Pastoral Directives from Our Bishop
Advisory from Bishop Reed and the Standing Committee – August 2021
THERE ARE ONLY 69 ICU BEDS open in the 19-county area of North Texas and only two children’s ICU beds open. Our health consultant is very worried that hospitals are about to go to triage operations which could be devastating, but he also sees in other countries evidence of quick spike in Delta COVID followed by a quick decline. I met yesterday with the Standing Committee to discuss the situation. Rather than issue a new directive at this time, we have the following advisory for the Diocese:
- Suspend non-essential large group activities through September unless
social distancing can be applied.
- Encourage mask wearing, hand washing,
and social distancing for Sunday morning and weekday activities.
Pastoral Directive for COVID-19 – July 2021 update
Emergency announcement to Tarrant and Dallas County Churches:
The Diocese has received information from our medical advisor that hospitalization rates are rising quickly due to the Delta variant of the COVID-19 virus.
The Standing Committee is looking at the information we have received and will advise me on an updated directive as soon as possible. For now, I am asking our urban churches to:
- Encourage social distancing.
- Encourage mask wearing.
- Encourage those with health issues to participate through online worship for the short term.
- Encourage continued hand hygiene.
We will continue to watch the numbers and listen to our medical advisors to help formulate the best plan to continue ministry and life together as the Body of Christ.
The latest information I have received is as follows:
Current COVID19 situation:
- 59% of new Texas COVID-19 cases are related to the delta variant.
- Test positivity rates have spiked from 2.5% in June to 7.5% this week (the highest rate of test positivity was in January at >20%).
- Hospital and ICU cases have increased sharply (almost entirely in unvaccinated individuals)
- We have seen serious illness from COVID19 in immunosuppressed patients who are fully vaccinated.
- The mRNA vaccines (Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna) still appear to provide excellent protection for individuals against severe disease and death; however, vaccinated individuals are more likely to get mild disease and spread infection with the delta variant than they are with the other variants.
- Less than 50% of North Texans have been vaccinated against COVID19.
- Mask wearing has almost disappeared in North Texas.
- Without returning to social distancing and masking, UT Southwestern Epidemiology predicts that we are likely to see another major spike in hospital cases within the next few weeks.
Pastoral Directive for COVID-19 – May 2021 update
As vaccinations continue and the CDC continues to update their guidelines, and recognizing the state of Texas has opened back up significantly, it is time to update our own safety precautions as we move forward.
These updated guidelines recognize that, even among those who are vaccinated, there are different levels of caution and anxiety about what to do.
Below are some suggestions for opening back up.
- If possible, maintain some social distanced seating in a portion of the nave.
- Mask wearing remains recommended but should be left up to individuals.
- Utilize outdoor space in good weather.
- Where the chalice is now being offered, please remind the congregation that reception from the chalice is always optional.
- Continue sanitation practices at facilities and encourage hand washing; it’s good practice and has contributed to a massive decline in flu cases across the state.
- Dispensation from physical Communion will continue through the Diocesan Convention in November. (Where possible, continue to offer online worship and study resources for those who remain at home.)
- Normal meetings, studies, nurseries, and other operations may resume in all parishes and missions with social distancing strategies in place.
These updated guidelines are posted on the diocesan Web site. As Sunday worship times change for reopening or summer schedules, please remember to notify Suzanne Gill so the most up-to-date information is available for visitors.
Pastoral Directive for COVID-19 – May 2021 update
To all Rectors and Vicars,
With the recent update of guidelines from the Office of the Governor of Texas, I am offering changes to the Pastoral Directive in effect during the COVID-19 crisis.
Please note these excerpts from the new guidelines:
This updated joint guidance from the Office of the Attorney General and the Office of the Governor is the official guidance regarding the effect of Executive Order GA 16 on religious services conducted in churches, congregations, and houses of worship.
To the extent there is conflict between the Governor’s Executive Order GA 16 and local orders, GA 16 controls. Local governments may not order houses of worship to close.
Houses of worship should conduct as many of their activities as possible remotely. Services that houses of worship cannot conduct remotely should be conducted in accordance with guidance from the White House and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”).
Guidelines from the CDC include:
- Instruct sick employees, volunteers, and guests to stay home;
- Practice social distancing by maintaining appropriate distance between people;
- Maintain good hygiene by washing your hands frequently, using hand sanitizer, using your elbow to cover coughs, and not touching your face;
- Implement environmental cleanliness and sanitization practices; and
- Clean and disinfect work areas frequently.
Houses of worship, like providers of other essential services, are to follow additional guidance from the White House and CDC whenever possible.
New recommendations from the State of Texas are as follows:
When conducting services, houses of worship may consider implementing the following practices:
- Encourage all attendees who are 65 and above to stay home and watch the services online, or provide a “senior service” exclusively for attendees 65 and above to attend in person. Ask all attendees who have an underlying at-risk health condition to stay home and watch the services online.
- Equip ushers and greeters with gloves and masks.
- Consider keeping child care closed, unless the house of worship can comply with CDC guidelines for child care facilities.
- Ensure all attendees sanitize their hands and put on a mask before entering the building.
- Ensure attendees sit with their family unit, use social distancing between each unit, and, if necessary, add more service times to facilitate distancing.
- Clergy should dismiss attendees by family unit, maintaining social distancing.
- Staff should sanitize seats and frequently touched surfaces between services.
- Consider refraining from passing collection plates and instead provide a central collection box in the building or encourage online giving.
- Consider how the sacraments can be administered without attendees having to touch the same surfaces and objects.
A final note from the State:
Under the extraordinary circumstances in which we temporarily live, these guidelines provide that houses of worship may remain open. The guidelines make only recommendations to houses of worship.
I am asking all rectors and vicars of the Diocese, along with your wardens, to think through what will work best in your local situation. We continue with the Directive of Communion in one kind for the immediate future. As the Church, we need to be a positive example to our communities while not becoming a new source of risk or infection.
I am asking all the clergy to join me on a Zoom call early next week to discuss ideas, but I am available by phone as well to discuss ideas on how to move forward. An invitation to the Zoom call will be e-mailed on Monday. If you feel ready to hold in-person services again, please begin thinking about those plans, so that we can share ideas during the call. Be sure to consider what supplies you may need, and the supply lines and time frame for procurement.
God bless each of you and our Diocese as we move forward with Gospel ministry in these challenging times.
Bishop Ryan S. Reed,
IV Bishop of Fort Worth
Pastoral Directive for COVID-19 – March 2021 update
While infection from the virus remains a real concern for many of us, I am extending the Spiritual Communion option through the end of July 2021.
The following suggestions are based on the latest medical understanding of the virus and what is necessary for us to return to normal:
- The medical advisor to the Diocese urges all who can to seek a vaccination. It reduces the risk of infection and can reduce the effects if one is infected. Each of the currently approved vaccines has been shown to prevent the need for hospitalization.
- Our advisor also encourages continued use of masks until herd immunity is reached. Even those who are vaccinated may be able to spread the virus, and visitors especially will be reassured by our demonstration of mutual care and responsibility.
We are encouraged by the news that we may be able to return to “normal” once 70% of the population is either vaccinated or has acquired antibodies due to previous infection. Some early projections are that we will reach this threshold by June, but I suspect no one really knows for sure.
Given this reality, the following practices should continue in all churches:
- Please practice continued hand washing when present on church property.
- We need to continue sanitation of common-use areas and surfaces.
- We maintain social distancing between households wherever members are gathered.
- Communion in one kind remains the safest option, but rectors/vicars can offer Communion in two kinds if they choose. In that case, intinction is recommended, with the priest/lay minister sanitizing before and after administration.