Diocesan pandemic guidelines in the Back to Buildings document are to be medically safe, theologically sound, and pastorally attentive. For most of the past year, these guidelines limited in-person worship attendance to 4 or 10 persons. With a continuing trend of fewer Covid cases, decreasing stress and our health systems, and a growing numbers of vaccinations, Bishop Matt Gunter has announced that starting the First Sunday in Lent, February 21, congregations may expand in-person attendance worship services to no more than 50 persons, or 25% of space capacity, whichever is fewer. Congregations may accommodate additional worshippers through additional services, provided safety protocols are followed for disinfection between services.
The Back to the Buildings guidelines notes the importance of continuing practices that reduce the risk of transmission, especially masking and social distancing. "While the future looks hopeful," Gunter shared recently with diocesan clergy, "we are not back to normal. For the care and safety of those who join in-person worship, we must continue to practice the other protocols outlined in the guidelines. Also remember not everybody feels safe returning to in-person worship. Encourage those who decide to not attend to join with virtual worship opportunities available throughout the diocese."
The Task Force will continue to monitor the situation based on measures of community safety. Each congregation is reminded to consider the risk factors of the local community as well as demographics and risk factors of its members in making its decision about in-person worship.
"We are not out of the woods, yet," Gunter shared. "Gathering to lift our hearts to God is what the Church does - so we adapt and grow. Hopefully, we will carry these lessons forward and someday worship may return to the familiar. Whatever the future brings, Jesus is with us, and prepares a way for us, even now."