To our Diocesan Family:
I want to provide an update on diocesan policies regarding in person worship given recent directives from the CDC. Our guidelines are based upon scientists’ recommendations as well as the fact that the church is one body in Christ. Some of our parishioners have decided not to receive the COVID-19 vaccination. My hope is that congregations will develop one set of guidelines which apply to everyone instead of different directives depending upon whether people have been vaccinated.
First, we will continue in person worship with masks, social distancing, and communion in one kind (hosts/bread but no wine). Prayer books, hymnals and other printed materials can be returned to the pews.
Second, churches can provide nursery services and children’s chapel. If congregations want to reinstitute the nursery for children under two years of age, we ask that you send a copy of your nursery protocols to Canon Sharon Alexander.
Third, indoor congregational singing is permissible if everyone wears a mask, including soloists. Please limit the music to hymns only, with no more than three hymns during one service. No more than three verses of any hymn may be sung.
Fourth, indoor meals where tables are separated by at least 6 feet are safe if family units or COVID units remain together. On the other hand, please gather outside if people want to mingle in close proximity while they drink coffee.
Fifth, for the time, being please continue the practice of having people wear masks for indoor classes and gatherings.
I will issue a customary regarding protocols during my visitations. I am in the unusual position of being at a different church each Sunday, so I am exposed to a large number of people. Some of the protocols in the customary will be different from the guidelines set forth above. For example, when I visit only the recessional hymn can be sung by the entire congregation during visitations instead of three hymns. Since Canon Alexander and I both visit multiple congregations, the customary will also apply to her. We appreciate your consideration of our need to be especially cautious as we travel throughout the diocese.
In the Easter season when we celebrate the risen Christ, we have much to be thankful for including how our congregations have navigated this challenging crisis. The number of vaccinated persons in West Tennessee is very promising. However, the increase in COVID transmissions in Shelby County and surrounding areas over the past month necessitates continued vigilance until we are on the other side of the pandemic.
Bishop Phoebe Roaf