Psalm 149

Cantate Domino

Hallelujah!
Sing to the Lord a new song; *
sing his praise in the congregation of the faithful.

2 Let Israel rejoice in his Maker; *
let the children of Zion be joyful in their King.

3 Let them praise his Name in the dance; *
let them sing praise to him with timbrel and harp.

4 For the Lord takes pleasure in his people *
and adorns the poor with victory.

5 Let the faithful rejoice in triumph; *
let them be joyful on their beds.

6 Let the praises of God be in their throat *
and a two-edged sword in their hand;

7 To wreak vengeance on the nations *
and punishment on the peoples;

8 To bind their kings in chains *
and their nobles with links of iron;

9 To inflict on them the judgment decreed; *
this is glory for all his faithful people.
Hallelujah!

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Due to the ongoing impact of COVID-19, we have once again had to revise our original plans for this year’s 152nd Diocesan Convention.  We had hoped to gather at Camp-of-the-Woods.  Unfortunately, it has become clear in recent weeks that a large in-person gathering this fall would not be prudent, or even possible given the current social distancing requirements.  Camp of the Woods confirmed that decision when they announced a few days ago that all large group events are cancelled through the end of 2020.

Given the canonical requirement to hold an annual Diocesan Convention, our only real option at this point is to hold a one day event through virtual means.  In order to properly plan and prepare for this new format, the date for Albany’s 152nd Diocesan Convention has been moved to Saturday, October 24, 2020.  We recognize that holding the Convention virtually will be a huge departure from what we are all accustomed to, and will greatly stretch the comfort zone for most of us.

Most if not all other dioceses in The Episcopal Church are making similar plans to hold their Diocesan Conventions virtually. Members of our Diocesan Staff are consulting with colleagues from other dioceses as we prepare for this new virtual format.

As mentioned in earlier correspondence, this year’s Diocesan Convention will be a “bare-bones” Convention, dealing with only those things that must be accomplished, such as elections and the budget.  Any issues requiring extensive debate will be postponed until next summer, when by the grace of God, we hope to be able to once again meet in person at Camp of the Woods.

Your corporate and individual assistance is key to our planning.  First and foremost, each Parish is asked to send their up-to-date Certificate of Election (naming their parish deputation) to Deacon Marian Sive, Secretary of the Diocese: 575 Burton Rd, Greenwich, NY 12834, by Monday, August 31th.  We have extended the deadline by one week to help parishes who are having difficulty electing deputies to Convention.  If you have questions, her e-mail address is msive@ctkcenter.org.  It is essential that each deputy have an e-mail address.

Second, we are sending each deputy, member of the clergy, and parish a survey to help us assess the ability of deputies and clergy to be able to participate in our virtual convention and assess which parishes might be a resource to facilitate individual participation.  Once this information is gathered, we will draft plans to facilitate participation in our virtual convention and share them with you.  We are planning practice sessions to help familiarize everyone with the process; especially voting.

While no doubt, there will be challenges as we move forward, our Diocesan Tech Support Team is confident that we will be able to have everything in place and ready to go for the Diocesan Convention on October 24th.  We ask your prayers and patience as we work out the details.  Given all the challenges of the Coronavirus Pandemic, the theme of this year’s Convention “2020 Vision: Fix Your Eyes on Jesus” is particularly appropriate and needed as we move forward.

Faithfully Yours in Christ,

Rt. Rev. William H. Love
Bishop of Albany

Dear Friends in Christ,

I want to thank everyone for your patience and cooperation as we continue to try to adjust to the impact of COVID-19 on our worship services and the wider life and ministry of the Church throughout the Diocese of Albany.  I greatly appreciate the leadership of the clergy and lay leaders as they work to discern how best to minister to and meet the spiritual needs of those entrusted to their care.

Many of our parishes have been able to resume holding public services, while abiding by the social distancing regulations and current 33 percent seating capacity limit set by the State.  A few of our parishes, to include several of our summer chapels, have not yet been able to resume public services.

In an effort to minister to those who are unable to come to church, several parishes are offering on-line services (both recorded and live-streamed).  In addition, a weekly Holy Communion Service produced at Christ the King Center is being offered for those individuals (both within and outside the Diocese) whose parishes don’t have recording capabilities, as well as those who like a variety of worship experiences.

