Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Greetings in Christ. Thank you for your faithfulness and your patience in this season of both uncertainty and hope. There are considerable improvements in our situation: more vaccines, downward trends. Ahead early in the fourth quarter is not the time to let up! So we continue with the same protocols: allowing indoor worship safely (masked, distanced, without singing, what we call Step C), and encouraging outdoor worship, with singing, which will get easier as we move into the spring. Throughout the past year we have learned that worship which follows these protocols has been safe, and that each of our problems has resulted from not doing so.
1. Here is one place we are easing our previous protocol. As of 14 days after their final vaccine, clergy may distribute the communion bread directly to parishioners, both being masked. Masked, they may also baptize and anoint. (We are also informing clergy when we hear of vaccination opportunities open to them).
2. While I cannot predict the future, my best guess is that this summer we will come to the turning point at which everyone has access to a vaccine. Then I think many parishes may offer a more constrained and a more open option in worship. Parishes will have leeway to implement the guidelines, which will be worked out in consultation with our doctors.
3. We are at work on a re-emergence plan for the diocese, which we will be discussing with Executive Council and the Standing Committee in April, after which we will make it public. Financial shoring up for congregations in need will continue. We will have resources in evangelism as congregations rebuild, and invitations to the spiritual life in a time when many feel traumatized. We have in mind several partner-in-mission relationships between congregations for a year. We need again to offer a lean budget for 2022. We will have more ideas consistent with our congregation-oriented approach.
4. Keep praying for all of our congregations and people as we move, by God’s grace, into this new phase.