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Messages from the Bishop and Guidelines for In-Person Regathering

Amended Regathering Guidelines

June 11, 2020

The amended regathering guidelines (as of June 11, 2020) can be found here.

Phased Return Guidelines Clarifications

May 27, 2020

As the Bishop previously announced, all parishes will begin operating under Phase 2 Guidelines this coming Sunday, May 31, 2020, whether they are regathering then or at some later date. This, along with your questions and ideas, have raised several issues we want to clarify here.

  1. All worship from the church where there is more than one person from different households present, either live or recorded, both indoors and outdoors, must comply with Phase 2 guidelines, including 1) the use of masks by all participants; and 2) the restriction against live singing. If only household members are present and there is singing or masks are not used, please explain to viewers why that is the case. 
  2. Online worship that is streamed from home with only household members present does not require masks and may allow live singing. If that is the case, please explain why to viewers.
  3. It is not necessary to clean your building until you are opening it to the public. For those gathering outside and making your bathrooms available, that may mean it is only necessary to clean your bathrooms and the paths through the building leading to them.
  4. The guidelines imply that the Prayer for Spiritual Communion is required when Eucharist is celebrated, but it is optional. If you plan to use it, the prayer is included below. It is to be said by all immediately prior to the Postcommunion Prayer.
  5. It is not necessary to complete the Phase 2 Regathering Report until such time as you are preparing to reopen all or part of your building to the public.
  6. It is clear that contact tracing is a valuable tool in fighting this virus. Whether it is recommended or required by the protocols is not clear. Please read them to mean, “It is therefore recommended and strongly encouraged that congregations institute some contact tracing mechanism to assist the local health department in quickly tracing, testing, and isolating individuals who may have been exposed to COVID-19 in your building.
  7. In Phase 2, all formation (e.g. Bible studies, youth groups, inquirer’s classes, Confirmation classes) may take place within the building or outdoors under the sanitization, mask, and physical distancing guidelines. This does not apply to Sunday School in which the children are too young to be certain of physical distancing.

These clarifications are in addition to those you received last week regarding singing, wind instruments, and the phrase “deep clean.” It is almost certain such clarifications will continue to be needed as we work out the guideline’s implementation over the coming weeks and months.

To that end, as with this letter, we will send clarifications by email and post them on the Leadership Basecamp as soon as we have them available. At the beginning of each new month, we will also send an amended Phased Return Guideline document incorporating all clarifications or changes from the previous version. 

Please contact Brad Purdom at bpurdom@dohio.org with any questions or comments. 
A Prayer for Spiritual Communion, from The Prayer Book for the Armed ServicesIn union, O Lord, with your faithful people at every altar of your Church, where the Holy Eucharist is now being celebrated, I desire to offer to you praise and thanksgiving. I remember your death, Lord Christ; I proclaim your resurrection; I await your coming in glory. Since I cannot receive you today in the Sacrament of your Body and Blood, I beseech you to come spiritually into my heart. Cleanse and strengthen me with your grace, Lord Jesus, and let me never be separated from you. May I live in you, and you in me, in this life and in the life to come. Amen.


A Follow-Up Message Regarding In-Person Regathering

May 22, 2020

Dear colleagues and communicants,

I write following up to the regathering protocols you have received this week. Recognizing how complex and serious are our preparations for the care of God’s beloved in this pandemic, there are a few immediate reflections and clarifications that arise from our continuing conversations.

In the past 24 hours, it has been heartening and encouraging to hear of the patience, caution, and thoughtfulness with which clergy and lay leaders are approaching the possibility of in-person ministry and worship. Understanding that each “phase” refers only to what may be possible in a particular season of this new reality, it should be clear that the guidelines make no assumption or expectation for in-person gathering at any specific time. The timing of appropriate implementation will be specific to each congregation’s demographic, size, location, and context. Some parishes may explore outdoor options in good weather, others may continue sustaining community and participating in worship via internet and social media for weeks to come.

In looking ahead to what gathering physically for worship may look like, whenever that may occur, some have asked for clarification regarding the restriction on singing. For now, that prohibits all singing, including vocal soloists, even at an increased distance. Prerecorded vocal music is permissible, as it has been for online worship. In planning liturgies, however, I encourage a pastoral sensitivity to worshipers for whom the absence of participatory singing will be very difficult and urge you to avoid familiar hymns in familiar places that will be difficult for many not to sing. Instrumental music or prerecorded vocal pieces may be best suited to more contemplative moments in the service.

In some places, the use of woodwinds and brass in worship has been suspended for the same reasons as singing. This seems both prudent and responsible. It will be impossible to imagine all eventuality, but I have confidence that you will always err on the side of safety and caution in your decision making.

There has been an understandable question about what constitutes “deep cleaning,” as this is a term used in hospitals and other public facilities. The intention in our protocol is not to define a specific practice, but to underscore the need for conscientious sanitization. Please read the guideline to mean: Before any public use of church-owned spaces, congregations must thoroughly clean and appropriately disinfect each part of the church building that will be open to public use, including pews, bathrooms, doorknobs, light switches, stair railings, and microphones.
A thorough cleaning is expected before public use with special emphasis on where people will touch things. It is not necessary to clean the spaces of the building that will not be used until later. Those spaces must be similarly cleaned prior to their public use, which may be some months later.


The Rt. Rev. Mark Hollingsworth, Jr.
Bishop of Ohio


A Message from the Bishop Regarding In-Person Regathering

May 19, 2020

Dear sisters and brothers in Christ,

As we take cautious steps forward into this new reality of living with Coronavirus and COVID-19, the physical and spiritual safety of God’s beloved is foremost in my concerns and prayers. The desire to be with one another again in all the varied activities of life is great, and for many of us, the yearning to gather in worship, service, and fellowship is paramount. Our transition to in-person gathering must be careful and thoughtful, putting the well-being of others first, as Jesus taught us.

Attached you will find a letter from the six bishops serving the two dioceses in Ohio outlining our common perspective, followed by a guidelines document describing requirements and suggested procedures for phased, in-person regathering in the Diocese of Ohio. It is important that you read the entire document to get a clear understanding of the process. Please remember that the progression may not be linear, as we may well have to return to a previous phase at some time.

We have been in Phase 1 of this process since the suspension of public worship two months ago. Beginning on the Day of Pentecost, May 31, we will move into Phase 2.That does not mean that a particular congregation or communicant must resume in-person gathering at that time, only that it will be permitted, given suitable preparations. Each parish and individual’s decision will be particular to its own context and circumstances. For some, regathering may be appropriate, for others it may not.

If you have questions or concerns, please reach out for assistance. The bishops and staff of the Diocese are ready to help in every way possible.

Again, know that you are in my prayers always.

The Rt. Rev. Mark Hollingsworth, Jr.
Bishop of Ohio