COVID-19 risk levels have decreased steadily in New Jersey over the last several weeks, as noted on covidactnow.org. All counties in our diocese, as of this writing on May 9, 2021, have moved from Very High Risk (red on covidactnow) to High Risk (orange). Additionally, New Jersey vaccination numbers continue to increase and are very positive, with more than 40% of NJ residents being fully vaccinated. Some counties have begun to move into Moderate Risk (yellow), which is very encouraging. The Journey Forward Team has reconvened to address needed guidelines for this Moderate Risk/yellow stage.
The current guidelines are still found at dioceseofnewark.org/covid-19/journey-forward, including updates from the Bishop and the Notification Form for In-person Worship (dioceseofnewark.org/form/notice-in-person-worship). The Bishop’s current maximum attendance limit is 100 persons at an in-person gathering, whether indoors or outdoors, provided those present can maintain 6’ distance between households.
Of our 96 congregations, 28 had indicated that they intended to gather for in-person worship during the period from Holy Week through last Sunday. Some of those churches met in-person only on one or two occasions in that period; some have met weekly since resuming in-person worship. Of those 28, 14 are meeting indoors only (watch your ventilation and narrow spaces!), 11 are meeting outdoors only, and 3 are meeting both indoors and outdoors (either with 2 services or varying by week). There are 7 additional churches that have indicated that they intend to gather in person over the next few weeks, which will bring the total to 35 at that point.
Please continue to monitor communication about changes in our guidelines and changes in reported risk levels across our diocese. As we all have learned this past year, conditions can occur rapidly and with little notice.