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May 14, 2021
Dear Siblings in Christ,
“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:12-13)
With the CDC’s updated guidance as of yesterday, indicating that they recommend that fully vaccinated people no longer need to wear masks while engaging in most activities, but that businesses and localities may still require masks, we have reached a point where determining what actions rightly follow our Lord’s command to demonstrate sacrificial love for one’s friends during the pandemic is complicated.
In our diocese, I know that there are some congregations who will understand Jesus’ command to be faithfully enacted by continuing to wear masks when gathered, in order to both protect those who are vulnerable and because they do not want to establish a different set of rules for those who are vaccinated and those who are not.
There are other congregations where I know they will understand Jesus’ commandment to be faithfully enacted by following the new CDC guidelines and only requiring masks for those who are unvaccinated.
For this new chapter, I am establishing the following protocol:
  • All congregations may choose to continue to require masks of all people attending worship or other activities.
  • Congregations wishing to permit fully vaccinated individuals to attend worship and other activities without wearing masks shall do so after a vote of their Vestry or Bishop’s Committee, and with the support of their Rector or Vicar.
I want to be clear that in congregations choosing the second option, people who are not fully vaccinated (defined as 2 weeks past the final dose of vaccine) are still required to wear masks at all time while at church. In other words, if you do not want to wear a mask at church, you must be vaccinated.
This is going to require trust on the part of people who arrive without a mask. Your congregation will be trusting you to be honest about your vaccine status. This is also a moment to remember that everyone—clergy, lay leaders, church members—are tired and exhausted from the last 15 months, and that the first instinct towards encountering someone who believes a particular congregation or the church as a whole is choosing the “wrong” option should be compassion.
All congregations must continue to comply with the rest of the most recent guidelines regarding capacity and sacramental practice. Congregations may also consider holding a service where masks are required and one where masks are not required so that members who are still vulnerable to COVID-19 can worship safely.
I ask that Rectors and Vicars of congregations whose Vestries or Bishop’s Committees vote to permit vaccinated members to worship without masks to inform me, via email, when that vote has occurred so that we can track which congregations require masks and which do not.
Yours in Christ,
+Jennifer
The Right Rev. Jennifer A. Reddall
VI Episcopal Bishop of Arizona

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