I am so appreciative to all the clergy and musicians from around the Diocese who have been assisting with these services, providing excellent preaching and music, and to Christopher Fitz and Warren Wright-Sedam for their technical expertise and the sacrificial gift of their time and energy in producing these services.  The on-line services, both at the parish and diocesan level, continue to be a huge blessing, enabling us to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ and minister to countless individuals we would never have reached otherwise.  Again, my most sincere thanks to everyone who has helped make this possible.

One of the greatest concerns that many of you have raised around the Diocese, is the difficulty of wearing masks throughout the entire service.  After hearing your concerns, as well as reviewing the updated guidelines from the New York State Department of Health (which allow for the removal of masks while seated), I am hereby lifting the diocesan requirement to wear masks while seated in pews, provided the social distancing guideline (of a six foot separation between non-family members) is maintained.  With that said, please note that the ordained and lay leadership of each parish may choose NOT to remove the requirement of wearing masks while seated, if they believe the unique circumstances of their parish are best served by everyone continuing to wear masks whether seated or not.

In either case, face masks are still required to be worn whenever you are up moving around the Church in the aisles or other locations where a six foot separation is not possible.  In addition, masks are still required when you are singing (whether seated or standing), unless you are a soloist separated from the rest of the congregation by at least 10 feet.

In order to assure the physical health and wellbeing of everyone in our churches during the Coronavirus Pandemic, all other Diocesan Guidelines remain in effect until further notice.

Faithfully Your Brother in Christ,

+Bill

Bishop of Albany

 

Psalm 105, 1-6, 16-22, 45b

Confitemini Domino

Give thanks to the Lord and call upon his Name; *
make known his deeds among the peoples.

2 Sing to him, sing praises to him, *
and speak of all his marvelous works.

3 Glory in his holy Name; *
let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice.

4 Search for the Lord and his strength; *
continually seek his face.

5 Remember the marvels he has done, *
his wonders and the judgments of his mouth,

6 O offspring of Abraham his servant, *
O children of Jacob his chosen.

16 Then he called for a famine in the land *
and destroyed the supply of bread.

17 He sent a man before them, *
Joseph, who was sold as a slave.

18 They bruised his feet in fetters; *
his neck they put in an iron collar.

19 Until his prediction came to pass, *
the word of the Lord tested him.

20 The king sent and released him; *
the ruler of the peoples set him free.

21 He set him as a master over his household,
as a ruler over all his possessions,

22 To instruct his princes according to his will
and to teach his elders wisdom.

45 Hallelujah!

Psalm 9

    I will recount all of your wonderful deeds.
I will be glad and exult in you;
    I will sing praise to your name, O Most High.

When my enemies turn back,
    they stumble and perish before[c] your presence.
For you have maintained my just cause;
    you have sat on the throne, giving righteous judgment.

You have rebuked the nations; you have made the wicked perish;
    you have blotted out their name forever and ever.
The enemy came to an end in everlasting ruins;
    their cities you rooted out;
    the very memory of them has perished.

But the Lord sits enthroned forever;
    he has established his throne for justice,
and he judges the world with righteousness;
    he judges the peoples with uprightness.

The Lord is a stronghold for the oppressed,
    a stronghold in times of trouble.
10 And those who know your name put their trust in you,
    for you, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek you.

11 Sing praises to the Lord, who sits enthroned in Zion!
    Tell among the peoples his deeds!
12 For he who avenges blood is mindful of them;
    he does not forget the cry of the afflicted.

13 Be gracious to me, O Lord!
    See my affliction from those who hate me,
    O you who lift me up from the gates of death,
14 that I may recount all your praises,
    that in the gates of the daughter of Zion
    I may rejoice in your salvation.

15 The nations have sunk in the pit that they made;
    in the net that they hid, their own foot has been caught.
16 The Lord has made himself known; he has executed judgment;
    the wicked are snared in the work of their own hands. Higgaion.[d] Selah

17 The wicked shall return to Sheol,
    all the nations that forget God.

18 For the needy shall not always be forgotten,
    and the hope of the poor shall not perish forever.

19 Arise, O Lord! Let not man prevail;
    let the nations be judged before you!
20 Put them in fear, O Lord!
    Let the nations know that they are but men! Selah

Through the month of July the Mission Committee will be sharing daily prayer requests focusing on mission work in an through the Diocese of Albany.  These prayer prompts will be shared on social media and here. Please join us in praying for God’s love and light to be shared all over the world beginning right here in our Diocese.

To learn more about the Mission Committee click here.

