Episcopal Diocese of Virginia
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Gathering Guidelines from Bishop Goff

5/25/2021 – 6/30/2021

May 25, 2021
 
Dear Friends in Christ,
 
We have reached a moment we have long anticipated, when COVID-19 cases have declined as vaccination rates have risen. This reality has led Governor Northam to lift the mask mandate in Virginia for those who have been fully vaccinated. In addition, distancing requirements and capacity limits will be lifted on May 28. Suddenly, groups in Virginia may regather far faster than we anticipated! We celebrate this news, giving thanks to God. We also remember the nearly 600,000 people who have died from COVID-19 in the United States. May they rest in peace and rise in glory.
 
When the pandemic began, I placed limitations on our worshipping in person and gathering together in our church facilities in other ways. I did so because of our shared Christian commitment to loving our neighbor and protecting the most vulnerable among us. I have greatly appreciated your faithfulness in abiding by those restrictions for the sake of the health of the entire community.
 
As of May 28, churches may regather indoors and outdoors, according to decisions made by the clergy of each congregation. Church leaders must continue to monitor two things going forward:  public health markers and guidance from civic authorities, including the CDC, the Virginia Health Department and the Governor of Virginia. Churches should continue to adjust practices when necessary as new information emerges.
 
According to the CDC, those who are fully vaccinated no longer need to wear masks in every indoor setting. However, we must consider how we can protect those who are still vulnerable, including children under the age of 12, who cannot yet be vaccinated. Although I am fully vaccinated, I will continue for the time being to wear a mask indoors during parish visitations, removing it only while actively leading worship and preaching.
 
Your clergy have received a letter from me outlining particular areas in which we must still exercise restraint for the time being. I know you will cooperate with them as we move forward to Church together.
 
I am grateful for your steadfast commitment throughout these long months to follow Christ’s example. You did your part in putting the needs of others ahead of our own desire to be together in accustomed ways. Let us now celebrate this milestone with thanksgiving.
God bless you. God bless us all as the journey continues.
 
Faithfully yours,
 
Bishop Susan Goff