May 6, 2021
Dear Clergy and Wardens in the Diocese of Tennessee,
“Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, just as it is well with your soul” (3 Jo. 8).
These words of the author of the Third Letter of John, words of greeting and blessing, are a reminder to us of our call as Christians to pray for each other in all the concerns of life, both physical and spiritual. The Letter further underscores the common ministry that Christians are engaged in, and the need for us to care and support each other. I write to you now, as leaders in the church, to encourage you in your ministries, and to share an important 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 localities, I am lifting the diocesan requirement for capacity restrictions and distance requirements for our churches, to apply on Sunday, May 16. The recommendation for masks for indoor activities in church facilities continues to apply until further notice.
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.
This past year has been a time of spiritual testing for our diocese. We have been travelling on a “Wilderness Road” like the one depicted in the eighth chapter of the Book of Acts. There is no doubt, with the widespread availability for many weeks of highly effective vaccines for the Coronavirus, that we have entered a new stretch of the road. Our perspectives are adjusting as we encounter new information and a new context.
I continue to be grateful to all of you for your hard work. As I make Visitations in the diocese, I am amazed at the creativity and flexibility of our clergy and lay leaders, and the sheer stamina displayed in making weekly arrangements for worship. Thank you for this gift. You all continue in my prayers as we engage the many opportunities for mission and ministry that God has placed in front of us.
+The Rt Rev’d John Bauerschmidt, Bishop of Tennessee