Dear Friends in Christ,

Last week, countless people throughout the Country watched and mourned with the family and friends of George Floyd as his body was laid to rest two weeks after his brutal and senseless murder by an unjust policeman in Minneapolis.  What happened to George Floyd NEVER should have happened, but tragically it did.  It serves as a stark reminder to all of us of the fallen and broken world in which we live – a world in great need of healing and redemption.

From the very earliest of days, beginning with Cain and Abel, human beings have lashed out in anger, fear, jealousy, greed, and hatred toward one another, resulting in untold devastation and suffering (physically, spiritually, mentally, emotionally, financially, and many other ways). It seems as though humans never run out of excuses to try to justify their hatred or ill will and demeaning attitudes towards one another, whether it be race or ethnicity, nationality, religion, gender, sexual orientation, social status, or some other excuse.  Hatred only leads to more hatred, more violence, more injustice, more suffering, and more loss.

Our African American brothers and sisters have experienced the devasting consequences of these sinful attitudes and behaviors for centuries. They have been targets of oppression and discrimination in ways big and small simply because of the color of their skin, and these injustices continue today. We have come a long way from where we once were but, as we have been reminded in recent weeks, we still have a long way to go. The unrest we’ve seen in communities here and across the country is reflective of the anger, frustration, and deep hurt and pain that so many are still experiencing.

If our society is to be freed of the infliction of racism, it will be one person at a time, one relationship at a time, and one act of intentional, unconditional, self-sacrificial love at a time.  Racism is a condition of the heart and mind and soul.  There is only one antidote – LOVE.  I am not talking about a superficial love that is based on our emotions or feelings (that is here one day and gone the next), but rather the love that enables us to “turn the other cheek,” to “love our enemies,” and to pray for “those who persecute [us].” It is the love that enables us to look beyond ourselves to the needs of others, giving of ourselves to help meet those needs.  That is the love that Jesus calls us to, the love that He perfectly demonstrated on the Cross when He offered Himself as a sacrifice for the sins of the world and died in order that we might live.

The love that will ultimately defeat racism and heal its victims of the hurts and fears they have experienced is a supernatural, life transforming love that comes from God.  The Lord calls each of us to be a channel of His love and mercy and healing grace in the fight against racism and other ills of society.  If we are to carry out that call, we must first be healed and transformed ourselves.  We can’t give that which we don’t have.

It is vital that we ask God to help us identify and repent of our own areas of fallenness – the prejudices we have toward others, and the injustices we have committed regardless of how large or small.  If we have failed to show dignity and respect to a fellow human being; if we have belittled someone, or done something to suggest they are somehow “less than” others; or if we have placed ourselves above others, we need to confess it, repent of it, and ask God’s forgiveness.

We must also ask the Lord to heal us of the wounds and fears in our lives that have led us to be prejudicial towards others.  In healing us of those concerns, the Lord can transform our hearts and minds, enabling us to love those we have failed to love, regardless of skin color or any other barriers to relationship.

Governments can pass legislation outlawing particular acts and behaviors and reform unjust systems or practices, but that only goes so far.  As stated earlier, racism is a condition of the heart and mind and soul.  Governments can’t legislate love.  That is a choice that only you and I can make, by God’s grace.  We either choose to love or choose not to.  Love requires action.  It requires relationship.

We must be willing to step out of our comfort zones and engage in conversation in order to get to know one another and start building relationships and trust.  Often that trust will not happen until we demonstrate that we can be counted upon, that we are in it for the long hall, and that we are willing to share in one another’s burdens and speak out against injustices.

God has made it possible for us to love others, because He first loved us.  He set the example.  Fortunately, God didn’t wait for us to love Him nor did He wait for us to get our act together before He loved us.  In Paul’s Letter to the Romans, we are told: “But God demonstrates His love for us in this, While we were still sinners Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).  The Lord calls us to reach out in love, whether we are loved in return or not.   True love takes work; it takes patience; it takes courage; it takes sacrifice.  True love is needed if racism is to be defeated.  It is going to take God working in and through us as a channel of His love and mercy and healing grace.  Are we up for the challenge?  If not, the current racial unrest and injustice will only get worse.  The Lord is calling us to go forth in His Name.

In thinking about ways in which we might go forth in the Name of Christ to make a positive difference in breaking down racial divides and ministering to the needy, I want to briefly mention two ministries the Lord is blessing in the Albany/Troy area. These, along with many other similar ministries in parishes throughout the Diocese, are worthy of our prayers and support through the gifts of our time, talent, and finances.  Saying we love someone is one thing, showing that we love them is something else.

