When Dr. Anthony Fauci held a teleconference with bishops of the Episcopal Church in August, he advised us that the way back to normal for our COVID-19-ravaged country was through masks and vaccines. Today, over a year into this pandemic, we can see the shimmer of post-pandemic times on the horizon as vaccines roll out to younger populations. We are also learning that the Covid-19 pandemic, and its variants, will be part of our new normal and new surges will remain a threat. As we seek to balance the desire to gather in person for worship and community with public health risks, this revision to our reopening guidelines will shape the way forward. Our conditions will continue to evolve, and we will make any necessary updates to these guidelines in June.
In considering your regathering plans, I hope you will pay particular attention to your congregation’s demographics, its access to and embrace of vaccines, and its physical environment. In Indiana, all residents aged 16 and up are now eligible to receive a vaccine, but it will be some weeks before all who desire a vaccine will be able to receive one, and children are still ineligible. How will you include people of mixed vaccination status during this interim period? Would allowing the vaccinated to participate in some activities while precluding those not eligible lead to hurt feelings and division?
In addition to these considerations, I hope you will also continue to focus on the important local public health metrics outlined below. Your regathering team may always decide to be more protective than local and state guidelines, and may, indeed, decide that it is best to continue gathering online.
Whenever you choose to regather in person, please know of my deep appreciation for the faithfulness and care you have shown for one another and for all of God’s people throughout the pandemic. We have been through a long and difficult time, together, beloved. But, as the psalmist wrote, joy comes in the morning, and if we continue our vigilance a little longer, we will surely see the dawn. As always, you are in my prayers. We can do this!