Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others.
- Philippians 2:3-4
Finally, all of you, have unity of spirit, sympathy, love for one another, a tender heart, and a humble mind
- 1 Peter 3:8
May 19, 2020
Dear Siblings in Christ,
As our Diocese looks ahead to the time when we are able to resume in-person worship and activity, the staff and I have prepared this Plan for Return. I would also like to thank the Health Committee for their invaluable assistance. Of the dozens of plans I have reviewed from other dioceses and denominations, this is by far the most comprehensive. It has been unanimously approved by The Board of Trustees, Diocesan Council and the Standing Committee. It will assist you for the ministry that is required as we take these next steps as one diocese with the knowledge that Christ is with us.
You will see that there is much to be done in preparation for our eventual return to worship. While I had previously mentioned June 14th as a possible projected date, I want to clarify that no activity will be authorized until the Governor moves a county into Phase Two (Yellow). As soon as the Governor announces a date, we will communicate it. I would like to stress that we will approach the next few weeks with the mind that we are not in a rush to open; the Church and our faith is strong. Thus, the first option is to remain safe, secure and only open when all the conditions are in place to protect our laity, clergy and those most vulnerable.
I would like you to pray over this document and hold it as a community of hope. For more than two months, we have waited, and we have trusted the Lord. We need to celebrate that we have a plan for our slow, deliberate and always unfolding life together. This is a time to show the world that we take to heart Jesus’ instruction that we love one another. To demonstrate through our actions that we place not self, but one another first. We see in the Acts of the Apostles how the infant Church was tempted to disunity. Yet, they cared for one another, this small group of Christians, knowing if they fell apart, the cause was lost. What was most essential was their unity; they were one. This was the heart of our Gospel reading this past weekend where Jesus prayed “that we all may be one.”
We cannot afford to rush or skip any of the steps. The decisions we make will have profound ramifications which can affect the health and safety of parishioners and visitors. Because of the gravity of these issues I have put in place the following safeguards:
Any plan to resume in-person activity must be reviewed and approved by me. No church will be permitted to do so unless all the conditions are met.
The vestry and the clergy alike must take full responsibility to assure that all the conditions for resumption of in-person activity are met and that all protocols are followed.
No church should feel pressure or allow themselves to be pressured to resume in-person activity until they feel both called and fully prepared to do so. I encourage all our churches to take their time, discern, pray and work together. Please be patient with one another.
There is much preparation as we begin this process, with prayer and trust in God’s path. This is a strong diocese and we will never abandon hope. The light is shining in the darkness and the darkness will never overcome it. We have Jesus Christ. If you have questions, reach out to me. The staff and I will help you as you consider your options. As one diocese, we are stronger and will continue to grow stronger because of this time through of transformation.
Continue to be bold and innovative. Share what is working and what is not. New ideas will continue to emerge and I am open to your input. I am thankful for your faithfulness and creativity. Most of all, I am touched by the outpouring of love that you are showing for your neighbors, the poor, the vulnerable and all your siblings throughout this diocese. I hold you in prayer, and offer my gratitude for this blessed opportunity to serve as your bishop.
May God bless you always.
The Rt. Rev. Daniel G. P. Gutiérrez
XVI Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania