Guidelines and Resources Regarding COVID-19

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March 18, 2021
(Haga clic aquí para la versión en Español)

Church Imagined Gathering
Phase II and Phase III Vision
By the Rt. Rev. C. Andrew Doyle

As we look towards the Spring, Summer, and Fall it is clear that we are entering Phase II and Phase III of our Diocesan regathering plan. Every head of congregation, leadership group, and worshiping community across the 57 counties is dealing with a variety of pressures, and COVID-19 pandemic realities. We are giving the power back to you, the heads of congregations and leadership groups, to navigate the next phases and the Mission Amp team and the regional bishops stand ready to help you.

Remember a phase approach provides a vision for:
• Imagination about our future
• Helps our people understand the reality of our situation
• Begins to put into place adaptive mission options
• Creates agility across regions and contexts

Requirements:
• Mask wearing indoors even for the vaccinated – this will continue until the end of Phase III
• If you are in a risk category, we recommend that you do not come to church
• If you have any COVID-19 symptoms, do not come to church

Remember that if your congregation becomes a hub for COVID-19 spread, you will need to shut down for one Sunday.

We expect that you will use the following county database for determining your options:
https://covid.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker/#county-view

You will notice that the CDC has four categories measuring transmission rates: Low, Moderate, Substantial, and High. (Note, while this site is accessible by mobile device it is easier to navigate from a PC.)

Together with our epidemiologist’s advice we believe you and your leaders will want to break each of these phases down into smaller, attainable goals based upon the data.

You will not need to have your Phase III work approved.

Phase II –Continued Mitigation of Exposure during COVID-19 Outbreak
Across the Diocese we are seeing many communities in Phase II.

Phase II Health Characteristics
• A sustained reduction in cases for at least 7 days in your county
• Local hospitals are safely able to treat all patients requiring hospitalization without resorting to crisis standards of carei in your county
• Testing is available for people with COVID-19 symptomsii in your county
• Implement Case-Based Interventions, including quarantine, while waiting for results, traced relationships over 7 days, and quarantine for close contacts accompanied by diagnostic testingiii in your county 

We are seeing across the Diocese: the acceleration of vaccine creationiv, therapeutics, and measures for those exposed to infection to prevent them from developing disease or reduce its severity, and increased availability of serological tests (blood tests) – the ability to identify immunity in individuals.v

We are seeing local communities move to negative community spread. Some counties have been without spread for months.

Phase II Church Protocols

3/30/21 revision: "We recommend the chalice bearer wear latex gloves or similar for this" omitted.

Regional bishops have already approved regathering measures for Phase I and II.

Continuing to wear masks will be appropriate.

Attendance may be governed by the “physical distancing” rule of 6’-10’ spacing.

It is important that all churches begin to hold safe in-person worship in Phase II. There is a broad desire for a return to in-person worship, and people will be looking for these opportunities. Phase II is the time for this, especially by Easter Sunday.

Your congregation may begin to sing if you have not done so – with masks and physical distancing of at least 6 feet. Use extra caution in space arrangement. Sing short hymns or only a few verses. We also recommend specially designed masks for singing, especially for your choir. Be mindful that this will not feel safe for some people. Perhaps you need to consider a non-singing service as an available option if you do not already have one.

Consider in-person or virtual health checks for symptoms or temperature screening before people enter indoor space.

Outdoor services will be very popular as we move to the spring and we celebrate these choices for gathering as they afford a much safer environment for worship. You are less likely to be exposed to COVID-19 during outdoor activities, even without the use of masks which are not required outside when you stay at least 6 feet apart from people who don’t live with you, and you limit your time around others.

Remember for outdoor services that everyone should bring a mask with them to put on when they encounter people who may get closer than 6 feet and all should be mindful that time and proximity make up exposure.vi

It is appropriate in Phase II that pew cushions and all liturgical books, including prayer books and hymnals, be returned to the worship space.

During Phase II, a shared common cup for drinking is not appropriate, however you can return to intinction.

During the Eucharistic Prayer, if the Celebrant is vaccinated, they do not need to wear a mask. However, we recommend that the wine and bread are covered. If the Celebrant is not vaccinated, wearing a mask and covering the elements remains the best and safest practice. Masks should be worn by all during the distribution of communion.

Phase III - Lifting of all physical distancing with protection
We will slowly move into Phase III as we enter negative community spread of the virus—as vaccines and health protocols impact our communities.

We believe your county is in the first stages of Phase III when it is low to moderate concern according to the CDC data tracker.

We recognize across our 57 counties there are a lot of different situations and trajectories at this point in the pandemic.

Phase III Health Characteristics
We suggest considering the following characteristics as you and your leadership consider increasing worship attendance beyond your determined Phase II limits: 
• CDC moderate to low transmission – this is changing rapidly, so check daily
• Negative community spread in your county
• Herd immunity through vaccination for your county
• Therapeutic availability in your county
• Testing for virus and immunity is available in your county
• Physical distancing safety measures are no longer in place

While Phase III health characteristics have a much more global feel, we believe that giving signs of this particular health road sign are important. There will come a time when there is negative viral spread. There will come a time when we see the lifting of physical distancing.

We will be moving into Phase III in many of our non-urban counties with the urban counties soon to follow. This may very well happen at a good pace if vaccines are available for all people in Texas by May 1, 2021 combined with the rapid reduction in community spread.

Phase III Church Protocols
Continuing to wear masks will be appropriate.

