Beloved in Christ,

The recent updates on COVID restrictions from both the governor and the CDC have made it clear that the coming months will bring still more complexity and uncertainty as we live through the later stages of the pandemic. Organizations of every kind are scrambling to figure out how to best guide their communities, and the online noise is growing as people react and opine on what they think everyone ought to do. 

The building use task force and I are working to publish updated guidelines for ECMN next week. Two things are important to know:

First, despite the absence of a state mandate, it seems important that we all continue to mask at any church event to continue to protect unvaccinated members of our communities, including children who are not yet eligible to be vaccinated. This recommendation particularly applies to any indoor gathering.

Second, the task force and I will be intentionally shifting away from publishing rules everyone must follow toward guidelines and best practices that help local leaders make the best decisions for their communities. Our contexts, membership and community demographics, buildings, congregational size, etc., are so vastly different. As all those variables intersect with vaccination rates and variation in local mandates and regulations, a one-size-fits-all approach is no longer sustainable, helpful, or even possible. 

The task force will continue to function as thought partners to help faith leaders navigate this complexity. In the coming weeks and months, there will be a steady stream of questions about congregational and choral singing, coffee hours and receptions, and many other topics. No one inside or outside ECMN has perfect solutions to any of those questions at this point, and the whole world will need to learn in real time, together, things that we simply do not yet know. The task force will regularly review and put forward the best thinking and guidance on everything related to congregational life as we all learn together.

As you lead, we know you will continue to ground your decisions in the way of Jesus, guided by questions of what love looks like, what it means to be fully inclusive, and what it means to seek good for the other, particularly those who are marginalized in any way. The answers to those questions will look different in different places, but those are key questions that should guide us.

Finally, the best way to serve your community is to get vaccinated. Increasing the number of vaccinated people is a critical tool for moving fully out of the pandemic, and part of how we love God's children is by doing so. 

Blessings to you all as we move into this new phase together. 

Grace and Peace, 
The Right Reverend Craig Loya
X Bishop
Episcopal Church in Minnesota