Even as local hospitals’ COVID-19 units reach capacity and the rate of new cases crested 14,000 per day, Los Angeles County’s Department of Public Health on Saturday (Dec. 19) announced it was lifting a ban on indoor worship services. But some parishes and dioceses in the county are advising the faithful that worshipping outdoors is still the safest option as the coronavirus continues to spread.
The Rev. John Harvey Taylor, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles, announced Monday on Facebook that the diocese would continue to refrain from indoor worship. “We are in the midst of a devastating spike in COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations, and deaths,” Taylor said. “Following the teachings and example of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, our churches are putting the health and safety of their neighbors ahead of their own desires and preferences,” he added. “By doing all they can to keep tombs empty, they are making every day an Easter Day.” The Rev. Susan Russell, an Episcopal priest at All Saints Church in Pasadena, agreed.
The Archdiocese of Los Angeles, which covers nearly 300 parishes and more than 4 million Catholics, is taking heed. The archdiocese’s coverage also includes Ventura and Santa Barbara counties.
“We’re in a bubble,” said Andrew Caslow, a student at Virginia Episcopal School, which has about 260 students in grades 9 through 12 on its 160-acre campus near Lynchburg. “I still have to social-distance and wear a mask, of course, but it’s a small price to pay for being with my friends.”
In early September, as Virginia Episcopal School was getting ready to return to campus for the first time since the start of the pandemic, Caslow sent the school’s administrator an urgent email message. His grandfather had died from Covid-19 complications, and he had spent time while at home researching Covidwise, a contact-tracing app rolled out by the state Health Department that’s built on top of software developed by Apple and Google.
By the Thanksgiving break, [the school’s medical director] said, there were no cases of transmission on campus, though there was one false-positive result, which briefly put the school on high alert. With no new cases, the high school was able to relax some rules. Students, for example, were allowed to socialize outdoors with others outside of their cohort.
To the Honorable Governor Chris Sununu,
We, the 60 undersigned New Hampshire faith leaders, write to you about the issue of housing, which weighs heavily on our hearts at this time of freezing temperatures, long nights, spreading sickness, and widespread unemployment. Although we are followers of several faith traditions, the values we share unite us to ask you to use your power as governor to show compassion and honor the humanity of all our neighbors. Keeping our neighbors housed ought to be a top priority of your administration.
The undersigned faith leaders of New Hampshire
The Rt. Rev. A. Robert Hirschfeld, Bishop
Episcopal Churches of New Hampshire
The governor said, “The way the community came together, I thought, ‘This is who we are. This is what Michigan is all about. This is what Michigan means to me. This is what community means to me.’”
Bishop Michael Curry, head of the Episcopal Church, also spoke about the importance of finding unity and understanding in 2020, as well as in the future. “It’s all about love,” Curry said. “We’ve been seeing that love even in this time of a horrible, painful pandemic; a horrible, painful time of a racial reckoning; a horrible, painful time of national divisions and polarizations.”
…“We are about healing a hurting world by the acts that we do,” Ray said. “I’m hoping that came across to folks during the worship.”