As a diocese, a state and a country, we are entering an intense new phase of the COVID-19 pandemic. As many of you know, the coronavirus has reached into my own family, and I know it has touched the lives of people across our diocese. Harrison and I are both grateful for the prayers and notes of condolence we have received since the death of Alonza Burrows, Harrison’s father, who died of complications of COVID-19 on Sunday. I extend my own heartfelt condolences to anyone who has lost a loved one to this pandemic.
At this time, I do not plan to take the extraordinary step of closing our buildings, as I did in the spring during the first phase of the pandemic. That will change, however, if the governor issues a shelter in place order. In the meantime, I want to remind everyone that our guidelines for regathering for worship allow in-person services and meetings only when congregational regathering teams deem such gatherings to be safe.
In recent weeks, I have heard from many congregations who are deciding to suspend in-person worship on a week-by-week basis as their local health conditions dictate. I expect that clergy and lay leaders will continue to make appropriate choices about when and how to worship and inform their congregations accordingly. Worshiping via videoconference or livestream remains the preferred choice if case counts are high and the availability of hospital beds is low in your area.
The state’s coronavirus dashboard may be helpful in your decision-making, and the COVID-19 Event Risk Assessment Planning Tool from the Georgia Institute of Technology can help you ascertain the likelihood that an individual carrying the coronavirus will be present at the gathering you plan.
I am grateful for the dedication and skill so many of you have brought to our ministry in these difficult times. Please take whatever steps are necessary to keep yourselves, your loved ones, and the people of our congregations safe. You are in my prayers, and I hope you will keep me in yours.