The “Fish and Loaves Ministry” at St. Francis Mission on Clinton Ave. in Albany is one such ministry.  I am so appreciative to Fr. Jacob Evans, Dick Malchow, and all the faithful volunteers who are helping with this ministry.  It has been going on for several decades now.  I pray by God’s grace and the hard work and generosity of many of you that it will continue as long as there are hungry people in need of a good meal, a friendly smile, and a safe Christ-filled place to come enjoy one another’s company and experience God’s love.  Lives are being touched and transformed.  In speaking of some of the friendships he has made in the black community through the “Fish and Loaves Ministry,” Fr. Jacob said, “They don’t see me as a white guy, and I don’t see them as black people.  They are simply wonderful folks going through a difficult time.”

Kingdom Ministries headed by Lay Pastor Billy Carter (in North Central Troy) is another very worthy ministry the Diocese of Albany (through Oaks of Righteousness) has been blessed to be able to support and partner in.  I am so thankful and appreciative of Billy and his faithful team who give of themselves sacrificially day in and day out ministering to some of the neediest folks in one of the most difficult and dangerous neighborhoods in the area. God is using Kingdom Ministries to be a channel of His love and mercy and healing grace.

I offer these two ministries (recognizing there are many others) as examples of what God can and will do when we unite to minister to those in need.  If we are to help bring healing into the racial divide and its associated ills in our communities, we must all work together, recognizing that EVERY human being is created in the image and likeness of God, and is loved by God.  May God give each of us the grace to see His image and likeness in one another, and in so doing, love one another as He has loved us.

In closing, I pray the Lord will put on each of our hearts the prayer attributed to St. Francis:

Lord, make us instruments of your peace.  Where there is hatred, let us sow love;
where there is injury, pardon; where there is discord, union; where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy;
Grant that we may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to
understand; to be loved as to love.  For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning
that we are pardoned; and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.  Amen.

Faithfully Your Brother in Christ,

+Bill

Bishop of Albany

 

