February 25, 2022
Dear Beloved in Christ,
On February 17, 2022 Governor Cooper officially encouraged local school boards and governments to lift indoor mask mandates. Mr. Cooper's decision was based on the improving Covid-19 metrics. Today, 71% of the adult population is fully vaccinated with two doses and the daily percent positive test rate in North Carolina is now 7.9%, and continues to decline.
With these observations in mind, I am now lifting the mask requirement for all church gatherings beginning Tuesday, March 1, 2022 while also offering the following
With regard to face masks, individuals and congregations should adopt the following framework in planning for public worship:
  • All may wear a face mask. Each of us will have a different comfort level about being with others in public. Those gathering for public worship should feel welcome to wear a face mask if they prefer to do so. Some may choose to wear a face mask when they cannot maintain physical distance from others.
  • Some should wear a face mask. The CDC recommends that those who have not yet been vaccinated should wear a face mask when they are in close quarters with others. This would apply to children who are too young to be vaccinated, those who cannot be vaccinated, and those who have not chosen to be vaccinated.
  • All involved in ministries with children younger than 5 who are not eligible to be vaccinated, should continue to wear a mask.
  • Every clergy person in charge of a church and Vestry is strongly encouraged to remain vigilant and aware of the Covid-19 metrics in their local contexts, as this will continue to provide additional helpful information as leadership bodies discern what is best for their church community.
  • I encourage each parish leadership team to continue to assess and assure that your church spaces are adequately ventilated.
  • I will talk directly with church leaders prior to my visitations to gauge where each community is in relation to the virus in their context and plan accordingly.
  • Congregations may establish and implement a more restrictive plan with regards to building capacities, physical distancing and face masks, but must do their best to accommodate all people, those vaccinated and those not.
  • At this time, during celebrations of Holy Eucharist, the Common Cup is still not allowed. However, I am actively exploring the possibility that the common cup will be resumed in the near future.
Please know that I remain supportive of our Clergy and Vestries as they continue to develop and implement plans for worship, fellowship and formation in their own congregation. As you can imagine, each parish setting is different because the transmission rate is different in each community. I trust each leadership team to do what is best for their church.
Finally, know that we will continue to monitor the situation and as always, please reach out to me with any questions that I can address for you and your leadership.
I remain grateful for each of you and the ways you continue to serve God’s people in Western North Carolina.
The Rt. Rev. José A. McLoughlin
The Episcopal Diocese of Western North Carolina
900B CentrePark Drive
Asheville, NC 28805