Monday, May 24, 2021
"But God has so arranged the body, giving the greater honor to the inferior member, that there may be no dissension within the body, but the members have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it.” - I Corinthians 12:24b-26
Dear Siblings in Christ,
From the very beginning of this pandemic, my goal was that we, the Episcopal Church in Colorado, would reflect our love of God by loving our neighbor. From conversations with you, I know that clergy and lay leaders across our Diocese have lived our baptismal values, and I thank you for your sacrifice and dedication. As with the beginning of the pandemic, our current circumstances are changing quickly, and I continue working with my staff to provide accurate and timely information, so that parish leaders can make loving decisions for the well-being of their people in each unique context. It is my prayer that as things begin to open, congregations continue to make decisions based on loving our neighbor as ourselves and that we will always consider the needs of the most vulnerable not only in our congregation but also in our surrounding communities.
While the CDC’s new guidelines are welcome news for us as individuals, they complicate our common life as the Body of Christ. Most congregations are made up of vaccinated, partially vaccinated, and unvaccinated persons. As we consider how we will regather, we must hold in mind all of the young people and those with medical conditions that prevent them from being vaccinated.
Each congregation will have to make difficult decisions rooted in the needs of each community. There is no “one size fits all solution for us. The events of the last year were traumatic, and each of us is processing what recovery looks like in our own way, at our own pace. While I do not ask that we all be like-minded, I do ask we stay like-hearted: fixing our hearts on Jesus. I pray we all err on the side of compassion for those who are still vulnerable to this disease.
The Apostle Paul reminds us that our individual freedom and desires should never be a stumbling block for others. Those of us who are fully vaccinated (2 weeks after their final shot) must continue caring for those who have not yet been vaccinated.
In consultation with Episcopal Relief & Development and Canon Carl Andrews, I recommend the following guidelines for your consideration as we live into this new season.
General Practice for Worship
- Fully vaccinated clergy, lay worship leaders, and lectors may go without a mask while actively leading worship except when distributing Communion.
- Continue to observe social distancing in the context of worship.
- Continue to offer robust virtual options for people who are not ready to worship in-person.
- Processions and offertory collections may resume.
- Masked communion distribution can resume without the sharing of the common cup; avoiding large groups gathered in close proximity at the altar rail.
- If the entire choir or a vocal soloist is fully vaccinated (at least two weeks after the final dose of vaccine), the singers may sing inside or outside without a mask, with at least a 10-foot radius from the congregation. Masks should be worn while not singing.
For those worshiping outdoors
- Masks are optional for vaccinated people, but continued use is encouraged.
- Social distancing is advised, especially with congregational singing.
For those worshiping indoors
- Fully vaccinated worship leaders may remove masks when speaking, singing, or chanting.
- Masks to be worn when the vaccination status of participants is unknown or if the congregation is intergenerational.
- Give pastoral considerations for clergy, musicians, and worship leaders with members of their household who are not yet vaccinated.
- Anyone working with children or youth must be masked, regardless of vaccination status.
- Youth groups are encouraged to meet outdoors, whenever possible.
- Utilizing outdoor spaces for Christian formation for children and youth is encouraged.
Smaller group activities
- Meetings should take place outside, whenever possible.
- Food is best served individually packaged, or by welcoming people to bring their own food, cups, and utensils.
- If the entire group is fully vaccinated and the group agrees, then masks are optional.
- Maintaining social distancing is strongly recommended.
Larger group activities and social functions
- Coffee hour may resume outdoors without masks if everyone is fully vaccinated.
- Congregations with children are asked to find other ways to gather socially that include wearing masks so that children can participate.
- Individually packaged food items are strongly encouraged.
- Avoid communally shared food potlucks and food on trays where many people touch and breathe on the same food and/or utensils.
- Food distribution in individual packages.
- Distribution of goods is best done outside, whenever possible.
- All participants are encouraged to be masked and observe social distancing.
- Open all windows and doors available to you while meeting or worshiping inside. Cross ventilation is strongly encouraged. This helps lower the viral concentration.
- Open HVAC/Mechanical to Allow for More Outdoor Air – If you have an HVAC system in your worship space, talk with a technician about the possibility of opening the system to allow for the flow of fresh air.
- Groups meeting indoors must wear masks and social distance, regardless of vaccination status.
- Groups meeting outdoors must maintain social distance and fully vaccinated people are not required to wear masks.
These guidelines are extensive but not exhaustive. They are designed so that they can be adapted to each of our unique ministry contexts. Please know that Canon Carl Andrews continues to be available as a conversation partner and to provide assistance in assessing the needs of your particular context.