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Bishop issues updated Covid guidelines, with support for local decisions

On May 20 Bishop Cathleen Bascom issued updated Covid-related guidelines for parishes across the diocese. Unlike previous guidance, which was uniform across the 44 churches of the diocese, these new guidelines offer just four requirements, while empowering local discretion in relaxing other previous Covid-related safety restrictions, based on local contexts.

The bishop said that this relaxation in diocesan mandates can take place thanks to vaccinations, which have resulted in falling virus rates across the diocese. She gave a special thanks to all those who have been vaccinated while noting that children younger than 12 are not yet eligible to be vaccinated.

The four requirements going forward are:

  • In line with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, fully vaccinated people may remove their masks inside.
  • As you are able, allow space for socially distanced seating for those who choose.
  • Communion may be distributed in the form of consecrated bread only; for now, the common cup (drinking and intinction) remains prohibited. We will continue to watch for new developments about the safety of the common cup.
  • Registration, sign-ups or attendance records must continue to be used and records kept for one month.

Bishop Bascom said she trusts the clergy and lay leaders of each parish to use these guidelines to make specific decisions for their church in the conduct of worship and other activities, while also being mindful of the canons and guidance from local health officials.

She did ask that special effort be made to care for children, who remain vulnerable to the virus, and to their families, and she encouraged conversations between parish leadership and parents so that everyone feels safe and welcome.

The weekly online diocesan spreadsheet of Covid-related statistics, which has been kept county-by-county since November, will continue to be updated by diocesan staff, but parish leaders no longer need to consult it each week. If virus levels were to return to less-safe levels in any county, the canon to the ordinary will make church leaders in that area aware of that fact.

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