Friday, May 29, 2020

Wait upon the Lord

But those who wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength
Isaiah 40:31

(The plan and all related announcements can be viewed here. )

But those who wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength
Isaiah 40:31

Resuming In-Person Worship and Activity

Dear siblings in Christ,

Last week the Governor announced that he anticipates the five counties of our diocese will move into Phase II (Yellow) on June 5. While we have always used the Governor’s timeline as a basis for our own plans, we also have to take into account what is best for our churches and people. We also must trust in the Lord, for the Holy One is working in our midst.

Until now we have used June 14 as place holder for the possible resumption of in-person worship and activity. We have also noted that this date could change. After listening to the clergy and after consultation with the Standing Committee, I am now revising this date. The earliest that in-person worship or other church activity may resume is June 21. All Phase I protocols and restrictions will remain in effect until that time. 

However, once our region enters Phase II (presumably on June 5) non-church groups using church space, such as 12 Step meetings, may be allowed to return provided they can demonstrate to church leadership that they can abide by all cleaning and health protocols. Before agreeing, parish leadership should carefully consider how the activity may impact their own plans, staff and resources.

While this is later than allowed by the Governor’s order, we have always placed Jesus’ command to love our neighbor as ourselves and his consistent emphasis on caring for the poor and vulnerable among us at the foremost in our decision making. We are postponing to give our churches more time to deliberate and to prepare. Each church must decide what is best within its own unique context. Therefore, as I have stated before, no church is expected to resume in-person activity until they feel both called and prepared to do so. I fully support any church that prayerfully chooses not to resume. 

We cannot think of our churches as businesses or allow our thinking to be driven by politics. Our churches are not simply buildings that house our gatherings.  Neither are they social clubs. They are holy sanctuaries and we are acting to ensure they are treated accordingly. Before we can resume worship, it is our sacred duty to pray, deliberate and, if we plan to resume in-person worship, to do everything in our power to mitigate and reduce the risk to our parishioners. This process cannot be rushed. 

Therefore, I am also extending the date for submission of parish plans to June 12. This gives your vestries and clergy extra time to prepare, gives us extra time to review them with you, and helps ensure that all plans follow the protocols established in The Plan and Addendum . As you prepare them, please follow the Checklist 

We are also now beginning our planning for what life may look like in Phase III (Green). We do not know when this will happen; and we do not yet have many specifics on how many people can gather or what other restrictions will be lifted. But we are working on it, and will get you details as soon as possible so that you have the maximum amount of time possible to prepare. However, even when the Governor moves our region to Phase III, our diocese will not move to loosen Phase II restrictions until I am convinced it is reasonable and prudent to do so.

As you move forward in planning what these next phases may look like at your church, I would also like to encourage vestries and church members to assure that their clergy are planning vacation time. By intentionally designing time for them to rest and recuperate you not only demonstrate your love, you also help ensure that they are better prepared to journey with you into the next phase.

As you consider the next steps for your own parish, don’t rush. Do not allow yourselves to be pressured. Take the time to pray, discern and plan. We have Jesus Christ. When we place him first and foremost, he will be a lamp that will guide our feet so that we might walk in the path of wisdom. 

I give thanks each day for your faithfulness and pray for you constantly. 
Bishop Daniel

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