June 22, 2023
Dear Colleagues in the Diocese of Massachusetts,
Last month, both the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the World Health Organization declared an end to the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency. COVID-19 is now classified as an established and ongoing public health concern. Vaccines and booster shots are widely available, our medical care system is able to respond to local surges and hospitalizations and deaths have declined significantly. We rejoice in this great progress.
We also remain mindful of our responsibilities to those among us who are most vulnerable. We know that the coronavirus is still evolving and that seniors, people who are immunocompromised and people with disabilities are at greatest risk for severe outcomes when the illness is contracted.
When we last communicated with you about COVID protocols on Aug. 29, 2022, we urged caution in church gatherings, while supporting our clergy and lay leaders in their decisions about safety practices in their local contexts.
As we live together into this transition of COVID-19 from “public health emergency” to “established and ongoing public health concern,” we continue to emphasize public health awareness and local decision making. Stay alert to the presence of COVID-19 in your community and exercise caution for those who are most vulnerable. We remain supportive of clergy and lay leaders as you determine appropriate safety measures for your local congregation, your church buildings and your community engagement.
In particular, we commend the following practices:
- Encourage vaccinations and boosters, especially for those who minister among those most vulnerable because of age, illness or disability;
- Designate a seating area in your worship space where physical distancing is maintained;
- Discourage intinction but, if it is to be practiced, use a small, shallow cup (similar to that found in a home communion kit) separate from the full-sized, principal chalice;
- Keep a supply of face masks and hand sanitizers at all gatherings;
- Stay abreast of public health concerns in your community.
In all things, we extend our gratitude for your careful and compassionate concern for one another, and for your tireless adaptations during these challenging past three years.
Grateful blessings to you,
The Rt. Rev. Alan M. Gates
The Rt. Rev. Carol J. Gallagher
Canon Bill Parnell is available to respond to questions and concerns and can be reached at email@example.com or 617-482-4826, ext. 205.