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Read a transcript of the message below.
“’For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’” -Jeremiah 29:1
We heard this familiar passage from Jerimiah at our first Diocesan Convention together in 2018. How poignant these words remain in the midst of this pandemic.
We also invoked Joshua, another Old Testament prophet that day:
“I hereby command you: Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” -Joshua 1:9
Translated another way, “Be fearless and undaunted.”
I come to you this day in the hopeful and prayerful spirit of the prophets, recognizing that this moment—this time—demands that we be strong and courageous, fearless and undaunted.
Today, I offer guidance for our churches as we begin to enter Phase II and start to imagine ourselves gathering in-person.
The document that accompanies this video was developed after extensive consultation and input. Insights from the wider church; the CDC, as well as local medical experts; insights from other Episcopal Dioceses and denominations like our Lutheran, Roman Catholic, and Moravian brothers and sisters; and in consultation with our Diocesan Leadership bodies. Diocesan Council and the Standing Committee affirmed these guidelines on May 14.
We are so grateful for the feedback and wisdom of so many. And let me add that three principals also guided the development of our guidelines:
1. The empowerment of every leadership body is essential. These guidelines were designed with the understanding that each congregation knows its particular context best. We have offered best practices and questions for you and your vestry to answer. This is not a prescriptive, top down plan or directive.
2. Congregations should determine their own timeline for gathering in-person that fits their local context. Let me emphasize – You should not reopen if you are not ready! Work at your own pace. The safety of all members is our first priority. And our learnings are ongoing and fluid. Adapting to new understandings from medical experts and other leaders must be expected.
3. This process must remain rooted in partnership. Beginning May 26th we will offer Zoom gatherings in each of the eight new Convocations of the diocese. Each clergyperson and Senior Warden serving a parish are invited to participate. We also ask that you consider inviting an additional member to join this call.
Our experience of recent Convocation gatherings with clergy and lay leaders is that a wonderful sharing of resources and relationship-building occurs when we work together.
“Be strong and courageous (fearless and undaunted); do not be frightened or dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
Hold on to these words. Know of my love. Be assured of my continued prayers. And, I so look forward to being with you soon.