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Guidelines for Phased Reopening of Churches in West Texas

A Faith-based Response to Infectious Disease

This page is up to date as of August 14, 2020 11:30 a.m. CDT. General information, updates, and resources will be added, as needed.

Phase 2(a) - a Modified Return to Public Worship [Current Phase]

During Phase 2(a), church offices may open and in-person worship services held, provided that their Covenant Agreement is returned to Archdeacon Mike Besson and that a congregation specific plan for modified worship, responsible social distancing, and increased cleaning practices has been developed and communicated to the congregation. This phase does not assume or require that all churches begin in-person worship. All churches are advised to keep in mind that increased rates of community spread may require churches to delay reopening further or close again in the future. Click here to read more.

Updated COVID-19 Guidelines for Clergy and Congregations [Phase 2(b) - Effective Monday, September 14, 2020]

Effective Monday, September 14, 2020, the congregations of West Texas may move toward further reopening, particularly regarding in-person activities on church premises, in those places where the spread of the pandemic has ebbed. We will call this Phase 2(b): A Modified Return to Congregational Life, and the previous phase, in place from May 25, 2020 through Sunday, September 13, will now be referred to as Phase 2(a): A Modified Return to Public Worship. Even if no plans for further reopening are taking place, clergy and congregations are advised to review the Guidelines to ensure compliance, especially regarding protocols for communion and wearing masks. Click here to read more.

Public Health Information & Diocesan Resources

The Episcopal Diocese of West Texas invites clergy, lay leaders, and congregations to commit to standard hygiene practices, to consider reasonable liturgical adjustments, to contact public health officials in their community for local conditions, to extend care and compassion to those in their congregations and communities who may be affected by the disease, as well as healthcare and other frontline workers. Please keep the specific, local needs and current status of your community in mind while considering your congregation's response. If you experience COVID-19 symptoms, such as fever, cough, shortness of breath, impaired senses of taste or smell, and others, contact your health care provider and stay home to prevent the potential spread of the disease.

Clergy,Vestries, and Bishop’s Committees are reminded that the diocesan guidelines give you full authority to make decisions to reopen or to close again based on your own congregation and the local COVID-19 situation. Each church has its own particular characteristics that should be considered when deciding whether to hold in-person worship services. Listening to local health officials is crucial, and everyone should understand that a congregation or diocesan-wide restriction on all in-person gatherings may become necessary again. All plans these days are subject to change.

Tracking COVID-19
  • CDC Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Situation Summary - articles, data reports, guidelines, and resources in English and Spanish from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to help prevent the spread of disease and misinformation. Click here to view CDC resources specifically for community and faith-based leaders.
Resources from the Diocese:

Guidelines for Phased Reopening of Churches in West Texas (8/14/2020) - These Guidelines are intended to help churches plan and facilitate a modified reopening, so that people may begin to return to in-person worship, and other aspects of congregational life beginning September 14, in the safest way possible and mindful that risk remains. The document includes Diocesan Phases 2(a) and 2(b) Guidelines, Resources, Forms, Questions to Consider, and a collection of letters from the Bishop and diocesan communications regarding the COVID-19 response. Spanish translations are available for the Phase 2 Guidelines, Covenant form, and several of the Letters from the Bishop. Contact communications@dwtx.org for other COVID-19 documents in Spanish.

"Stewardship and Communications in a Physically Distant Church" - The diocesan Development and Communications Offices offered resources and ideas for how to stay connected as a church when we are physically distanced, via live webinar on Monday, March 30. Click the link above to view the recorded conversation. Click here to open "Resources and Ideas for Staying Connected While Physically Distant," a supplemental PDF.

"Digital Communications Resource Guide For Church Communicators" - a resource guide from the Diocese of West Texas Communications Department for online worship services and virtual meeting tools for ongoing church business, digital Christian Formation, and ministry meetings.

"Liturgical Resources For Congregations Responding to COVID-19" - prayers, liturgies, and an order of Morning Prayer collected by diocesan clergy for families and congregations

Shared Congregational Resources Basecamp - a virtual workroom for clergy and lay leaders to share resources, pose questions, discuss ideas, and work together to sustain (and grow) our ministries during this season and beyond

From Other Ministries and Organizations

Concerning COVID-19 - a resource page from The Episcopal Church with general guidelines for churches and safe measures for equitable treatment of church employees.