The Standing Committee of the Diocese of Albany has issued a call for prayer for Bishop Bill as he prepares to face the Title IV Hearing Panel of the Episcopal Church this Friday, June 12th, beginning at 9am. There are special services taking place around the Diocese to offer prayers on behalf of Bishop Bill. So far we’ve seen the following planned services:
  • Christ Church in Schenectady will have Evening Prayer with special intersession for Bishop Love this Thursday at 6:00pm and Morning Prayer with special intersession for Bishop Love this Friday on at 8:00am.
  • St. George’s in Clifton Park will have the nave open for prayer at 6:00pm Thursday evening followed by a Eucharist at 7:00pm. The nave will be open for prayer after the service until 9:00 pm. All are welcome.
  • St. Matthew’s in Unadilla will Morning Prayer with Great Litany (with special prayers for Bishop Love) at 8:30 a.m. Friday morning.
  • St. Paul’s in Greenwich will have a special evening prayer for Bishop Bill on Thursday evening at 6:30pm.
  • Trinity Churches in Whitehall and Granville will host two prayer hours. Granville will be from 10-11:00am and Whitehall from 1:00 – 2:00pm on Thursday.
If other churches are holding services, please let Rev. Meaghan Keegan, Communications Officer, know by emailing mkeegan@albanydiocese.org and they will be posted on our webpage.
The public will be able to view the hearing through Facebook Live, using this link: https://www.facebook.com/events/265211354592608/
 We have been told that you do not need to have a Facebook account to view this link.
Diocesan Guidelines for Reopening Church Buildings for Public Worship (PDF)
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
    Acknowledging the importance of people being able to once again worship together in their faith communities, both the federal and state governments have (with certain restrictions) lifted the ban on public worship services. As a result, after consulting with the clergy and many of the lay leaders of the Diocese, as well as a great deal of thought, prayer and research, I have authorized the reopening of church buildings throughout the Diocese of Albany provided certain diocesan guidelines are followed during the Coronavirus Pandemic.
    Before outlining the diocesan guidelines, I would like to take just a moment to talk about potential pastoral concerns associated with reopening our Church buildings. First, given the current NY State restriction limiting group gatherings inside church buildings to 10 persons or less (regardless of the size of the building), it is important for parishes to be pastorally sensitive as they devise a plan for public services constricted by the 10 person limit. With the possible exception of our smallest parishes, not everyone will be able to worship together at one time, so multiple services may be needed on Sunday, or spread throughout the week. The challenge will be coming up with an equitable system that allows those who want to attend Church to do so.
    Parishes may want to investigate the website (setmore.com) to assist them with scheduling people for their church services. Hopefully the 10 person limit for indoor services will be lifted soon. Until then, however, especially during the warmer months, parishes may want to consider doing an outdoor service, which requires social distancing, but is not constrained by the 10 person rule, thus allowing for more people.
    A second pastoral concern (apart from the 10 person limit) has to do with the fact that not everyone is in the same place, or has the same understanding of how best to move forward with public worship services during the Coronavirus Pandemic. I know many of us are anxious to get back to church as quickly as possible, while others of us are not yet ready to physically join in public worship. Please know that whichever group you find yourself in is fine.
    No one should feel pressured to return to Church before they are ready, nor should those who want to return right away be seen as uncaring or unconcerned about spreading the Coronavirus. There are safe ways for us to come back to church if we work together. We each have different physical, mental and spiritual needs, all of which are important and need to be met as best we can, given the environment we find ourselves in and the various governmental restrictions we are faced with. May God give each of us the patience and grace we need to show Christian love and charity to one another as brothers and sisters in Christ, regardless of one’s views concerning when and how to reopen our churches. We cannot afford to allow the coronavirus to divide us.
    Similarly, not all parishes are in the same place regarding when and how they (as a parish) should reopen. The fact that a parish may reopen its doors for public worship, does not mean that it must reopen at this time. There may be parishes in the Diocese whose clergy and lay leaders decide not to reopen their buildings right away given the ongoing potential threat from the Coronavirus and the governmental regulations and diocesan guidelines. They may choose to wait until things calm down a bit more and some of the current restrictions are lifted. The clergy, wardens and vestry in each parish will need to work together in deciding whether this is the time to reopen, or whether to wait. Please inform the Bishop’s office of whatever decision is made.
 For those parishes that are ready to begin preparing to reopen, a set of diocesan guidelines has been established to help ensure that we provide as safe an environment as reasonably possible for our parishioners and visitors to come together to worship and serve God. While the basic guidelines set forth by the Diocese must be followed by all parishes, individual parishes may choose to add additional parish guidelines to meet their unique circumstances.   With that said, no matter how hard we try, there is no way to guarantee 100% that someone might not be exposed to the coronavirus while at church. It is important that we trust God and do our best to provide both a safe environment as well as a meaningful ministry and worship experience for those entrusted to our care.
    One of our greatest defenses against the coronavirus is to understand how it spreads. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the coronavirus’ primary mode of transmission is believed to be through the aerosolization of respiratory droplets spread from an infected person to others in close contact around them, by sneezing, coughing, singing, or talking at close range. It is for that reason that the government recommends and in certain situations mandates that masks be worn when in public. The purpose of the mask is not so much to filter the air we are breathing, but rather to keep infected people from spewing droplets into the air around them.
