May 14, 2021
Dear Clergy and Wardens in the Diocese of Tennessee,
“But Philip found himself at Azotus” (Acts 8:40).
I write to you now, as leaders in the church, to encourage you in your ministries, and to share another update to the protocols of “The Wilderness Road: Acts 8,” our diocesan response to the Coronavirus.
In keeping with actions of the civil authorities in the State of Tennessee, and public health advisories in the various jurisdictions, I am lifting the diocesan recommendation for general mask wearing in our churches, to apply on this Sunday, May 16.
Of course, individual circumstances may differ, and there may be situations where persons would be well advised to continue to wear masks. Your communications in your congregations should reflect this recognition.
In travelling on the “Wilderness Road,” like the one depicted in the eighth chapter of the Book of Acts, we are in a rapidly changing environment. As we read in Acts, Philip the deacon suddenly found himself at an unexpected place on the road, spirited there by God through unknown means. Not deterred, Philip continued to spread the good news, not only in Azotus but all along the coast.
This communication is addressed to clergy and lay leadership rather than to the membership of our diocese as a whole, in order to allow you as leaders, in consultation with your people, to make considered, prudent, and timely decisions for your congregations. We have many different contexts and situations in our diocese, and the grace to exercise good judgment. My intention is to support you in your work, and to exercise care for our congregations.
I rejoice that we are at a new point on the road. Continue to proclaim the good news of Jesus’ death and resurrection! You remain in my prayers.
+The Rt Rev’d John Bauerschmidt, Bishop of Tennessee