During Phase III, if your county is in the CDC’s Low category for community transmission, then the shared common cup for drinking is appropriate.

It will be important for you as spiritual leaders to mark, bless and celebrate each of these layered victories along the way.

We are thinking about Clergy Conference and Diocesan Council as special events over the next year. All Saints Day will have a heavy pall as well. These are moments for us as a diocese to join together. I hope you will be thinking of ways you and your parish with your wider community may mark the moves through these stages.

When we enter Phase III, we will want to mark this liturgically and pastorally for all of our communities.

If we do this well, we believe that we will emerge from the pandemic prepared for future disasters, but with the added benefit of missional learning.

If you have questions about these guidelines, please be in contact with your convocational representative on the diocesan Mission Amplification team listed below.

Austin – Beth Fain
Central – Stephanie Townes
East Harris – Joann Saylors
Galveston – Bob Schorr
Northeast – Amy Chambers Cortright
Northwest – Bob Schorr
San Jacinto – Stephanie Townes
Southeast – Jason Evans
Southwest – Denise Trevino
West Harris - Joann Saylors

Endnotes
i Institute of Medicine, Crisis Standards of Care: Summary of a Workshop Series (Washington, DC: National Academies Press, 2010), https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK32749/.

ii Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Interim US Guidance for Risk Assessment and Public Health Management of Persons with Potential Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Exposures: Geographic Risk and Contacts of Laboratory-Confirmed Cases,” March 22, 2020, https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/php/risk-assessment.html.

iii See CDC December 2, 2020 shift on quarantine.

iv As soon as a vaccine or therapeutic looks promising in pivotal clinical trials (i.e., it has been shown to be safe and looks like it will also be effective), the US government should work with industry to begin planning for mass manufacturing, distribution, and administration. New provisions enacted under the recently passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act allow for large-scale manufacturing of promising therapies, in advance of approval, to help make sure there will be adequate supply available for mass distribution, should a product demonstrate that it is safe and effective and win regulatory approval. US Food and Drug Administration, “Step 3: Clinical Research,” https://www.fda.gov/patients/drug-development-process/step-3-clinical-research#Clinical_Research_Phase_Studies.  

v Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Coronavirus (COVID-19),” https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html; US Department of Health and Human Services, “BARDA’s Novel Coronavirus Medical Countermeasure Portfolio,” https://www.phe.gov/emergency/events/COVID19/Pages/BARDA.aspx; National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, https://www.niaid.nih.gov/; US Department of Defense, “Coronavirus: DOD Response,” https://www.defense.gov/Explore/Spotlight/Coronavirus/; and US Food and Drug Administration, “Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19),” https://www.fda.gov/emergency-preparedness-and-response/counterterrorism-and-emerging-threats/coronavirus-disease-2019-covid-19.  

vi https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/participate-in-activities.html

Reunión que la Iglesia imagina
Visión de la Fase II y Fase III
Por el Reverendísimo C. Andrew Doyle

Mientras esperamos con entusiasmo la llegada de la primavera, verano y otoño, nos queda claro que estamos entrando en la Fase II y Fase III de nuestro plan para retomar las reuniones presenciales en nuestra Diócesis.  Cada líder de congregación, grupo de liderazgo y comunidad de adoración a lo largo y ancho de los 57 condados, está lidiando con una variedad de presiones y realidades relacionadas con la pandemia COVID-19.  De regreso estamos poniendo en sus manos el poder para que los líderes de congregaciones y grupos de liderazgo naveguen las próximas fases y tanto el equipo de Misión de Amplificación como los obispos regionales, estamos en pie y listos para ayudarles.

Recuerde que un enfoque por fases proporciona una visión para:

  • Imaginar y visualizar nuestro futuro
  • Ayudar a nuestra gente a comprender la realidad de nuestra situación
  • Comenzar a implementar opciones para misiones adaptables.
  • Crear fluidez en todas las regiones y contextos

 Requerimientos: 

  • Uso de cubrebocas dentro de los lugares de reunión aun cuando se le haya administrado la vacuna – esta continuará hasta que haya concluido la Fase III
  • Si usted se encuentra dentro de una categoría de riesgo, le recomendamos que no asista a la iglesia
  • Si usted está experimentando cualquier síntoma de COVID-19, no asista a la iglesia

Recuerde que si su congregación se convierte en un foco de contagio de COVI-19 deberá de cancelar los servicios por un domingo 

Esperamos que haga uso de la base de datos del contado, provista a continuación para determinar cuáles son sus opciones:
https://covid.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker/#county-view

Notará que los Centros para el Control y la Prevención de Enfermedades (CDC por sus siglas en inglés) cuentan con cuatro categorías para medir los niveles de transmisión. Bajo, Moderado, Substancial y Alto. (Note que aun cuando este sitio web está disponible mediante un aparato electrónico móvil es más sencillo navegar su contenido por medio de una computadora personal)

Junto con el consejo de los epidemiólogos confiamos en que usted y sus líderes tendrán interés en desglosar cada una de estas Fases en metas más pequeñas y alcanzables basándose en los datos proporcionados.

No necesitará contar con la aprobación del trabajo de la Fase III.

Fase II – Mitigación continua de exposición durante el brote de COVID-19 

30/3/21 revisión: "Recomendamos al portador del cáliz que use guantes de látex para esta actividad" se ha omitado.

A lo largo de la Diócesis vemos muchas comunidades en Fase II.

