When can we return to church?
"There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all."
- Ephesians 4:4-6
Dear sisters and brothers in Christ,
Our lives, our church, and our world have changed drastically since the emergence of COVID-19. The past few weeks have been filled with sorrows and blessings, challenges and opportunities, losses and celebrations. There is much to grieve and much to celebrate. God has indeed been our refuge and our strength during this time of trouble.
As we continue to live more fully into transition here in the Diocese of Missouri, none of us could have imagined the context in which we find ourselves. While it has been complicated and challenging in many ways, it has also been a deeply energizing and life-giving experience to walk this journey with you. You have demonstrated in countless ways the pioneering, creative, and innovative spirit that forms our spiritual DNA here in Missouri. We have discovered anew that we are one body together in the risen Christ.
As developments around COVID-19 continue to manifest at a rapidly changing rate, communities of faith in the Diocese of Missouri will continue to be closed at least until May 31, 2020. This inevitably leads to the question, “When can we return to worship?”
Following the guidance of health experts, in-person worship may resume in the Diocese of Missouri on June 1, 2020, provided that the following criteria are met:
- COVID-19 cases are on the decline for 14 days in your county.
- Testing is available for those showing symptoms.1
- A plan to safely resume worship is submitted to the Bishop’s office.
When these conditions are met, the Bishop’s office may give permission to return to in-person worship following appropriate guidelines as outlined in this document and recommendations by the Centers for Disease Control, and the local Department of Health and Public Safety. Even when in-person worship resumes, we will not “get back to normal” for some time.
The guidance that follows is intended to address this new reality in which we find ourselves and the practical reality of continuing the work of Christ in the world. It is intended to be a resource for clergy, vestries and bishop’s committees to consider in advance of offering in-person worship. Setting clear expectations and sharing plans with our communities in advance, will help tremendously in making the return to in-person worship joyful, meaningful, and above all safe.
As we chart this new course, may God bless and keep you, those you love, and those whom you serve, now and always.
The Rt. Rev. Wayne Smith The Rev. Deon K. Johnson
10th Bishop of Missouri 11th Bishop-elect of Missouri