My dear Siblings in Christ Jesus,
I have had several restless nights recently. The climb in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations – especially on Oʻahu and, to a lesser degree, on Maui – have me worried. I listened to the Mayor of Honolulu and health officials yesterday. I have read and reread the Orders from the Counties.
How can we best care for God’s people and witness to the community in this time of pandemic? I think we are at a point that the churches in the different Counties need to respond in different ways.
- Churches in Honolulu County should refrain from any gatherings, including public in-person worship on Sundays or at any other times (including at funerals and weddings), with more than ten people (in total) present (including the clergy). When ten people are present, they must wear masks and practice social distancing (this includes the clergy). Congregations may prudently decide to opt for all virtual online worship. In any event, congregations are strongly encouraged to offer virtual worship online. Churches may offer drive-in worship with the required safeguards and are not limited to ten people.
- Churches in Maui County need to be particularly diligent. Worship outdoors is preferred. Churches may decide to limit attendance at worship to ten people. No other non-worship gatherings should have more than ten people in-person at this time. Again, it is hoped congregations will continue to offer virtual worship online when possible, whether or not the congregation decides to meet in person. Maui congregations need to be prepared to respond should cases continue to increase.
- Churches in Kauaʻi and Hawaiʻi Counties can continue as they have in the immediate past. There too, everyone must be diligent and aware.
As Episcopalians, I hope we can witness to the community a responsible response to the pandemic. I know that this is a burden for some members of our congregations. The Customary in the time of Pandemic (Updated 14 July 2020)
offered guidance as best possible when the community spread was being held in abeyance. On Oʻahu, the general community has not done a good job of following the basic guidelines provided by the health experts. As the Episcopal Church, we must respond. How long will this last? I am not sure, but I assume at least until the end of August (if more drastic measures are not needed). Episcopalians on other Islands must be diligent and witness to others responsible behavior. I will keep the Diocese informed.
Please know that you are in my prayers. Please remember me in yours.
Keep us, good Lord, under the shadow of your mercy in this time of uncertainty and distress. Sustain and support the anxious and fearful, and lift up all who are brought low; that we may rejoice in your comfort knowing that nothing can separate us from your love in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.