Wednesday, May 20, 2020


The Centers for Disease Control finally released its long-awaited detailed guideline for the re-opening of public places in America. The 60-page document was issued yesterday, May 19.

One should recall that the CDC originally sent a proposed detailed guideline to the White House for approval a month ago. The WH killed it on April 30. The original document included a section on religious communities. There was speculation at the time that the WH deep-sixed the proposed guide because of what it considered too stringent restrictions on churches. Now we can be confident this was in fact the case. The new guidelines of yesterday completely ignored churches. Obviously the WH approved of the new one. Why did the WH remove churches? Keep in mind a bedrock part of President Trump's "base" is the evangelical Christian coalition.

Yesterday's document covers practically everything except churches:  child care, schools and day camps, employers, restaurants and bars, and mass transit. Find the new CDC guideline here .

Although the original CDC guideline was not approved and adopted, it was posted on the Internet. It remains the most thorough (and in my view the best) guide to the re-opening of churches. Find it here .

What all this means is that churches are on their own to decide how to re-open their buildings to public worship following, of course, the local governmental policies and procedures. Both the Anglican and Episcopal dioceses in lower South Carolina have issued guidance directives for their local parishes and missions as they plan for re-opening. Find the Anglican document here  and the Episcopal one here .

Local churches are now trying to figure out the best ways to resume public worship and still protect the health of the attendees. This is not an easy task. As we saw, on last Sunday, the first day the Anglican diocese allowed churches to re-open, only two of the eighteen churches surveyed re-opened, and they found only sparse congregations. In my view, the two churches that did re-open did not succeed in finding a happy balance between public worship and social distancing. 

It seems to me the best approach is a slow and careful one. Churches should certainly continue mainstreaming services on the Internet, something that has turned out to be successful and popular. As for re-opening, this is going to require experimentation and adaptation to find a good balance between corporate worship and safety. Surely the most sensible approach now is for vestries and councils to consider carefully the original CDC document on re-opening as well as the Anglican and Episcopal diocesan guides.