    While there are a few exceptions such as when someone sneezes or coughs, in most cases aerosolized droplets will not travel more than a few feet before dropping to the ground. Unfortunately in a heavily congested area, that is more than enough space for an infected person to contaminate those around them. That is why social distancing is so important during this pandemic.  The CDC recommends keeping a distance of at least six feet from others outside one’s home and immediate family.
    According to the CDC website, while aerosolized droplets are the primary source of transmission, people can become infected through other means such as “touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes.   As a precaution, the CDC recommends regularly cleaning and sanitizing common areas frequented by others as well as practicing good hygiene by thoroughly washing one’s hands or using hand sanitizers. Scientific studies have shown that in an ideal situation, COVID-19 can survive on metal or other hard surfaces for up to 72 hours, and for up to 24 hours on cardboard or other porous surfaces.
    The diocesan guidelines for the reopening of churches (outlined below), are based primarily on recommendations from the CDC.as well as government mandated regulations. They outline the basics of what is needed during this pandemic to help keep our parishioners and visitors safe while worshipping and serving God in our parishes. Each parish has the responsibility of implementing them in the way that best meets the needs and circumstances of the parish. This is not the sole responsibility of the clergy, but rather the whole parish working together.
     It is my hope and prayer that in the not too distant future, the potential threat from the coronavirus will be significantly reduced and we can then ease up, if not totally eliminate many of the following guidelines. For the time being, however, it is important that we follow them, not so much out of a sense of obligation, but rather as an act of love for one another. As Jesus so perfectly demonstrated on the cross, one’s love for others, often requires sacrifices on our part.
    The personal sacrifices or inconveniences we endure during the Coronavirus Pandemic, may very well be the thing that not only protects ourselves, but even more importantly our loved ones from contracting COVID-19. As stated by the CDC, “The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to this virus.” The following diocesan guidelines will help us in that quest. Everyone’s cooperation in fighting the coronavirus as we come back together in our home parishes is greatly appreciated and needed. By the grace and mercy of God, and everyone’s hard work, we will get through this.
Guidelines to be Followed by All Churches in the Diocese of Albany During the Coronavirus Pandemic
1)     Attitude is important. COVID-19 needs to be taken seriously, but we don’t need to live in fear. To the degree possible, we need to be proactive, rather than reactive to the coronavirus. Plan ahead.
2)     At all times when gathering for worship, or carrying out ministry within the Church during the pandemic, keep in mind how the coronavirus spreads and take appropriate precautions to guard against becoming infected or possibly infecting others.
3)     Clear, respectful signs informing people of the expectation and requirement of wearing masks, social distancing, and the use of hand sanitizer (all outlined below), as well as other necessary instructions, need to be posted near all entrance doors of the Church and other prominent locations.
4)     If people (to include the clergy) are not feeling well, running a fever, coughing, etc., or have been in contact with someone know to have the coronavirus (even if not showing symptoms), they should not attend Church, until they are well, or have completed self-quarantine. This is for their sake and everyone else’s.
5)      The following sign or something similar will be posted by each entrance door to the Church or worship area:
ATTENTION:
Dear Friends, If you answer YES to any of the following, we ask that you NOT Attend Church today:
  • Have a temperature of 100.4 or higher
  • Lost your sense of taste or smell
  • You or someone in your household has tested positive for COVID-19
  • Have come in contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19
Thank you for your understanding and cooperation.
The health and wellbeing of everyone is dependent on it.
May The Lord Bless You and Keep You Safe!
6)     All inside services must abide by the current government mandated group size of 10 people or less per service. Multiple services are authorized, provided the worship space is cleaned properly between services, or seating is alternated to avoid potential cross contamination between one service and the other. Please note that the current mandated group size may be changed by the government with little to no warning. We will need to adjust accordingly. God willing, the 10 person limit will be lifted soon.
7)     Appropriate cleaning and disinfecting agents (for the surface being cleaned) will be used. Common areas such as bathrooms as well as often touched items such as door knobs, light switches, handrails, etc…need to be cleaned on a regular basis. The NYS Dept. of Health or CDC websites can provide some guidance.
8)     All inside services must provide adequate space for safe social distancing of at least six feet between individuals or family groups.
9)     Outside services to include lawn and parking lot services may be held. Larger groups than 10 are authorized, provided each individual or family group maintains safe social distancing of at least 6 feet or more from one another. Parked cars must be six feet from one another if people are sitting in them with windows rolled down for the service.
10) The congregation for both indoor and outdoor services must wear masks. The Church will need to have a supply of disposable masks available for anyone who doesn’t bring their own mask with them.
11) The clergy must wear masks when in close proximity to others, to include, the Processional, distribution of communion, and Recessional. Parishes may want to suspend the Processional and Recessional during this time to reduce the number of acolytes and others needed in the Altar Party, and thus cut down on congestion in the sanctuary. Unfortunately, the sanctuaries in many of our churches are not large enough to provide the necessary space needed for social distancing during the Coronavirus Pandemic.
