Important Update From Bishop Owensby
On Monday, March 8, the CDC issued interim guidelines for those who are fully vaccinated. You are fully vaccinated two weeks after you have received your second Pfizer or Moderna shot or the J&J shot. The link to those guidelines can be found by clicking here.
As more is learned about the vaccine’s efficacy and as the conditions on the ground continue to shift, we can expect additional revisions to safety protocols. These new interim guidelines impact church attendance and personal life in different ways. In this email I will specifically outline church attendance guidelines in a moment.
But first, let’s acknowledge a temporary dilemma. The guidelines state that fully vaccinated people may gather without masks. Not everyone will be fully vaccinated. Church services are public events (leave aside that the guidelines tell us to avoid public gatherings).
Anyone may participate in our worship, including those who refuse to be vaccinated and those we have never met before. Accordingly, our Christian openness to all means that we cannot know who is and who is not fully vaccinated in our worship services. Some have suggested that those seeking to attend should be required to present vaccination documents. Such an approach is not consistent with Christ’s open arms to all comers. He welcomes us just as we are. I am grateful that he does this for me.
So, the following brief summary applies the new CDC guidelines based on two basic principles. We must assume a mix of vaccinated and unvaccinated people in our church services. Additionally, it is our Christian duty to protect the vulnerable in attendance. Remember, we wear masks and the like in order to protect our neighbor, especially our neighbor who is at risk of infection.
Church Attendance Guidelines:
1. Church services are public events. So, we will continue to wear masks, observe physical distancing, follow the established sanitation protocols, and practice communion in one kind.
2. Fully vaccinated clergy will no longer be required to quarantine after exposure to the virus unless they experience symptoms.
In our personal lives, being fully vaccinated frees us to do many things: gather with others who we know to be fully vaccinated, gather with members of a single household who are not vaccinated, and the like. This is great news and gives us much cause for optimism for a return to our pre-covid church attendance practices. As the metrics and the scientific data allow experts to issue new guidelines I will adjust ours accordingly.
Please get the vaccine as soon as possible and encourage friends and family to do the same. In the meantime, stay safe and be well.
The Rt. Rev. Jacob W. Owensby, PhD, DD
IV Bishop of Western Louisiana