Características de Salud de la Fase II 

  • Una reducción sostenida de casos durante al menos 7 días en su condado
  • Los hospitales locales pueden tratar de manera segura a todos los pacientes que requieren hospitalización, sin tener que recurrir a los estándares de atención de crisis en su condado.
  • Los servicios de pruebas están disponibles para personas con síntomas de COVID-19ii en su condado
  • Se implementan valoraciones basadas en caso por caso, incluida la cuarentena mientras se esperan los resultados de la prueba, rastreo de las personas con las que se relacionó durante un periodo de 7 días e implementación de cuarentena para los contactos cercanos, además de pruebas de diagnóstico iii en su condado

Estamos viendo a lo largo de la Diócesis: la aceleración de la creación de vacunasiv, el uso de terapias y la implementación de medidas para las personas que son expuestas a la infección; para evitar que desarrollen la enfermedad o reducir su gravedad, y una mayor disponibilidad de pruebas serológicas (análisis de sangre)la capacidad de identificar inmunidad en los individuos.v

Estamos viendo a las comunidades locales presentar resultados negativos en cuanto al contagio comunitario. Algunos condados han dejado de presentar brotes contagiosos por meses.

Fase II Protocolos de la iglesia
Los obispos regionales ya han aprobado las medidas de reunión para las Fases I y II

Continuar con el uso de cubrebocas será lo apropiado.

La asistencia a las reuniones se puede regir por la regla de "distanciamiento físico o social" con una distancia de 6'-10 ' pies de las demás personas.

Es importante que todas las Iglesias comiencen a contar con servicios de adoración presenciales en la Fase II. Existe un deseo amplio de regresar a la adoración y alabanza en persona y la gente estará en espera de estas oportunidades. La Fase II es tiempo para que se presente esta oportunidad, especialmente el domingo de Pascua.

Su congregación podrá empezar a cantar si es que no lo han hecho ya – con cubrebocas o distanciamiento físico o social de al menos 6 pies. Tomen precauciones extra con respecto al arreglo de los espacios disponibles. Canten himnos cortos y con solo unos cuantos versos. También les recomendamos el uso de cubrebocas diseñados especialmente para cantar, específicamente para los integrantes del coro. Tenga en mente que esto podría no percibirse como una actividad segura por algunas. Probablemente podría necesitar considerar un servicio sin canticos, como una opción disponible, si no es que ya cuenta con una.

Considere la implementación de controles de salud en persona o virtuales para detectar síntomas o medición de temperatura, antes de que las personas ingresen a un recinto cerrado.

Los servicios al aire libre serán muy populares a medida que nos acercamos a la primavera y apreciamos estas opciones de reunión, ya que brindan un entorno mucho más seguro para la adoración. Es menos probable que se exponga al COVID-19 durante las actividades al aire libre, incluso sin el uso de cubrebocas, mismo que no se requieren estando al aire libre; cuando las personas que no viven bajo el mismo techo se mantienen al menos a 6 pies de distancia unos de otros y además limita su tiempo alrededor de otros.

Recuerde que, para los servicios al aire libre, todos deben traer consigo un cubrebocas que puedan ponerse cuando entren en contacto con personas que puedan acercarse a menos de 6 pies y todos deben tener en cuenta que el tiempo y la proximidad hacen más latente la exposición.vi

Es apropiado que durante la Fase II se regresen al sitio de reunión y adoración los cojines de las bancas y los libros litúrgicos, incluidos los libros de oración y los himnarios.

Durante la Fase II, compartir un mismo cáliz para beber no es apropiado, sin embargo, puede volver a la práctica de mojar la hostia en el vino, conocida como intinción. 

Durante la oración por la Eucaristía, si el Celebrante ha sido vacunado, no es necesario que use un cubrebocas. Sin embargo, recomendamos que el vino y el pan permanezcan cubiertos. Si el Celebrante no está vacunado, usar un cubrebocas y cubrir los elementos de la comunión siguen siendo la práctica mejor y más segura. Todos deben usar cubrebocas durante la distribución de la comunión.

Fase III –  Eliminación de distanciamiento físico o social con protección
Pasaremos lentamente a la Fase III a medida que entremos en una propagación comunitaria negativa del virus entre tanto que las vacunas y los protocolos de salud impactan en nuestras comunidades.

Creemos que su condado se encontrará en las primeras etapas de la Fase III, cuando las precauciones se perfilen a un nivel de moderado a bajo según los datos de monitoreo y control de los Centros para el Control y la Prevención de Enfermedades (CDC por sus siglas en inglés).

Reconocemos que, al momento, en nuestros 57 condados, hay muchas situaciones y trayectorias diferentes con respecto a la pandemia.

Características de Salud de la Fase III
Sugerimos que tome en consideración las siguientes pautas al tiempo que usted y su equipo de liderazgo contemplan el incremento de personas que asisten a los servicios de adoración:

  • Transmisión de baja a moderada según los Centros para el Control y la Prevención de Enfermedades (CDC por sus siglas en inglés) – esto cambia con rapidez, así que monitoree diariamente
  • Propagación comunitaria negativa en su condado
  • Inmunidad colectiva a través de la vacunación dentro de su condado
  • Disponibilidad de terapias en su condado
  • Disponibilidad de las pruebas de virus e inmunidad en su condado
  • Las medidas de seguridad de distanciamiento físico o social ya no sean necesarias

Si bien es cierto que las características de salud de la Fase III cuentan con una sensación mucho más global, creemos que es importante brindar atención particular a estas señales salubres de alerta. Llegará un momento en que habrá una propagación viral negativa. Llegará el momento en que veremos el levantamiento de las medidas del distanciamiento físico o social.