12) The celebrant is NOT required to wear a mask while at the altar, provided they are by themselves and the bread and wine are covered with a linen or pall. Nor are the clergy required to wear a mask while proclaiming the Gospel or preaching, provided they are at least 10 feet away from the nearest person. The Gospel should be proclaimed from the front of the Church instead of the aisle as is customary in many parishes.
13) Hand sanitizer must be used by all people when they first arrive at Church and again right before going to receive communion, for indoor services. For outdoor services (where parishioners bring their own chairs), hand sanitizer is only needed just prior to receiving communion.   I recommend each parish have someone assigned to hold the container of hand sanitizer as each person has the cleaning agent poured in their hands. This person must use the hand sanitizer first before helping others. They must also wear a mask and stand an arm lengths distance from the person they are ministering to.
14) Altar guild members and clergy must thoroughly wash their hands with soap and water or use hand sanitizer before setting the altar. Clergy must also clean their hands with hand sanitizer before distributing communion.
15) Communion will be received in only one kind (the host/bread). It will be placed in the hand of the recipient, not on their tongue. Care needs to be taken when placing the host in the person’s hand in order not to physically touch them. I would ask that communion wafers be used, rather than other forms of bread. The celebrant will consume the consecrated wine on behalf of the people. Individual communion cups with wine for the congregation are NOT authorized.
16) Communion will be received while standing (not kneeling), preferably at the head of the center aisle, or it may be taken to people while in their pews or seats. It is important to maintain appropriate social distancing while people come to receive communion. Communion may be distributed to people sitting in their vehicles during parking lot services. Clergy should not bend over into the vehicle to distribute communion, but rather individuals should place their hands outside the car window to receive.
17) For those requesting a blessing rather than communion, blessings will be offered over the person while not physically touching the head of the person being blessed.
18) If there are any baptisms, the clergy must cleanse their hands with hand sanitizer before and after the baptism as well as wear a mask. The Baptismal water will be poured outside following the service. It will not be saved for use as Holy Water.
19) The Peace will need to be shared by means other than personal physical contact. Handshakes and hugs are not allowed at this time.
20) Choirs are not allowed at this time, due to social distancing requirements. One or two people may lead the music, provided they are at least 10 feet away from anyone around them. Some congregations may opt not to allow singing during the coronavirus pandemic. The wearing of masks by the congregation should help reduce the potential of spreading respiratory droplets while singing.
21) Lectors may remove their masks while reading the lessons, provided they are at least 10 feet from anyone in front of them. If the church space doesn’t allow for proper distancing, the lectors need to wear masks.
22) The collection plate should not be passed, but rather be placed in a location that parishioners may access to make their offering.
23) The bread and wine should be placed on the credence table by the altar guild prior to the start of the service, and not brought up at the time of the offertory.
24) Congested areas need to be avoided, especially as people are trying to enter or leave the Church, as well as the communion line and other times when people tend to bunch up. Again, social distancing is very important. Clergy may stand to the side following the service (out of the flow of traffic) if someone needs to speak to them.
25) If possible (especially during the warmer weather) keep the windows and doors of the Church open to improve air circulation with fresh outside air.
26) To cut down on potential cross contamination, parishes may want to print out the service for everyone to have their own copy, or use overhead projections if they have the means of doing so, as an alternative to the use of Prayer Books and Hymnals. If Prayer Books and Hymnals are used, they will need to be sanitized if they are to be used again within three days (the potential life expectancy of the virus on objects).
27)  Holy water fonts must be emptied and removed.
28) There will be no coffee hours or other social gatherings at church during the time of the pandemic. Many parishes are hosting “virtual coffee hours” that are going well and have been well received as an alternative to in-person coffee hours. Worship together at Church and then go home and visit one another online in the safety of your home, having a cup of coffee or tea and a dessert.
29) In-person Vacation Bible School is not permitted this summer due to the inability to maintain appropriate social distancing among kids. Parishes might consider an online version of VBS.
30) In-person Sunday School and Youth Group meetings are suspended until the fall, at which time a determination will be made based on the status of COVID-19.
31) All outside groups using Church property must practice social distancing, wear masks, use hand sanitizer when they arrive, and follow any other guidelines required by the parish during the Coronavirus Pandemic.
32) Unless social distancing requirements can be met, Vestry meetings and other church committees or groups need to be conducted via Zoom or by some other online means.
33) Virtual online, recorded and live-stream services should be continued if possible, even after in-person services resume. Not everyone is able to return to church at this time and countless others who we have not effectively reached before, are now being ministered to in very powerful and life changing ways. Keep up the good work!
    Everyone’s cooperation with these guidelines is greatly appreciated and needed, if we are to provide a safe environment within each of our Churches, for our parishioners and visitors to come and worship our Heavenly Father and Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. May God bless each of us richly, as we gather in His name, and go forth offering ourselves as a channel of His love and mercy and healing grace during this time of the Coronavirus Pandemic.
Faithfully in Christ,
+Bill
Rt. Rev. William H. Love
Bishop of Albany
Please Note: Upon receipt and review of the above Diocesan Guidelines, the Rector or Clergy in Charge, as well as one Warden are asked to please sign and return the following form to the Diocesan Office. Please click here for the form