Tuesday, April 21, 2020

When Will the Church Be Back in Her Buildings?

Please read the following letter from the Bishop April 21, 2020 Dear Friends, The Church is alive and well. Across the Diocese—and throughout the Episcopal Church—the Church has been gathering for worship, enjoying coffee hour, studying scripture, and finding ways to make an impact on our communities. And the Church has been doing this outside of our buildings using electronic platforms. Thank you for your creativity, faithfulness, and perseverance. And here’s a thank you for something you may not realize you’ve done. You’ve become effective evangelists. Many have reported to me that the numbers of virtual participants in worship have actually exceeded the average size of previous in-person gatherings. And yet, I know that we all miss being with our friends and gathering in our familiar spaces. We all share one question. When will the Church be back in her buildings? Previously, I stated that we would not return any earlier than April 26 and that I would discern a way forward before that. Within hours the Governor extended that date for us to April 30. Most observers anticipate an additional extension. So, with this email, I am extending suspension of in-person gatherings until further notice from me. There is an end to this, but it would be imprudent and would raise false expectations to project a specific date. Additionally, please be aware that experts project a phased return to public gatherings. In other words, we will probably return to public worship initially while also practicing physical distancing. That means that in the initial phase of return there are likely to be limits and restrictions with respect to numbers in relation to a space’s square footage. At the beginning of the pandemic—when we anticipated the ability to gather—I shared guidelines for safely worshipping together. Once we are together physically, assume that those guidelines will be in effect. I will provide more detail at a later date. Much of that detail will have to wait until the Governor issues guidelines. But for now, I urge you to continue to worship, study, pray, connect, and serve through electronic means. Wait in confidence that Jesus is in our midst. And strive always to love one another as he loves us. Peace in Christ, The Rt. Rev. Jacob W. Owensby, PhD, DD 4th Bishop of Western Louisiana