August 7, 2021
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ:
I had hoped we were through the worst of the pandemic. Even if we weren’t back to normal, we had gotten back to something more familiar and comfortable, and had begun talking about what might be next for St. Philip’s.
The following recommendations and recent changes in our local situation, however, prompted the Vestry and me to meet to reconsider our current COVID-19 protocols:
- Bishop Reed’s Pastoral Letter dated July 28, 2021. If you have not already done so please read it. While Bishop Reed did not change the current diocesan guidelines he encouraged all congregational leaders to review and adapt local protocols as needed.
- On July 27, 2021, the CDC recommended
- Fully vaccinated people wear a mask in public indoor settings in areas of substantial or high transmission. Uvalde County is a high transmission county. The World Health Organization also recommends fully vaccinated people wear a mask.
- Universal indoor masking for all teachers, staff, students, and visitors to schools, regardless of vaccination status. This is also a recommendation of the American Academy of Pediatrics.
- The situation in Uvalde County is worsening. The positivity rate has been over 20% for at least a couple of weeks. New cases and hospitalizations are increasing. We currently have more than 200 active cases.
- Local physicians have recommended masks and distancing.
In light of our current situation and the above recommendations the Vestry and I are updating the St. Philip’s COVID-19 Guidelines as follows:
- Please wear a mask. Everyone over the age of two, regardless of vaccination status, is strongly encouraged and requested to wear a mask while in the church, school, or offices.
- Please maintain physical distance. Everyone, regardless of vaccination status, is strongly encouraged and requested to maintain six feet physical distance while in the church, school, or offices.
- Seating in the church will be limited to every other pew.
- Ushers will assist the congregation in maintaining physical distance during communion.
The new guidelines will take effect on Sunday, August 8, 2021, and apply to all liturgical and non-liturgical activities of St. Philip’s whether on or off the church premises.
As we all are, I am sorry the situation has changed and that it’s become necessary to update our health and safety guidelines. We’re all tired and disappointed, and some will be angry about the updated guidelines. I understand. I don’t claim to have the best or the right answer about what to do. But I do feel that I have a significant responsibility to each of you. As I’ve said before, however, my default will be to put you and your health and safety first, and if I err I hope, for your sake and the sake of our children, I err on the side of being too cautious.
While we all have individual opinions and beliefs about our own freedom, rights, and what we should or can do, as Christians, followers of Jesus, we listen for and follow an authority higher than ourselves. Isn’t that why, every Sunday, we pray, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done?”
That higher authority asks us to deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Jesus (Matthew 16:24), to love our neighbor as ourselves (Mark 12:31), to do “for the least of these” ( Matthew 25:40), and “to lay down our lives for one another” (1 John 3:16).
I am grateful for each of you; your presence, prayers, and love; your patience and compassion.
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all evermore.