As many of you have probably heard by now, Governor Inslee has extended our state’s stay-at-home order until May 31. This means that our church buildings will continue to remain closed, and we will continue to hold remote services through May 31. This also means that the Office of the Bishop will be closed to the public and that diocesan staff will be working remotely on your behalf through May 31 as well.
After reviewing so many of these phase-in plans across the country, I was happy to see our governor take a more sparse approach. However, I think it might have gone too far, as it seemed to be a sheet, and presentation, that added to the confusion more than clarity – at least as it relates to us. There have been several questions about the governor’s mention of “Drive-In” religious services from today’s press conference. I actually have no idea what he meant by that, but I can assure you I will be telling you some time next week how I read that and what it means for us. I vow to get that out to you by the end of next week. There is also some confusion regarding when this would go into effect based on differing news reports, official websites, and the governor’s own statements. Please note that diocesan policy will not be changing in any way due to this announcement. We will allow drive-up “whatever they might be” to be conducted beginning May 17. You will have our guidelines for these activities well before then.
The Office of the Bishop is currently at work drafting a document that will help to guide us as we phase back into in-person worship services once stay-at-home orders are lifted. This will help ensure that when we gather in person once again, that we will have policies and procedures in places across our congregations to make sure that our churches are as safe as we can make them. We will also likely encourage the continued use of live-streaming to reach those who are in high-risk groups and should not meet in person – no matter the precautions we take.
While this has been a trying and difficult time for all of us, I have been encouraged to see so many of you embracing new technology, trying new methods of gathering, and finding other ways of remaining church – even though we may not be together in person. It is indeed a joyous thing to see. And it is still Easter!!! No one or thing can change that!
The Rt. Rev. Gregory H. Rickel
VIII Bishop of Olympia and Chief Steward