Pasaremos a la Fase III en muchos de nuestros condados rurales y pronto seguirán los condados urbanos. Es muy probable que esto suceda a un buen ritmo si las vacunas se hacen disponibles para todas las personas en Texas llegado el 1 de mayo de 2021, esto combinado con la rápida reducción de la propagación comunitaria.

Protocolos de la Iglesia para la Fase III
Continuar con el uso de cubrebocas será adecuado.

Durante la Fase III, si su condado se encuentra en la categoría de bajo riesgo de transmisión comunitaria según los Centros para el Control y la Prevención de Enfermedades (CDC por sus siglas en inglés), entonces es apropiado compartir el cáliz comunitario para la comunión.

Será importante que sus guías espirituales, reconozcan, bendigan y celebren cada una de estas victorias conforme se vayan presentando en camino.

Estamos pensando en la Conferencia del Clero y el Concilio Diocesano como eventos especiales durante el próximo año. El Día de Todos los Santos también se verá permeado por un ánimo sombrío. Estos son momentos para que nos unamos como Diócesis. Espero que esté pensando en las formas en que usted y su iglesia junto con la comunidad en general pudieran marcar los pasos que habrán de seguir a través de estos eventos.

Cuando entremos en la Fase III, querremos conmemorar el momento de manera litúrgica y pastoral para todas nuestras comunidades.

Si hacemos esto de la manera correcta, creemos que saldremos de esta pandemia preparados para futuros desastres, pero, con el beneficio adicional del aprendizaje misional.

Si tiene preguntas con respecto a estos lineamientos, por favor contacte a su representante de asamblea del equipo de Misión Amplificación de la Diócesis; a continuación, la lista del equipo.

Austin – Beth Fain
Central – Stephanie Townes
Este de Harris – Joann Saylors
Galveston – Bob Schorr
Noreste – Amy Chambers Cortright
Noroeste – Bob Schorr
San Jacinto – Stephanie Townes
Sureste – Jason Evans
Suroeste – Denise Trevino
Oeste de Harris - Joann Saylors

Notas finales

i Instituto de Medicina, Estándares de cuidado durante una crisis: Resumen de la serie de talleres (Washington, DC: National Academies Press, 2010) , https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK32749/.

ii Centros para el Control y la Prevención de Enfermedades (CDC por sus siglas en inglés), “Guía provisional de        EE. UU. para la evaluación de riesgos y la gestión de la salud pública de personas con posibles exposiciones a la enfermedad por Coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19): Riesgo geográfico y contactos de casos confirmados por laboratorio,” marzo 22, 2020, https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/php/risk-  assessment.html.

iii Ver datos en Centros para el Control y la Prevención de Enfermedades (CDC por sus siglas en inglés) diciembre 2, 2020 Cambios en la cuarentena.

iv Tan pronto como una vacuna o terapia parezcan prometedoras en ensayos clínicos fundamentales (es decir, se ha demostrado que es segura y parece que también será eficaz), el gobierno de EE. UU. Debe trabajar diligentemente para comenzar a planificar la fabricación, distribución y administración masiva. Las nuevas disposiciones promulgadas bajo la Ley de Ayuda, Alivio y Seguridad Económica para el Coronavirus (CARES por sus siglas en inglés), recientemente aprobada, permiten la fabricación a gran escala de terapias prometedoras, antes de la aprobación, para ayudar a garantizar que haya un suministro adecuado disponible para la distribución masiva, en caso de que se demuestre que un producto es seguro y eficaz y que obtenga la aprobación regulatoria. Administración de Alimentos y Medicamentos de los Estados Unidos (FDA por sus siglas en inglés)., "Paso 3: Investigación clínica",” https://www.fda.gov/patients/drug-development-process/step-3-clinical-  research#Clinical_Research_Phase_Studies.

Centros para el Control y la Prevención de Enfermedades (CDC por sus siglas en inglés), “Coronavirus (COVID-19),” https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-  ncov/index.html; El Departamento de Salud y Servicios Humanos (HHS por sus siglas en inglés), “Carpeta de contramedidas médicas novedosas para el Coronavirus de BARDA,” https://www.phe.gov/emergency/events/COVID19/Pages/BARDA.aspx; Instituto Nacional de Alergias y Enfermedades Infecciosas (NIAID, por sus siglas en inglés), https://www.niaid.nih.gov/; El Departamento de Defensa de los Estados Unidos (DOD por sus siglas en inglés: “Coronavirus: Respuesta de DOD,” https://www.defense.gov/Explore/Spotlight/Coronavirus/; La Administración de Alimentos y Medicamentos de los Estados Unidos (FDA, por su siglas en inglés), “Enfermedad por Coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19),” https://www.fda.gov/emergency-preparedness-and-  response/counterterrorism-and-emerging-threats/coronavirus-disease-2019-covid-19.

vi https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/participate-in-activities.html

Updated Guidelines for Congregations

September 2020

Please follow the links below, which contains updated Guidelines for Congregations from Bishop Doyle. These guidelines include details about expectations for worship, communion, weddings, funerals, home visits, music, formation, fellowship, community engagement, and more.

