Dear People of God in the State of Indiana,
As you may have heard, Governor Holcomb this afternoon sketched out a five-phase roadmap that he hopes will return our state to pre-pandemic levels of openness and activity by July 4. Under this plan, communities of faith can return to worship in their buildings beginning on May 8.
In granting this permission, however, the governor made it clear that he would prefer that churches continue to worship online, or outdoors, rather than in person, and he expressly asked Hoosiers over 65 remain at home. We appreciate both the governor’s commitment to freedom of religious expression and his candid admission that gathering to worship in person still poses risks to people of faith and those with whom they come in contact.
We remain committed to doing everything we can to slow the spread of the pandemic. For that reason, we will not be reopening our church buildings for in-person worship this month. The restrictions that Bishop Baskerville-Burrows announced on March 24 and that Bishop Sparks announced on March 26 remain in effect, and we urge that you continue to observe them.
Like so many of you, we are eager to return safely to our church buildings and look forward to celebrating the Eucharist with the people of our diocese. But we must do so with the utmost care, or else we put the lives of vulnerable people at risk. To help guide us in this endeavor, we will release a detailed plan next week explaining the conditions and sketching out a possible timeline for a return to our church buildings. The plan will require some serious thinking on the part of each congregation about the ways a return to in-person worship might best be achieved, and we urge you to begin giving this some thought immediately.
In his recent Word to the Church, Presiding Bishop Michael Curry wrote: “As our seasons of life in the COVID-19 world continue to turn, we are called to continue to be creative, to risk, to love. We are called to ask, What would unselfish, sacrificial love do?”
We believe unselfish, sacrificial love requires abstaining a while longer from worshipping in person. We invite you to embrace this discipline as a way to express your care for the most vulnerable among us. You are in our prayers, and we will be in touch again soon.
The Rt. Rev. Jennifer Baskerville-Burrow
XI Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Indianapolis
The Rt. Rev. Douglas E. Sparks
VIII Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Northern Indiana