Yesterday afternoon Franklin County was moved from an orange designation to a red designation in the State of Ohio’s Public Health Emergency Alert System. After consultation with the Wardens and Vestry, I have made the decision to cancel in-person worship this Sunday, and hold online worship only. This was obviously a hard decision, since so many people have been contributing their ideas and labor to the effort of getting ready to hold Holy Eucharist this Sunday. However, all of the set-up and precautionary thinking we have done will still be available to us when we are able to meet in person again. I’ll use the rest of this post to lay out the thought process behind this decision, and to provide a handy guide to what is possible at each different level of public emergency.
In May, the Diocese released a guide entitled “Phased Return to Increasing In-Person Parish Life.” This was before the State of Ohio had created the Public Health Emergency Alert System, and the Bishop clarified how the diocese’s guide lined up with the state’s system in an email in July. A few weeks ago, the diocese issued a set of singing guidelines, that laid out what is possible in each of the four levels of public emergency (purple, red, orange, and yellow). Soon after, we received guidelines for Holy Communion, Confirmations, and Receptions that did not tie any of these practices to the public emergency levels. But we can assume that if it’s safe to meet in person, it’s safe to practice these rites of the church.
To give a clear visual of all of this, I’ve created this table:
I want to be clear that this is my own interpretation of the materials presented in the different diocesan documents, but I believe it is accurate. Obviously, we could be gathering outside and sharing communion this Sunday, however the forecast increasingly calls for rain, and if it were to rain we would be unable to move services inside. If the threat level stays at red for more than two weeks, we will reassess and, assuming that the weather cooperates, consider holding an outdoor eucharist.
One final consideration is that Bishop Price is scheduled to visit us on November 22nd, and will confirm and receive people at that visit. Our sincere hope is that the threat level will have been reduced to orange by that time, or if it’s still at red, we will be able to hold services outside. I will keep you updated.