March 16 COVID-19 update for clergy and wardens

This message from Bishop Alan M. Gates and Bishop Gayle E. Harris was issued by e-mail on March 16 to clergy and wardens.

March 16, 2020

Dear Colleagues in the Diocese of Massachusetts,

Thank you for your faithful leadership and care for your respective congregations in these past few days.  We have been gratified by reports of the innovative ways you are finding to worship and support one another in virtual community.

At this moment it is important to communicate new restrictions by which we must abide given the latest mandates from Governor Baker, effective immediately, and to let you know of several Zoom meetings set up for clergy (and wardens-in-charge) on Tuesday and Thursday of this week to discuss best practices, breaking developments and local response to the care of our neighbors.  Please review thoroughly all details of this letter, and last week's two communiques.

We look forward to sharing additional learnings from last Sunday's online worship experiences, as well as further resources and pastoral messages later in the week.

Faithfully and gratefully,

The Rt. Rev. Alan M. Gates
The Rt. Rev. Gayle E. Harris

Public worship services
Given Governor Baker's directive, all public worship services are to be canceled through and including Palm Sunday, April 5.  Congregations are encouraged to live-stream services.  Those gathering in person to conduct online streaming or broadcasts must number fewer than 25 and follow the protocols distributed on March 11 and March 12, found here.

Planning Ahead
The COVID-19 crisis is likely to extend beyond the current period of the public health directive.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is now suggesting protocols extending at least eight weeks.  Please plan for disruptions and cancellations beyond April 5.

Weddings and Funerals
Weddings and funerals will likely need to be postponed, given Governor Baker's directive.  Should such services take place, no more than 25 persons may attend and the protocols for safe gathering must be followed.

12-Step Groups
12-Step groups may continue to meet, but not more than 25 persons in any given space at the same time.

Cleaning and Disinfecting
The following guidelines for cleaning and disinfecting come from the CDC and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and are commended to congregations and church-affiliated ministries:

COVID-19 Zoom Conferences for Our Clergy and Wardens-in-Charge
A series of Zoom online video conferences with members of our COVID-19 advisory group have been scheduled for this week, to link clergy (and wardens where there is no settled member of the clergy) with experts in the field of epidemiology and disaster response.  We will focus on best practices for pastoral care, safety protocols and developing local ecumenical responses to the economic challenges of our neighbors.  One conference will focus on feeding and sheltering ministries; persons in charge of those ministries are especially encouraged to participate.  The other conferences are scheduled for clergy and wardens in specific deaneries.  We recommend that you join the meeting for your deanery, but welcome you to participate in a different one if that is more convenient for you.

Tuesday, 3/17, 2-3 p.m.: Cape & Islands and Mt. Hope-Buzzards Bay deaneries
Tuesday, 3/17, 3:15-4:15 p.m.: Focus on Feeding and Sheltering Ministries
Tuesday, 3/17, 5:30-6:30 p.m.: Taunton River and South Shore deaneries
Thursday, 3/19, 9-10 a.m.: Neponset River and Boston Harbor deaneries
Thursday, 3/19, 11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.: Charles River and Alewife deaneries
Thursday, 3/19, 1-2 p.m.: Mystic Valley and North Shore deaneries
Thursday, 3/19, 2:15-3:15 p.m.: Merrimack Valley and Concord River deaneries

Zoom links e-mailed directly to clergy and wardens.

Zoom Support
This document, How to Use Zoom for Large Meetings, is useful when conducting Zoom meetings with more than 10 persons participating.

Diocesan Office Hours
Diocesan staff will be working from home throughout the COVID-19 crisis unless their presence at the diocesan offices is required.  Staff members will be monitoring e-mails and voice messages and will endeavor to be as responsive as each is able.