Guidance for Congregations from the Task Force for Re-entering, Re-opening, and Re-imagining for the Diocese of New Jersey
Through the course of the pandemic, the COVID-19 Reentering, Reopening, Reimagining (RRR) Task Force called by Bishop Stokes developed and maintained guidelines and advice as our church buildings moved through the phases of re-opening. The Task Force issued its initial report on June 5, 2020, and has now issued its final report, dated Oct. 6, 2022.
In preparation for Jesus’s earthly departure, he instructed his disciples to abide, or remain steadfast, in his love. While it seems like a simple directive, we know it is not an easy one to follow. And yet we know the answer to any problem, issue or situation is to seek the way of love.
We have navigated this season of pandemic rooted in love, and as we look toward the future, that is still our guiding principle. All our decisions and actions have been achieved through our Christian covenant to love one another as we are loved, and we need to make sure our good work abides as well.
As of today, the CDC has not stated that the COVID-19 pandemic has become endemic. The RRR Task Force continues to encourage all congregations to use best practices that keep their communities as safe as possible, and not just from COVID-19. Flu season is starting, and as cold weather drives people indoors, we will see an influx of other communicable diseases. We need to remain mindful of protecting the most vulnerable in our midst. We strongly encourage that all members of the Diocese of New Jersey get all vaccines (COVID, flu, shingles, DPT, etc.) their health care provider recommends they receive. We also encourage developing and implementing a thorough preventative medicine/wellness plan with your health care provider, as the best defense against illness is being healthy in body and mind from the start. This is how we abide in Jesus’s love.
Our sincere hope is that the RRR Task Force has offered congregations ways to navigate the road ahead. The specific context of each community will direct how best to response to local circumstances with the tools and considerations you have developed and used over the past two and a half years. This is important information to maintain and retain, as another global health crisis is likely to occur within a decade.
The following recommendations will be the final report of the RRR Task Force. We have been honored to support our Diocese during these challenging times and are confident we have fulfilled our intended purpose. Now it is time for us to abide in Jesus’s love, trusting we have what we need even if, like the first disciples, we do not feel confident we can do it on our own. You are not left comfortless. If your community needs some guidance in this area, Dr. Canon Phil Lewis and the Rev. Canon Valerie Balling remain available for support.
May Christ’s loving Spirit guide us in all things as we abide in God’s abundant love.