Bishop’s Pastoral Advisory on COVID-19
The Delta Variant
The Diocese of Easton has maintained a robust and proactive response throughout the ongoing global COVID-19 Pandemic. As a diocese, we have been committed to remaining vigilant and steadfast to the science guiding state and national responses. Additionally, the diocese has remained very devoted to following state and CDC mandates. I was privileged to listen to The Honorable Larry Hogan, Governor of the State of Maryland, on CNN. In his televised comments, he was quick to praise the state’s high level of vigilance and timely response; noting the high number of Marylanders who have been vaccinated. He also acknowledged the recent noticeable increase in the rate of infections as a result of the ‘Delta Variant’, which he attributed to non-vaccinated adults and teenagers. The resistance of some to be vaccinated is a public health and safety concern which is beyond the authority of this diocese.
Throughout this ongoing health and safety saga the diocese has taken the position that each individual is their own best self-advocate. The diocese as a pastoral entity should not legislate, but rather encourage our faithful members (subject to the advice and guidance of their own medical professionals) to receive the vaccine in the interest of themselves and of the wider community. Our baptismal vows, guided by scripture, encourage each faithful Christian to be their sister’s and/or brother’s keeper or put the other way, “love your neighbor as yourself.” The diocese once again fervently endorses this strategy as a mutually beneficial and safe way forward.
Second, the clergy and lay leadership have done a remarkable job in responding cautiously, conscientiously and judiciously to the progress of this lethal virus. The drafting and execution of the “Protocols and Guidelines for Resumption of In-Person Worship”, followed most recently by the “Pandemic Response Revisions by Category”, have served to complement diocesan efforts towards improving and strengthening parochial responses. In no small measure they have supported, and continue to serve, as mitigation against any potential disastrous outcome in our parishes and diocese. These documents allow for each parish to establish, if needed, more restrictive protocols depending on their unique context.
My beloved, as faithful people of God, both clergy and lay, you have done well thus far in protecting the health and safety of our congregations, parishioners, supporters and extended family that join us for social partnership/social outreach and civic activities. There are challenges still before us; the battle against this virus rages on and the matter remains a potent force against the health and safety of all of us.
As such, I write as your pastoral servant and bishop, to endorse your ministry: to reassure you of your stellar and pioneering efforts in this area of global and national concern and to advise that due care and concern be exercised at every level in parochial ministry to stymy the flow of this ‘invisible enemy among us’. I wish to encourage you to continue to engage the protocols and guidelines, both diocesan and parochial, in all areas of pastoral life and ministry. As I have done throughout this pandemic, I will continue to trust your caring hearts, pastoral judgement, and concern for the health and safety of your parish and our wider diocesan family.
We must continue to be creative and adaptive in our ministries so that all people, vaccinated or unvaccinated, are never excluded from receiving pastoral care. This includes the Holy Sacraments of Christ’s redeeming love as well as any of the wide range of pastoral ministries which the church offers. All of us are beloved of our loving, life giving and liberating God and Savior Jesus Christ.
My beloved, always live in the confidence that your bishop loves you and cares for your health and safety. Amen!