Guidelines in English | Guidelines in Spanish

Guidelines and Resources from Bishop Doyle Regarding COVID-19 within the Episcopal Diocese of Texas

August 15, 2020

COVID-19 and Domestic Abuse Resource

The Anglican Consultative Council and the Anglican Alliance have released a resource to help those who have been affected by domestic abuse during COVID-19.

More here | Click here for Spanish

August 7, 2020

Fort Bend County has released a list of resources for those who are facing hardships during the COVID-19 pandemic. Click here for more.

July 23, 2020

Customized Regathering Signage Resource

Outside Voice Signs offers customized yard signs, social distancing floor stickers, banners, posters, and more for church and other environments. This is an ideal resource for regathering purposes, once it’s safe to do so. Please allow for a 3-5 business day turnaround from the time order is placed. For more information, call today at 713.591.6877 or send an email to:  .

Click here for details

June 29, 2020

Bishops Coordination Call:  Bishops coordination calls occur weekly and are not recorded. Notes, resources and links will be shared at the end of each week’s session. Translation is available, and must be requested on Thursdays each week.

More here

June 15, 2020

Dear Spiritual Leaders of the Diocese,

Attached is a collection of resources intended to support you in your pastoral work as we continue to find our way through the many challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. The resources are divided into Self-Care, Pastoral Leadership and Care, and Liturgical Resources. Most address the pandemic directly and range in form from videos to tip-sheets to litanies, representing a wide variety of sources and voices. We hope that some of them will speak to you and to the needs of your communities.

In God’s mercy,

Lisa

The Rev. Canon Lisa Hines
Canon for Wellness and Care/Safeguarding Minister
The Episcopal Diocese of Texas

June 5, 2020

Recently, President Trump signed the Paycheck Protection Program Flexibility Act into law. The new act significantly impacts the rules for forgiveness of Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans.

Among other provisions, the bill makes PPP more flexible as follows:

  • Extends the forgiveness period for all PPP loans to 24 weeks(previously, 8 weeks) from the date of the loan origination.
  • Reduces the minimum amount that must be devoted to maintaining payroll from to 60%(from the prior 75%) in order to receive forgiveness. Other allowable expenses include mortgage interest, utilities, and leases. 
  • Extends the repayment period for unforgiven PPP loans to 5 years (from the prior 2 years).

Please note the Small Business Administration will issue updated guidance for PPP forgiveness to incorporate these changes. It is better to wait until guidance is completed. We recommend churches wait until the SBA issues final guidance before preparing the forgiveness application forms.

Should you have any questions regarding this new Act, please email Jonathan Blaker or call 713.353.2134.

June 2, 2020

Episcopal Diocese of Texas Bishops’ Statement

We grieve for the most recent deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery.

We hear the voices of people of color who live, daily, as victims of prejudice, contempt, and violence in America.

We support peaceful protests.

We speak out against the actions of authorities who tear-gas peaceful protestors.

We reject the government’s removal of clergy from church property without cause.

We reject the use of the Episcopal church as a political prop.

We condemn destruction of property.

Click here to read the entire statement.

May 28, 2020

New Initiative Grants in Response to COVID-19

We realize the toll this pandemic has taken on all of us in various ways. In an effort to offer the opportunity for both some financial relief for our congregations, and respite for clergy and their families, we have worked to secure two new initiative grants to help with our response to COVID-19. The first is a Technology Package Grant and the second is a Pastoral Retreat Grant. (See details regarding both grants below.)

About the Technology Grant:

Working with Canons Faulstich and Saylors, and Ellie Singer, the Diocese has created a project to help congregations continue to stream worship in the future. With gratitude to Linda Mitchell and Church Corporation, we are funding a Technology Package Grant for congregations with a 2019 ASA of 250 or below. Churches can apply for grants up to $2,000 to upgrade technology to improve the quality of their digital offerings. The application process will include coaching to ensure that what is purchased is appropriate for the congregation’s overall plan. Click here to complete and submit the technology grant application.

About the Pastoral Retreat Grant:

Working with Camp Allen, Linda Mitchell, and George Dehan, we have set aside dollars so active clergy (deacons and priests serving in part-time and full-time positions) and their families can get away. We know vacations are going to be difficult in this time and so we are offering Camp Allen as a safe environment to get out of their homes and yet remain safe. Camp Allen is now ready to begin receiving reservations. Please click here for a list of designated Clergy Guest Days. Camp Allen, as you know, is a great place to hit the reset button, bringing about rejuvenation. To register, contact   or the Reservation Department at Camp Allen at 936-825-7175.

May 14, 2020

Diocesan Singing Guidelines

Bishop Doyle has issued In-person Worship Guidelines for Singing. Read them in full via the link below:

More info here

May 13, 2020

COVID-19 Mental Health Support Line

Free Help is Available 24/7. Speak with a mental health professional for help dealing with anxiety, depression, stress, grief or worries.

More info here

May 7, 2020

Planning Phase II Re-Gathering Resource

We now have a template that Heads of Congregations may use to submit their proposals for re-gathering for worship in Phase II for approval from their regional bishop.

You may use this PDF as a worksheet while you prepare your proposal. Then, please fill out this online form to submit your final plan. 

For questions, challenges, or feedback on the form, please contact Haley Townsend.

