Last Friday, Governor Northam issued a “Phase Three Tightening” of his Executive Order 67 imposing restrictions to address Covid-19, responding to the rise in cases and hospitalizations. We have studied amended EO67 and received input from Bishop Guernsey. Restoration’s “Phase Beta” protocols, which the Vestry established in September, comply with it (apart from one minor change we will need to make for outdoor eucharist, taping out 6’ spacing). The Governor’s latest order, however, as well as the data prompting him to issue it, provides occasion to re-evaluate where we are, which we, the staff, and the Vestry are doing.
More specifically, the Governor’s new restrictions include barring “gatherings” of more than 25 persons, whether indoors or outdoors. By “gathering,” he particularly means “social events”—“parties,” “celebrations,” and other occasions likely to involve close and sustained interaction. He contrasts that with, and does not apply the 25-person limit to, persons (a) “performing functions of their employment,” (b) “assembled in an educational instructional setting,” or (c) “attend[ing] religious services.” So Restoration does not have to limit its “religious services” to 25-persons, but it does have to limit any “social gathering,” including one “in connection with” a religious service. In addition, the Governor’s pre-existing restrictions and guidelines for religious services remain in place (and we are following them).
Whether Restoration nevertheless should revise its Phase Beta protocols is a question for the Vestry, which we have put on the agenda for its next meeting, on December 1. In the interim (at least), we have, at the staff’s suggestion and in consultation with the Vestry, added two “shut down thresholds”: If (a) any member of our staff, music team, or broadcast team, or (b), essentially, more than 3 people from a Sunday congregation receive a positive Covid diagnosis, we will cancel in-person Sunday services for the next two Sundays, replacing them with clergy-led Morning Prayer over Zoom and YouTube Live.
Finally, with Thanksgiving coming up, please keep in mind the Vestry’s request, in our Phase Beta rules, that, “[i]f you have traveled internationally or out of state in the previous 14 days,” you “thoughtfully consider not attending in person, in our sanctuary.”
This all calls for much wisdom, so we would be grateful for your prayers. And if you have questions or thoughts, please reach out.
David Hanke, Rector
Johanna Montague, Warden
Kevin Marshall, Warden