March 1, 2022 update from Bishop Duncan-Probe
It has now been nearly two years since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Through this challenging time, our people and congregations have walked faithfully together, offering Christian hospitality and seeking to protect the vulnerable. I am proud of this Diocese, and grateful to our diocesan leaders, especially our District Deans, Board and Standing Committee, and Clergy and Vestries, for your wisdom and compassion.
As I write to you, another pandemic surge is coming to an end: COVID-19 infection rates are steadily dropping and the burden on our hospitals is easing. The CDC has established new metrics and guidelines with the simple goal of preventing severe COVID-19 disease in order to ensure that our hospitals have the capacity to treat those who fall gravely ill. This pandemic is not over, but we have an opportunity to consider easing some of our COVID-19 precautions for a time.
Therefore, beginning Saturday, March 12, 2022, each congregation will once again have local discretion to establish COVID-19 response guidelines in line with current recommendations from the CDC. Please note that the CDC continues to recommend universal masking in counties where the COVID-19 Community Level metric is “High;” you can check your county’s COVID-19 Community Level at: cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/science/community-levels.html. Many of our congregations will continue to follow additional safety protocols beyond the minimum CDC recommendations.
We will be living with COVID-19 for a long time, adapting our response to changing realities in order to care for one another well. What remains constant is our Christian culture of hospitality and compassion. In this new phase of pandemic, some members of our communities will be eager to embrace relaxed safety protocols, while others will continue to wear masks and keep social distance in order to protect themselves or vulnerable loved ones. No matter what choices any one of us makes, treating one another with respect and compassion includes:
- Being willing to place others’ comfort and safety first; if you see someone wearing a mask, consider offering to wear one yourself and maintaining social distance;
- Respecting and encouraging those who continue to wear masks and/or maintain social distance;
- Keeping a supply of masks and hand sanitizer prominently available in your church building;
- Reminding and empowering members to stay at home and participate in church activities online if they are not feeling well.
Again, I want you to know how grateful I am for your leadership and faithful ministry through this pandemic. I, your Deans, and the diocesan staff are available to support you as you navigate new decisions and, as always, you can find resources to assist you at: cnyepiscopal.org/covid-19. Together, may we continue to seek after 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
CDC “Community Spread” Metrics and Map
“The Needs of the Saints: Returning to Church 4.0” Thoughtful recommendations to inform your church’s approach to relaxing COVID-19 mitigation measures, updated March 4, 2022 (from the Wisconsin Council of Churches)
The Emotional Life Cycle of a Disaster (Episcopal Relief & Development)
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.
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.
How do mRNA Vaccines Work? Penn Medicine explains
Information about COVID-19
COVID-19 Positivity Rates (NYS)
COVID-19 Community Levels (CDC) – A measure of the impact of COVID-19 illness on health and healthcare systems
See also: COVID-19 Data Tracker (CDC)
Track Coronavirus Cases in Counties of this Diocese (created using New York Times dashboard; free NYT account may be required)
Also: You can sign up to get free daily updates, customized for your community, from the New York Times Coronavirus Tracker. Sign up for the “Coronavirus Tracker” newsletter at nytimes.com/newsletters. You may need to create a free NYT account, but a subscription is not required. In the first daily update, you’ll see a link to customize future updates.
COVID-19 Guidance and Information
COVID-19 information from the Center for Disease Control (CDC)
Johns Hopkins University & Medicine Coronavirus Resource Center
New York State Interim Guidance for Religious & Funeral Services (last updated June 9, 2021)
December 2021 COVID-19 Update with Dr. Jessica Shand (URMC)
Dr. Jessica Shand of the University of Rochester Medical Center gives a brief overview of the “knowns and unknowns” in this stage of the COVID-19 pandemic, and offers a perspective on how congregations can faithfully respond. This presentation was recorded via Zoom on December 15, 2021.
More resources by topic
- Try this inexpensive “churchmade” air filter (St. Paul’s, Waterloo)
- DIY Box Fan air filter and How to build a Do-It-Yourself Fan/Filter Room Air Cleaner used by St. John’s, Ithaca
- A Breath of Fresh Air: One Church’s Healthy Air Solution (Trinity Memorial, Binghamton)
- 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