May 6, 2020

Suggestions to Avoid Thefts, Burglaries, and Other Criminal Behavior on Church Campuses During COVID19 Crisis

Unfortunately, circumstances related to the COVID-19 pandemic have brought about the best and worst in members of our society. Several of you have brought to our attention incidents of theft from the mailboxes and drop boxes at several churches, in addition to outright burglaries of churches. This is both disturbing and disappointing to hear.

With less activity on our church campuses during this time, it is obvious to thieves that mailboxes and drop boxes are possibly not being checked as frequently.  This lack of activity gives thieves the opportunity to more readily steal from churches. In being cognizant of these, and other security risks, we recommend the following suggestions and best practices. This will help safeguard parishes from further incidents. Keep in mind that criminals are seeking vulnerable locations to invade.

To help alleviate these incidents, please consider:

Using electronic/online payment platforms such as PayPal (or others) as much as possible, if you aren’t already.

  • To collect mail, consider having your mail held at the local post office. Also, using online platforms to receive pledges and offerings is ideal during this time. If you have an electronic giving platform in place, encourage congregants to give this way.
  • Keep in mind that two things may occur when thieves steal your mail: your church may be unable to collect current offerings, and your parishioners’ personal information may be compromised or stolen. This creates the possibility of future fraud. Checks made payable to your church contain the personal information of your congregants, such as names, addresses, and bank account and routing numbers. Having such sensitive information compromised places your congregants at risk of identity theft. It can be very difficult for victims of identity theft to untangle the misuse of their financial information and recapture control of their personal finances.  

 Having congregants contact you (or your parish administrator) if their primary means of giving to the church is in the form of cash.

  • We understand that some churches have parishioners whose primary method of giving to the church is in the form cash. In such cases, ask those parishioners to contact you or your parish administrator. Then, the two of you can coordinate a time to meet with parishioners to receive their pledges or offerings. Please remember to observe social distancing. 

Increasing lighting on your campus during the evening hours.

  • If your church campus becomes very dark after sunset, then installing or increasing lighting would be helpful. This increases visibility, making burglars less likely to invade your church property.

 Trimming shrubs or removing other visual obstructions that may be present.

  • Limbs of trees, large shrubs, or other visual obstructions, including mobile objects, can be an invitation to criminals. Trimming hedges, especially around building entrances, windows, mailboxes, and drop boxes will help deter criminals. 

 Should you have questions or need additional assistance regarding finance matters, contact Jonathan Blakerdirector of treasury. All questions related to church property should be directed to Canon Joann Saylors

April 24, 2020

The Diocese of Texas has released Phase II Guidelines for regathering amid the COVID-19 pandemic. We are currently in Phase I. 
Click here to read Phase II Guidelines 

April 22, 2020

How should congregations record Sunday attendance?

We will give permission to remove days from attendance like we did after previous hurricanes. In other words, if we are out for two Sundays, we divide by 50. If we are out for four Sundays, we divide by 48. You need to keep track of and record “online attendance” in your books. But count those who viewed worship during the time of the event only. People can view at any time, but we are really looking for participants during worship not who engage it later. This is for reference sake. If we included the online with ASA it will skew the numbers and give a false impression of what is taking place on Sunday mornings.

April 16, 2020

Read the Diocesan Principles for Outreach and Service During Stay at Home Orders here

March 27, 2020

Watch the Bishop's message of hope, and read his full message below:

Good News of Hope: COVID-19 Message

March 26, 2020

Almost every county across the Diocese of Texas has moved the restriction of gathering 10 or more people to Sunday May 10th, 2020. As of today, many counties are moving to “shelter in place” or “stay at home – work safe” type guidelines.

3 clergy, 1 spouse, and over 10 parishioners in the diocese have been diagnosed with COVID-19. Many more are presumed cases and are in quarantine. Still more are in quarantine for exposure – with the vast majority of clergy and parishioners now joining them to flatten the curve.

“Shelter at home” or “stay at home - work safe” measures have now been put into place.

After reading the guidelines in the differing counties we believe the following is true:

You may continue to go to church, work with less than 10 people, 6 feet apart, for worship only.

Essential personnel can go to the office to do what is needed regarding finance and correspondence on an “as needed basis.”

The closure of offices and suspension of public services until May 10, 2020 in accordance with the local and statewide guidelines remains in affect. Most counties have made it clear there are to be no public gatherings of 10 or more until May 10th. Your county may be different. It appears that these guidelines will continue even after the “shelter at home” and “stay at home – work safe” measures are lifted.

We will address this weekly.

If we can return to public worship sooner we will do so.

And, if we have to extend the self-quarantine in accordance with health and state leadership guidance we will do so.

March 20, 2020 
Bishop’s Message to the Diocese 

As we begin another weekend living through our self-quarantine, and our virtual worship, one of the things that's come to me, and really been thinking about this all week, is a passage from Hebrews chapter 10, verses 32-34, in which the author of the book reminds those who have been going through a trial, a persecution, that they have a hope-filled faith, and that is this hope-filled faith that has allowed them to respond to the difficulty in their own life. 

The wordplay that is going on in that passage is one about the difference between substance, those earthly things, and basis, that which all things come from. As he's playing it out, what he talks about is how those who have been persecuted let go of the worldly dimension of their life, the regularity of their life, their possessions, all of these kinds of things, their substance, if you will, and relied instead upon the God of their faith, their basis, Jesus Christ, the foundation, the cornerstone.

