May 19, 2021
Dear Friends in the Episcopal Diocese of East Tennessee,
Greetings! Pentecost Sunday 2021 is quickly approaching. As we pray again for the descending of the Spirit upon the people of God, we do so with encouraging news regarding our response to the COVID pandemic and updated CDC masking guidelines for fully vaccinated persons released last week.
Your Diocesan COVID-19 Task Force continues to stress that decisions for regathering for in-person worship and formation are best made at the parish level. Please be in touch with me as you re-evaluate your in-person worship protocols and make adjustments to them, as you see fit, in light of recent CDC guidelines.
At this time, I would invite you to reflect on the passage from Romans 12, particularly as it relates to the gift of encouragement. This is both an encouraging time and a time to be encouragers of others as we move forward at “the speed of trust.”
As you re-evaluate your masking policies, remember the CDC guidelines assume persons are fully vaccinated. I would encourage you to make sure any changes you make to your parish protocols make space both for fully vaccinated persons and for those who are not yet vaccinated. It is important to continue to encourage all who can to get vaccinated at this time.
Also, be mindful and communicate clearly on how you intend to keep children safe in our common spaces, as they will be the last eligible for vaccines. As a body of believers dedicated to welcoming all in Christ, please be sure your updated COVID protocols reflect Christian hospitality and welcome.
Even with this hopeful threshold in our response to the COVID pandemic, we will be living in the aftermath of this pandemic for a long time to come. Our COVID page on the Diocesan website will be adding resources to support grief work and those living with mental health challenges, many of which we will only begin to see as we find ourselves more and more in front of each other in real time and space.
My prayer is that Pentecost 2021 will be a time when the Spirit descends upon us all again and gives us new ways to tell the old story of God’s abiding and hopeful and renewing presence for all of God’s Creation.