Last week Wednesday, August 5, Governor Roy Cooper announced that he is extending North Carolina Phase 2 until September 11. Following this announcement, on Monday, August 10, I joined other Bishops and Canons from across The Episcopal Church for our regular bi-monthly meetings. We were honored and blessed to hear directly from Dr. Anthony Fauci. His knowledge and expertise was greatly appreciated and very helpful for all of us as we continue to determine how we do ministry and worship.
I asked Dr. Fauci for his reflections on the protocols churches are implementing for outdoor worship. His response, which corresponded with what other bishops and public health experts have shared, was that larger, outdoor gatherings are only safe when masks are mandatory and household groups say at least six feet apart. If small outdoor events hinder physical distancing, then any gathering is harmful.
As such, during the extension of North Carolina's Phase 2, I am modifying our diocesan guidelines for Season 2 with the following:
1. No indoor, in-person worship will be allowed during Phase 2. Clergy may continue to offer virtual worship from the sanctuary of their church with the understanding that no more than 10 people may assist in the liturgy.
2. Outdoor, in-person worship or other church events will continue to be allowed and I am increasing the capacity to no more than 50 persons. This is allowed only under these conditions: all people must wear masks and individuals and family groups are adequately spaced apart at least 6 feet or more. If your space does not adequately allow for 6 feet of physical distancing for every individual or household group, then you can only allow the number of people your space will safely accommodate.
3. Face coverings must be worn in public settings, especially where people can not be six feet or more apart.
Please know I am grateful for each one of you and your ministry. You remain in my prayers.