. Virginia’s overall positivity rate has now surpassed 10%, multiple counties in our Diocese exceed that rate with some approaching 20%, and the upswing, according to health professionals, will surge in the coming weeks.
Accordingly, effective immediately all indoor church activities including worship are suspended in the Diocese of Southern Virginia until further notice. This suspension applies to every congregation in the Diocese. The Health Advisory Panel will continue to monitor developments to determine when the surge subsides sufficiently to enable indoor, in-person activity and worship to resume. Until then, all virtual activities including virtual worship and virtual formation activities are expected to continue for the spiritual health and well-being of all.
Meanwhile, although indoor worship is suspended, outdoor worship may continue, subject to the following protocols to safeguard the health of all: no more than 25 people present, service length limited to 30 minutes, 6-foot physical distancing maintained, masks worn by all, and singing not permitted.
Outreach in care of the needy may continue provided all distribution of food or other essentials takes place outdoors, masks are worn, and physical distance is maintained.
Day schools should follow the practices and protocols of the public school district in their particular locality.
These are difficult times. Our Advent yearning evokes our need for a Savior, for our Emmanuel to come, for God to be with us. And God is. Joining our hearts and voices in the words of the ancient plainsong hymn, let us offer the earnest prayer that transcends the ages:
Creator of the stars of night, your people’s everlasting light,
O Christ, Redeemer of us all, we pray you hear us when we call.
In sorrow that the ancient curse should doom to death a universe,
You came, O Savior, to set free your own in glorious liberty.
Come in your holy might, we pray, redeem us for eternal day;
Defend us while we dwell below from all assaults of our dread foe.
To God the Father, God the Son, and God the Spirit, Three in One,
Praise, honor, might, and glory be from age to age eternally.