COVID Guidance Update (5/20/21)
Beloved in Christ,
As of May 13, 2021, the CDC released new guidance regarding masks for fully vaccinated people, those for whom at least two weeks have passed since their final dose. In response to the new guidance, Rectors, Priests in Charge, and Heads of Congregation, have received new guidance from Bishop C. Andrew Doyle, our Bishop Diocesan in the Diocese of Texas. The following changes for our manner of worship incorporate the guidance provided for mixed groups of fully vaccinated and non-vaccinated people, bearing in mind our extremely low vaccination rate to date within Anderson County (https://covid.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker/#vaccinations) and our steady status as either “High” or “Substantial” level of community transmission (https://covid.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker/#county-view). Should we find ourselves in times of sustained “Low” or “Moderate” level of community transmission and increasing rates of vaccination, guidance may be further relaxed.
Bishop Doyle’s recent COVID-19 communication states: “All unvaccinated people over the age of 2 are still expected to always wear masks indoors.” The communication also states that, “if a congregation is going to allow vaccinated persons to not wear masks, some provision must be made for unvaccinated and immunocompromised people.” A few provisions are suggested, such as, a special seating area allowing for social distancing for unvaccinated persons or separate services for vaccinated and unvaccinated. At this point, for our community at St. Philip’s, neither of these suggestions seems appropriate or equitable.
The following guidelines, approved by our COVID guidance committee, seek to provide us with a helpful way forward that is both appropriate and equitable, without the need to add additional barriers of any kind between vaccinated and unvaccinated people, and are faithful to the new CDC guidance and guidance from Bishop Doyle for our congregations.
Fully vaccinated people are not required to wear masks and may choose to remove their masks. Vaccination status will not be verified.
Masks must continue to be worn the entire time for unvaccinated people over 2 years of age while indoors, according to diocesan guidance.
Socially-distanced seating will remain in place to meet the required diocesan provision for unvaccinated and immunocompromised people, without requiring the creation of a separate seating section.
The Peace may continue to be offered to one another at a distance from socially-distanced seating areas.
Communion will remain in one kind, the host, for the people until community spread has diminished significantly.
If you have not yet received a vaccine, please consider doing this at your earliest convenience. For more information visit www.vaccines.gov. Please contact the church office by calling (903) 729-4214 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org if you need assistance locating or scheduling a vaccination.
I greatly appreciate your grace and patience as we steadily make our way together through the final stages of this historic pandemic. I have seen Jesus at work in Palestine through you and your efforts to keep your neighbors safe, loving them as yourself, just as you continue loving God with all of your being. I am here to help you, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me with any questions or concerns.
Faithfully yours in Christ,
Fr. Justin Briggle