Faith-Based Response to Infectious Disease - a webpage curated by Episcopal Relief and Development with scientific information, print resources, liturgical resources, weekly webinars, and ideas for maintaining community in the midst of a pandemic, to guide congregations seeking to stay connected while remaining physically apart.

"U.S. Copyright Issues Related to Live Streaming Music" - a summary of possible copyright violations and licensing options from The Episcopal Church's Office of Public Affairs. "The recent blossoming of live-streamed Episcopal Church services has highlighted the need for some guidance regarding the copyright law implications of this increasingly used method of maintaining community and fellowship."

"Places of Worship Zoom-bombed" - an article from the Episcopal Cafe warning about malicious strangers joining a publicly available Zoom Meeting and offering Security Guidelines from Virginia Commonwealth University to safeguard your congregation's video conference worship service, formation class, or meeting [March 31, 2020]

"How to Livestream Your Church Service in Four Easy Steps" - a video tutorial produced by the Episcopal Diocese of San Diego explaining four steps to plan and prepare for live broadcasting a worship service

"Forward Movement offers resources for prayer and worship at home" - a collection of free resources "to support individuals, families, and groups as they worship and pray at home" from Forward Movement, a ministry of the Episcopal Church that inspires disciples and empowers evangelists

Complete List of Hymns Within the Public Domain - a list of hymns within the public domain for church's consideration in planning live-streamed or recorded worship services

"BCPOnline.org" - The (Online) Book of Common Prayer, for anyone who may wish to stay home, but remain connected to Sunday morning prayers

Other Information, Resources, & News

Presiding Bishop Curry's Word to the Church: March 17, 2020 - "It is important to emphasize that suspension of in-person gatherings is not a suspension of worship. I very much encourage and support online worship. God bless you and keep the faith." [March 17, 2020]

"Habits of Grace: An invitation for you, from Presiding Bishop Curry"- "As we learn how to adjust our lives given the reality of the coronavirus and the request to do our part to slow its spread by practicing social distancing, I invite you to join me each week to take a moment to cultivate a ‘habit of grace.' A new video meditation will be posted on Mondays, through May." -Presiding Bishop Curry [March 16, 2020]

"Episcopal Church Office of Government Relations releases Public Health and Policy Advocacy Document related to the coronavirus" - a media release from The Episcopal Church Office of Government Relations, [March 13, 2020]

"A message from Presiding Bishop Curry related to worship changes during a public health emergency" - shared by the Most Rev. Michael Curry during the House of Bishops' virtual meeting, [March 12, 2020]

"Coronavirus: Safety Tips for Religious Organizations" - an article from Church Pension Group, [March 12, 2020]

"Presiding Bishop Curry: Statement on coronavirus" - The Most Rev. Michael Curry shares, "In this time when we are all affected by the coronavirus, whether directly or indirectly, whether physically, biologically, psychologically, spiritually, and for many economically, it may be helpful to remember that we're in this together." [March 10, 2020]

News & Updates

March 19, 2020

Bishop's Message to the Diocese: October 2020

Read More
March 19, 2020

Clarifying Guidelines for Phased Return to Congregational Life

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March 19, 2020

Three Ways to Build Our Online Congregational Engagement

Read More
March 19, 2020

Episcopal Relief & Development Supports Response to Hurricane Hanna

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March 19, 2020

Diocesan Schools Begin to Reopen their Doors

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March 19, 2020

Bishop's Message to the Diocese: August 2020

Read More
March 19, 2020

The Next Right Step: Updated COVID-19 Guidelines to Begin September 14, 2020

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March 19, 2020

Serving Mission Partners During a Pandemic

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June 16, 2020

Announcing Upcoming Family Retreat Opportunities

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March 19, 2020

Camp Capers Cancels 2020 Summer Camp

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March 19, 2020

The Next Right Step: Responding to Increasing COVID-19 Rates

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March 19, 2020

Amending Guidelines for Phased Reopening of Churches

Read More
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