As I was thinking about that and realized how we, all of us, are going through this trial and this time in which things feel like sand is moving under our feet and the regularity and normalcy of a daily schedule, routine, work and family life has all been changed as we come to be confined in our homes, we need to remember that it's actually not any of those things, the regularity, the normalcy, the substance, the work, the wealth, all of those things. Actually, we have a hope-filled faith that buoys us up at moments like this.

I've been amazed over the last couple of weeks as I've watched you and your leaders, the clergy of the diocese, reach out to people to re-engage on phone trees and video calls and video conferencing, to pray, to worship, to do Bible studies, to live out the life of Christianity in our homes. We need to remember that we come from a long line of individuals, of Christians, who prayed in caves and homes and huts as persecution and plagues and war ravaged their land. They, too, were filled with this hope that buoyed them up past the kind of substance of things, and they found that they could rely on the basis of all things God in Christ Jesus.

So I encourage you in this time. I don't know what the next few weeks will bring. I don't know how this virus will continue to spread across the United States or even in our own diocese or in our own towns, but I know that it will not defeat us, that we have an amazing faith, a hope in God that will deliver us through this time, and that nothing can separate us in this moment.

I want to leave you with one last vision from scripture. That is the disciples who were huddled as a stormy sea raged around their boat. Can you imagine that in that moment they were feared for their lives, that everything was over, that the boat was surely to sink, and in the midst of that great storm Jesus appears to them across the stormy sea and calms their fears and their anxieties.

This is the kind of basis for a hope-filled life that we rest upon. More than that, as we reach out, as we call people, as we gather in all of the different ways that technology allows us to in this time, facing this virus and all that's being thrown at us, let us realize that we, as C.S. Lewis said, are the little Christs, We are the ones being sent across the stormy sea to calm the fears and anxieties of those around us, those who even fear for their life, and to offer them the hope-filled faith that we have.

May God bless you, God make His face to shine upon you. Blessing of God almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit be upon you and remain with you this day and forevermore. Amen.

March 19, 2020

 

The Episcopal Diocese of Texas is suspending group worship until March 30, 2020, until further notice. Please continue virtual worship practices and stay tuned to this page for further updates from the diocese, as this process remains a fluid one.

This is what I see occurring across the U.S. at this time. The United States continues to lag in testing so we do not know yet the spread of the outbreak. As of the writing of this communication the US has 10,442 cases and 150 deaths. Texas has 95 of cases.

We have wide community spread and are presently in a 14-day invited self-quarantine for the churches of the Episcopal Diocese of Texas. Our schools are closed as are many offices and we have moved into administration and ministry through virtual means. The U.S. - Canada boarder is now closed except for essential travel.

Cities and health officials across the state are requesting that no more than 10 people gather together at a time. Many cities have already requested that we should leave our homes only as necessary. Restaurants are open for delivery only.

No clergy in the diocese have been diagnosed with COVID-19 yet. We do have parishioners who are quarantined because of exposure at work. We also have a parishioner who has COVID-19 and is in the hospital. This individual was not in church during the infection time so no notice was necessary. As testing becomes more widely available, we will know more about who is infected and the level of community spread. We will not be out of those woods after 3 weeks of quarantine.

We recognize that big cities, towns, and rural areas are having a different experience of this virus. We are attempting to be mindful of this fact and create guidelines for you use as needed. 

New Guidelines

We are officially extending closure of offices and suspension of public services until March 30th.

However, you should begin to prepare for and think about 8 weeks of suspended in-person gatherings.

As stated above, cities and health officials across the state are requesting that no more than 10 people gather at a time. This is a very wise precaution. Also be prepared for “shelter in home” or “stay at home” policies coming from city governments.

Churches may allow employees to work in the office as long as social distancing guidelines are followed, but we encourage as much work to be done from home as possible.

Is this only for 2 weeks?

No. You should follow the public health protocols set down in your area regarding office closures, distancing, and worship.

Does this mean a virtual Holy Week and Easter?

 Yes, it most likely does.

We are putting together liturgies for home and online resources which explore how to do Holy Week liturgies as families and with friends at home. Virginia Seminary is offering a set of webinars on this topic.

We need to remember that during war, plague, and persecution we as Christians have discerned ways to worship and live as the church without gathering for the Eucharist.

What are other churches doing beyond virtual worship?

Leaders are creating:

Online Sunday school for adults and children on a variety of platforms Prayer groups, small groups, and bible studies are moving to virtual.

We are encouraging a high communication, strategic contact, regiment for the duration of this outbreak. Moreover, the length of time the epidemic is expected to impact our communities is estimated at an 18-month horizon. Therefore, these practices need to be paced and taken on as long-term ministries for the church.

How often will we evaluate our own “quarantine”?

Weekly. We will be watching this every day and advise and provide counsel weekly.

It is highly likely that we may receive a “stay at home” or “shelter in place” situation. In this case we would think that you would decrease participation by other members of your congregation but that you would continue to provide regular worship virtually. That might mean going to your church in order to film; but our recommendation would be to film from home.

March 13, 2020

 

The Coronavirus continues to impact the world and communities across the United States. The W.H.O. has declared this a pandemic, and the United States government followed, declaring “a national emergency.”

It is impacting life within some of our Episcopal Dioceses in the wider church. The outbreak of the virus within the general population may be greater depending upon what part of the country you live. The bishops of those dioceses are acting appropriately, given the level of concern and direction of their health officials.

In addition to Bishop Doyle’s requirements and recommendations from last week, we have included the following guidelines for this week and reiterate that until further notice:

Bishop Doyle is asking all parishioners to worship with us from home for the next two Sundays.

