Diocese Upholds Pandemic Guidelines for Churches, Schools, and Camps
from the Rt. Rev. David Reed, Bishop of West Texas
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Yesterday, Governor Greg Abbott announced that, effective Wednesday, March 10, he will rescind most of the restrictions and limitations instated by his previous Orders addressing the COVID-19 pandemic. Specifically, he will allow businesses to operate at 100% capacity and will remove all requirements regarding wearing face masks. His Order does not affect the life and practices of churches.
This new Order is issued with the explicit intent of fully reopening the Texas economy and helping Texans return to work – a laudable and worthy goal. Many of our fellow Texans are suffering terrible financial hardships. However, in his press release Governor Abbott states, “Make no mistake, COVID-19 has not disappeared…” and continues, “This announcement does not abandon safe practices that Texans have mastered over the past year.Instead, it is a reminder that each person has a role to play in their own personal safety and the safety of others.”
The news regarding the pandemic is getting better, and there is light at the end of this long tunnel. But we are not there yet. Almost, but not yet. The governor’s announcement points out that even with the great increase in vaccine delivery, it will still take a month before all of our senior citizens will have access to the vaccine, and even more individuals still wait in line behind them.
As I said in my 2021 Council address, the Diocesan Guidelines for churches, Episcopal Schools, and our camps and conference centers remain in place for the time being. Thanks be to God, our guidelines have worked because they include the safe practices our Governor mentions: wearing masks consistently, physical distancing, frequent hand-washing, and regular cleaning of church areas.
From the beginning of the pandemic, we have tried to keep in mind our Lord’s commands and his example, to “love one another” and to “love our neighbor as we love ourselves.” We have tried to remain committed to the health and well-being of fellow church members and of our larger communities. We have given up much, whether gladly or grudgingly, for the sake of others. And I know that this is the way of sacrificial love to which Jesus calls us each day.
You all – clergy, congregations, Episcopal schools, and diocesan camps – have walked together so well through these long, hard months. You have found ways to love one another as Chris tloves us, by wearing masks, staying six feet apart, and using common sense.
We are almost there. But not yet. The diocesan Guidelines, camp policies, and your local church and school's protocols remain in place. I urge you to keep doing what you have been doing for a while longer.
Diocesan staff and I will consult with the best medical and public health professionals available to us, as we have before, and determine what our markers will be for easing and removing restrictions on worship, fellowship, and ministries. And when the right time comes, no one will be happier than me to set aside the mask, close the distance, pass the Peace, and share the Bread and Cup.
May our Lord continue to bind us together in his Spirit that we might be a means of blessing and peace to others.
Love in Christ,
Bishop of West Texas