ATLANTA – Gatherings at all 117 worshiping locations of the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta will remain online until health experts advise that in person worship services and meetings are “reasonably safe,” Bishop Robert C. Wright announced on Wednesday.
In response to an announcement on Monday by Georgia Governor Brian Kemp that worship services could resume April 27, Bishop Wright communicated his decision Wednesday during an online meeting with Diocesan clergy.
Wright stated rather than reopening worship spaces, services will remain online and asked that clergy “bring imagination to how we care for one another, new power to our proclamation of God’s good news and new effectiveness to how to support those who are oppressed by fear and lack.” All Diocesan meetings and worship have been online since March.
Wright, whose Diocese includes 117 locations in 75 counties in Middle and North Georgia, said online broadcasts and recording of services can resume from inside parish churches. Church meetings will continue to be conducted online, Wright said. On April 2, Wright had directed that all online services had to originate from clergy residences to reduce the possibility of transmitting the COVID-19 virus. That directive cited Bishop Wright’s support of Gov. Kemp’s shelter in place order effective April 3.
“While some may want to claim religious exemption to the stay at home order, I nevertheless see this as an opportunity for us to partner with our Governor and the heroic health care community of our state to defeat the COVID-19 virus,” Wright said.
Wright said he would only approve resuming group gatherings, including worship services, “In due course and only when I am advised by health and safety professionals that it is reasonably safe, will I extend the possibility of in person worship for our Diocese.”
Following is the full text of Bishop Wright’s April 22 communication to clergy:
Greetings Sisters and Brothers, I hope this finds you resolved to trust God.
I write to lift my last directive prohibiting live-streaming and recording of worship on our campuses and in our sanctuaries. Effective immediately you may resume live streaming and recording of worship in and on church grounds as best suit your worshipping community.
This of course assumes the continuation of no more than ten people in the building at any given time and strict physical distancing maintained at all times.
In due course and only when I am advised by health and safety professionals that it is reasonably safe, will I offer the possibility of in person worship for our Diocese. Until then let us bring imagination to how we care for one another, new power to our proclamation of God’s good news and new effectiveness to how we support those who are oppressed by fear and lack.
In all this let us remember our perennial chief directive, “to love God and to love neighbor.”
With all Christian affection,
Robert C. Wright, Bishop
The Diocese of Atlanta