Where we are now
June 10, 2021
Since the COVID-19 crisis began over 15 months ago, our congregations have walked together hand-in-hand. We have covenanted together: promising to protect the vulnerable, to extend Christian hospitality, and to seek God’s transforming love in changing circumstances.
We have learned so much over this past year, and guided by our shared values, we are now ready to take the next step in our journey together. Beginning Saturday, June 19, 2021, each congregation will have local discretion to establish COVID-19 response guidelines within the restrictions established by New York State and in line with recommendations from the CDC.
I trust our parish leaders and the faithful people of this diocese. I believe that parish leaders will make decisions that reflect our shared commitment to the safety and well-being of all by responding faithfully to the realities of the local congregation and community. Protection of the most vulnerable and connection with those unable to attend worship and church activities in-person remain our priority.
The Diocese will continue to provide resources to assist parish leaders in making decisions at: cnyepiscopal.org/covid-19.
In this Diocese, we have not had a single COVID-19 spreader event. I am deeply grateful to every Episcopalian, especially our vestry leaders and clergy, for your tender care of God’s children through this crisis. Together, may we continue to act in ways consistent with our vision of “a world healed by love.”
Blessings of peace for the journey,
The Rt. Rev. Dr. DeDe Duncan-Probe
Bishop of Central New York
Download a printable PDF of this letter: June 10, 2021 Letter from Bishop Duncan-Probe
Download an editable announcement/summary for your parish bulletin and other communications: Sample Announcement of June 10, 2021 COVID-19 Response Update
See COVID-19 Risk in Your County (New York Times)
New York State Interim Guidance for Religious & Funeral Services (last updated June 9, 2021)
The Emotional Life Cycle of a Disaster (Episcopal Relief & Development)
September 15, 2021
- Current CDC guidance recommends that vaccinated individuals wear masks indoors in public in areas of “Substantial” or “High” community transmission. The CDC’s COVID-19 Data Tracker indicates that all counties in the Diocese are at “High” levels of community transmission. Per CDC guidance, masks are required for all individuals participating in indoor in-person activities on church property and in any parish-sponsored indoor gatherings. This requirement applies regardless of gathering size, vaccination status of individuals, or gathering purpose.
- Current CDC guidance also recommends face coverings indoors for teachers, staff, students and visitors in all schools nationwide, regardless of vaccination status. Parishes with children’s programs or with children attending public in-person worship will want to consider how this updated recommendation for schools should inform the parish COVID-19 response plan.
God is calling Central New York Episcopalians to live into our shared vision of a world healed by love. We will care for our communities and one another through our faithful response.
The goals of Episcopalians in Central New York include:
- Sharing God’s love and hope with our communities in this uncertain time.
- Keeping Jesus’ command to “remember the least of these”—the most vulnerable members of our community—by doing all we can to slow the spread of infectious disease.
- Continuing to provide people with the very best pastoral care now and in the months to come.
- Continuing prayer, worship, and formation, whether gathered in-person or online.
- Continuing community outreach ministries safely.
- Careful and cautious: We desire to protect and welcome the most vulnerable members of our communities. Therefore, we will typically take precautions beyond what is required by state regulations to slow the spread of COVID-19.
- Inclusive: We desire to extend hospitality, including a safe environment, to all members of our communities. To provide for the safety of those who are not yet unvaccinated, including children, we will continue to take precautions in all public gatherings. We also strongly encourage the continuation of online and hybrid worship, formation and pastoral care.
- Transformative: We desire to be part of the new thing that God is doing in the midst of this crisis. Therefore, we do not expect a “return to normal.” As we learn to love God, one another, and all creation in changing circumstances, our churches will be transformed.
Information about COVID-19
See COVID-19 Risk in Your County (New York Times)
Episcopal Church’s COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit
Churches and church leaders (lay and ordained) can serve as important trusted bridges between public health officials and congregations. Available in English and Spanish, the Episcopal Church’s COVID-19 Vaccine toolkit offers ideas and resources to help your church support vaccine distribution efforts.
“Do this one for the children”
Presiding Bishop Michael Curry encourages all Americans to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
Choosing Safer Activities graphic (CDC): a helpful risk assessment guide for vaccinated people and unvaccinated people. Click image to download a printable poster.
COVID-19 and Faithful Response with Dr. Jessica Shand (URMC)
On March 3, 2021, The Episcopal Diocese of Central New York welcomed Dr. Jessica Shand of the University of Rochester Medical Center. A physician, clinical ethicist, and theologian, Dr. Shand presented current information about the COVID-19 pandemic, including COVID vaccination, to support parish leaders in making faithful decisions while keeping congregations informed. She also offered her unique perspective as a physician-theologian on how faith communities can support and contribute to pandemic response efforts.
Dr. Shand’s slide presentation is available here.
WHO briefing on the COVID-19 pandemic and vaccines
Dr. Sylvie Briand, Director of Global Infectious Hazard Preparedness, WHO Emergency Preparedness at the World Health Organization, speaks on the current state of the COVID-19 pandemic and vaccines to the Anglican Health & Community Network and the Anglican Alliance on December 10, 2020.
Dr. Briand’s slides are available here.
Overview with infectious disease expert Dr. Shafinaz Akhter, UPenn
On October 27th, the Episcopal Diocese of Central New York welcomed infectious disease expert Dr. Shafinaz Akhter of the University of Pennsylvania for a special conversation with clergy and lay leaders about the COVID-19 pandemic.
More resources by topic
- Safe Congregational Singing resources from the Center for Congregational Song.
- To reduce risk for participants:
- Fully vaccinated is safer than unvaccinated or partially vaccinated
- Masked is safer than unmasked (note that those not fully vaccinated should always wear masks)
- More distance is safer than less distance
- Outdoors is safer than indoors (more ventilation is better than less ventilation)
- Less total time together is safer than more time together
- Note that CDC guidance on singing and COVID-19 tends to be geared toward individuals, not organizations.
Live Streaming & Online Worship
- An inexpensive and portable live-streaming setup: Use a MEVO Camera to start live-streaming for under $900 with this guide prepared by the Diocese of Central New York
- More Live Streaming Basics for Parishes: includes a recording of our October 2020 workshop on Live Streaming Basics for Parishes and other helpful links, including copyright considerations, Zoom meeting best practices, and more
- General Convention guidelines for recording online worship services in the parish register
Vestry Meetings and Online Parish Annual Meetings & Elections
- Online Parish Annual Meetings resource page: includes a recording of our December 2020 presentation with vice-chancellor Martha Berry and tips for conducting votes online
- Recommendations for Vestries Meeting and Voting Online: includes sample resolution for amending parish by-laws to provide for meeting and conducting business remotely
- This federal non-need-based program, beginning on April 12, 2021, covers up to $9,000 in funeral expenses for anyone who died of COVID-19 in the US since January 20, 2020. The person who died does not need to be a citizen/non-citizen national/qualified alien, but the applicant must be.
- Churches can help by educating and encouraging eligible people to apply.
- Download: FEMA COVID-19 Funeral Assistance (this is a zip file containing a Presentation and Q&A from Episcopal Relief & Development on the program, a flyer, and more)
- View FEMA program website: https://www.fema.gov/disasters/coronavirus/economic/funeral-assistance