By now, you may have noticed that the Diocese of Fond du Lac has updated the guidelines and regulations governing in-person worship. While we are not yet “out of the woods” in terms of the Covid pandemic, we are seeing some very encouraging signs across the country and in the state of Wisconsin. The fact that the Bishop Matt and the Covid Task Force are making some changes to our safety protocols reflects the general, if modest, good news that we are beginning to see some light at the end of the tunnel (and that it’s probably not an oncoming train 🙂).
The updated guidelines may be found here.
It is important to note that the permissions granted to parishes by the diocese are options, not mandates. From the beginning of the pandemic and resultant shutdown, the diocese has set limits, restricting what parishes are allowed to do. As things have improved, the diocese has allowed certain restrictions to be relaxed, but each parish has had to decide individually how much to relax restrictions, based on the needs of each community respectively.
Since the diocese first began allowing parishes the possibility of partial, limited reopening, as your rector I have proceeded out of an abundance of caution, preferring to move incrementally, rather than rushing to do too much too soon (and possibly having to pay a price for such haste). Now, as we (hopefully!) near the end of this pandemic, I still intend to move us back towards full reopening incrementally. I know that’s not what everyone wants to hear, but it is, I believe, the way we need to handle this process.
The three most significant subjects about which changes have been made to the diocesan guidelines are masks, singing, and wine.
Masks. Recent research has shown that fully vaccinated individuals are at minimal risk not only for contracting Covid but also for spreading the virus to others. Unvaccinated people, however, remain at high risk for both. At All Saints, therefore, we will for the time being continue to encourage strongly all persons to wear masks whilst in the building with other people present. During worship, I will unmask only for reading the Gospel & preaching the sermon (when I am the minimum distance of 20-30 feet away from the congregation), and for the Eucharistic prayer (during which all wafers being consecrated for distribution will remain completely covered in the respective containers), replacing my mask and sanitizing my hands before coming down to distribute the host.
Singing. We must still avoid congregational singing, unfortunately. That said, we now have permission to have small groups of choristers—all of whom must be fully vaccinated and who must be sufficiently distanced from the congregation—who may sing during the service (while masked). Obviously, this arrangement is not ideal, but I think it will be a huge step forward on the journey back to church-as-we-know-it to have vocal music be part of our shared worship once again. I’m excited about this one, y’all—I hope you are, too!
Wine. The new guidelines offer a couple of options for resuming the distribution of wine during Communion. Both options are, in my professional opinion, both theologically problematic and rather distasteful. For the record, I’m delighted to discuss the underlying theology involved with anyone and everyone who is interested in such things. But for the sake of saving space here, let me simply say for now that 1) I very much miss our being able to share the Cup at Communion, and that 2) I very much look forward to the time when we can, once again, all share in the communion of the common Cup, as we all share in the saving grace of Christ’s one sacrifice for all. Even with the new options from the diocese, we are not yet to the point where we can safely share the common Cup, and so we must wait a little longer on this front. Let is, in the meantime, remember and give thanks that, theologically, as the blood is inherent in the body, so the wine is inherent in the consecrated host, and therefore to receive Communion “in one kind” is not to receive merely part, but is in fact to receive and experience the whole and complete Sacrament of Christ’s Body and Blood.
As always, if you have any questions, comments, or concerns about these policies and/or the reasons behind them, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 920.266.9262.
Peace & blessings,