Following consideration by the diocesan Covid Task Force of the increased rates of infection along with a variety of other factors, Bishop Matt has determined a strengthening of pandemic related limitations for congregations. These changes go into effect on September 29, 2020, will be temporary, with details published in a revised Back to the Buildings policy document.
The significant change is in returning to the limit of 4 persons being physically present in congregations who offer in-person worship. Such in-person is limited to Sunday services only. "Returning to 4 participants at Sunday worship is intended to make the safest environment for our members while continuing to offer the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist," Bishop Matt noted. "As our Prayer Book notes, the Holy Eucharist is the principal act of Christian worship on the Lord’s Day, and this small assembly is able to represent the whole congregation at the Altar."
Not all congregations may offer in-person worship and that is perfectly acceptable. In-person participation is strictly voluntary and no one, including our clergy, should feel, or be made to feel, obliged to be physically present. A number of diocesan congregations livestream their in-person services so praying with them is encouraged. Those who do offer in-person services are encouraged to integrate additional participants virtually, as able.
Another change is that all other in-person church activities are suspended. The church office may remain open as long as the guidelines in the policy document are followed.
An addition to the policy is being made. Permission is now given to Reserve the Blessed Sacrament in the form of consecrated bread. This allows clergy to be able share communion when it is pastorally appropriate, such as at the time of death.
Bishop Matt offers these words of encouragement to the diocese: "As we continue to grapple with the realities of the Covid-19 pandemic, let us not become discouraged. Let us acknowledge whatever anxiety, frustration of loss we are experiencing. We can offer all of that at the feet of Jesus asking for his healing and peace. We know that he is with us. Trusting him and encouraging one another we can continue to make our way together through this season of challenge. By the Holy Spirit, Jesus is with us. Jesus is with you. The way before us is not straightforward or altogether clear. But Jesus goes before us to prepare a way. If we keep our eyes on him, he will see us through."