Response #12 | May 13 | Public Worship Suspension Extended
Hello beloved of God across the Episcopal Church in Delaware,
Late last week, Governor Carney extended his shelter-in-place order to May 31, citing the continued and pressing threats to our public health. Our current suspension of public worship in the Episcopal Church in Delaware (ECD) is hereby extended to May 31 — the Day of Pentecost — effective immediately. In the coming weeks I will share the steps being developed to guide our eventual regathering for in-person worship. I noted last week that I named a task force to take the lead in this holy work, and they have hit the ground running. So, stay tuned, for more information coming soon.
With this upcoming transition in mind, there are a couple of very important points to emphasize.
- We continue to rely upon and follow CDC and White House (CDC+WH) public health guidelines. These guidelines are particularly helpful right now as they lay out clear phases for how our country can safely recover, step by step, from pandemic. These are precisely the guidelines our state government is using to set Delaware’s benchmarks and phases. We are not yet in any phase of recovery. The three phases are defined by measurable ‘gating criteria’ based on medical science. This means we as a community don’t progress from one phase of recovery to another until we collectively meet the gating criteria. Starting June 1, ECD will adopt the CDC+WH phases, not end dates, to determine when we can safely regather.
- Governor Carney projects that Delaware will move into Phase 1 on June 1, assuming of course our state’s gating criteria continue to improve. Please recognize that Phase 1 will still limit public gatherings to only 10 persons. Thus, it does not mean that public gatherings, such as worship, will suddenly be permitted in early June. This could shock many of us, as we are so eager to be together. But the wisdom of the CDC+WH phased approach is that it guides us to watch public health measures, not the calendar, for indications that it is safe to gather again. Those key public health measures can be easily tracked online at Delaware’s ‘Coronavirus (COVID-19) Data Dashboard’ at myhealthycommunity.dhss.delaware.gov.
I urge you to review the following two documents for clear descriptions of the phases of recovery, the gating criteria, and the implications for the community: (1) Guidelines for Opening Up America Again from the CDC+WH, and (2) Restarting DE’s Economy from Governor John Carney. Both are easily available at delaware.church/covid-19-response.
When, then, will we be able to regather in person again? The answer is: When we can do so safely, confidently, and joyfully. I would be stunned if that happens before the fall, if not later. As I noted just above, regathering will be determined by public health criteria, not a hunch or a date on the calendar. We all, in the long run, will be safer for it.
I continue to hold you all in my prayers, each day, and I am told often that many of you are keeping me in your prayers as well. This circle of prayer — spiritual offerings to God that also connect each of us — is a source of comfort and energy to me. Our spiritual work — our prayer, our worship, our words of encouragement and hope to each other — are strong fibers that connect us as the body of Christ to one another. Keep praying, my friends. It is good for you, good for me, and good for the world.
In the loving, powerful name of Jesus Christ,