He is asking all clergy to organize virtual opportunities for worship, bible study, and small groups. If you are not able to provide virtual worship this Sunday, the Cathedral will be offering online worship (www.christchurchcathedral.org). His expectation is that churches will organize their own offering by next Sunday and the Diocesan office will continue to provide resources to help with that. Click here to learn how to livestream events and meet virtually.

He is not requiring you to cancel every event on your campus; you must use your best judgment for support groups and other small gatherings. However, experts are recommending no gatherings of more than 10 people.  Bishop Doyle would encourage the use of virtual support groups for those in recovery.  A.A. has communicated alternatives on their website, including the use of intergroup, which offers online gatherings. 

The bottom line is that churches will need to figure out how your work continues in your context.  Take the necessary steps to put safety first. 

Clergy can go to the church to lead, record, and livestream virtual services with our people and may continue to go into the office if necessary. 

It is Bishop Doyle’s Godly counsel that we refrain from gathering for worship and in large groups at our churches during this time of COVID -19 outbreak - enabling us to slow the spread.

  1. If members travel to foreign countries, self-quarantine is recommended for a period of two weeks; refraining from coming to the church and/or school for that time period. Check the guidelines from CDC here.

 Please be aware that you can find the CDC updates here

You can find the current CDC risk assessment here.

The CDC basic guidelines (as updated today) regarding prevention of the spread of any disease and COVID-19 can be found here in English, Chinese, and Spanish.

 As mentioned last week, remember the basics to minimize the risk of being exposed to, or exposing others to, COVID-19 or other illnesses:

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
  • If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty.
  • The use of hand sanitizer is a good practice for the season. 

March 6, 2020

Due to the incredibly contagious nature of COVID-19 and to practice an abundance of caution, we are requiring the following common-sense steps and practices for your church operations and liturgies.  Until further notice: 

  • Discontinue intinction (dipping the bread or wafer in the cup). You may offer the common cup, but no intinction is permitted as it increases the chance of spreading germs.  Please remind worshipers that as an option, they may partake in communion without receiving the wine at all.  While the BPC page 407-408 states, "Sacraments may be received in both kinds simultaneously,” it is subject to the bishop's approval.

March 5, 2020

The Coronavirus continues to impact the world and communities across the United States. It is affecting life within some of our Episcopal Dioceses more so than others, and each diocese is acting appropriately, given the level of concern and local outbreak.

 The Episcopal Diocese of Texas has a deep desire to care and lead in this situation. We are suggesting initiatives that will lower the risk of COVID-19 spreading in our communities.  Although we are aware that the virus is now within the geographical area of our diocese,  it is important to note that these cases are travel-related, and it does not change the fact that the immediate risk to most Texans is presently low.

 Our goals are to:

  1. Continue to provide to our people and communities with the very best pastoral care and service - now and in the months to come;
  2. Provide the continuity of safe and open churches where people may pray and worship;
  3. Protect the most vulnerable among us by initiating practices to keep the spread of infectious disease down, including COVID-19;
  4. Communicate and reiterate the importance of best practices regarding illness; and
  5. Be attentive to the COVID-19 emerging context in Texas, within the wider church, and globally.

We recognize that, like you, heads of congregations will have to make personal decisions related these guidelines, how comfortable they are with them, and how to lead appropriately given the immediate context.

 We wish to allay fearful, and often anxious, environments.

 We will follow updates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention  and our local health authorities and follow their suggested preventative measures. We ask you to do the same. Most health organizations are communicating to the public daily, so please be proactive in obtaining up-to-date information and follow instructions from your local leaders.

 We urge you to follow the fundamental guidelines regarding prevention of the spread of any disease, and COVID-19 especially:

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
  • If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty.
  • The use of hand sanitizer is a good practice for the season.

 Please remember that cutting down on influenza and other illnesses is an integral part of responding to the COVID-19 virus. Freeing up hospital beds and promoting a healthy populace is proactive. As of the date of this message, the CDC reports 32 million flu illnesses, 310,000 hospitalizations, and 18,000 deaths from flu in the US. This puts a drain on resources needed in other parts of the public health system.

Due to the incredibly contagious nature of COVID-19 and to practice an abundance of caution, we are recommending the following common-sense steps and practices for your church operations and liturgies.  Until further notice: 

  • Bishop Doyle is requiring the discontinuation of intinction (dipping the bread or wafer in the cup). It may be important to remind us all that "Sacraments may be received in both kinds simultaneously" but this is subject to the bishop's approval, according to the BCP page 407-408.
  • Drain and empty all baptismal fonts and stoups, and for the time being, the practice of dipping the hands in the water of a font should be discontinued. If you perform a baptism, please use fresh water each time.
  • Avoid physical contact with others, including during the exchange of the peace—a simple bow or verbal exchange is appropriate.
  • Place hand sanitizing gel at the credence tables and ask all who are involved in the distribution of communion and chalice to sanitize before the distribution.

Should the outbreak grow in Texas, you need to know that we will follow the best practices of other dioceses where the risk has become higher of spreading the virus.

We will be monitoring updates and communicating with you directly as things change, through this webpage, and if necessary, through the dissemination of e-publications. 

Should you have any questions regarding this communication, your church operations and/or liturgies, please contact the Rev. Canon Joseph M.C. Chambers at 713.353.2145.