“Therefore encourage one another and build up each other, as indeed you are doing.”
1 Thessalonians 5:11
Dear Companions on the Journey,
This Sunday, November 15, 2020 will mark the ninth month of our response as a faithful community to the COVID-19 pandemic. This summer, as we discussed options for in-person gatherings, we also recognized that the pandemic would stretch longer than anyone had imagined. I encouraged us to be flexible and fluid as we approached in-person gatherings. I asked us to be prepared to return to online worship when infection rates rose.
Infection rates in New Jersey have been steadily increasing since Labor Day. This month the increase has been rapid and associated with a rise in hospitalizations. Due to the fast-growing infection rate in New Jersey, we must adjust our approach to in-person worship. Further, we will need to take special precautions after the Thanksgiving holiday to ensure that we lower risk in our parishes.
The following adjustments begin on Sunday, November 15:
- Indoor in-person gatherings are limited to 25 people, all inclusive (including clergy, musicians, tech folks, congregants, etc.)
- Outdoor in-person gatherings are limited to 75 people, all-inclusive (including clergy, musicians, tech folks, congregants, etc.)
After Thanksgiving, the following adjustment will begin on November 29, for at least 2 weeks:
- Indoor in-person gatherings will be limited to 10 people, all inclusive (including clergy, musicians, tech folks, congregants, etc.)
- Outdoor in-person gatherings are limited to 50 people, all-inclusive (including clergy, musicians, tech folks, congregants, etc.)
These limits are for all church gatherings, including weddings and funerals.
We will need to be very careful from Thanksgiving into January. Holiday gatherings have the potential to increase infection through mid-January. We will adjust our gathering guidelines as needed, including relaxing them when infection rates lower.
The days are shorter, and nights are longer. Isolation can be felt more keenly during this time of year. We will need to check on each other, encourage each other, and stay connected to each other and to those most vulnerable in our communities. Please do seek assistance from a mental health professional if you find this time of distancing, limited gatherings, and altered holiday celebrations leaves you needing more support.
You have been a blessing to so many in these nine months. Your faithfulness, generosity, and compassion are gifts to those in our congregations and communities in need of compassion, care, food, and friendship. I know that you will continue to take of yourself, to look out for your neighbors, and to share the good news of God’s love with those who need to know they are beloved.
Grace and Peace,
The Rt. Rev. Carlye J. Hughes
XI Bishop of Newark