Prayer for a Pandemic – Cameron Bellmn A message for the season after Pentecost 2020 from Bishop Bascom
May 29, 2020
Dear beloved members of the Diocese of Kansas:
I wrote in my May 1 letter about imagining our existence in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic as
various spaces in which we meet the Risen Lord. As Pentecost unfolds, and county-by-county health
officials offer varying health guidelines across Kansas, we have entered what I termed the Courtyard, the
space where we first, cautiously, venture out from shelter-in-place.
I offer this guidance for the season after Pentecost:
I have every confidence in our clergy leadership, and they have my full support as they make
decisions in this complex situation. The canons of the church give parish clergy – rectors, and
the bishop or those whom the bishop appoints (vicars and priests in charge) – full authority for
worship and the use of spaces for worship. For various reasons, some of our priests may decide
it is best to continue online worship and meet only in small groups in this period, and they have
my blessing to wait. Others are ready to meet in person following our health guidelines.
Whether worship is online or in person or both, I am urging clergy to provide a Eucharistic
service – spiritual communion or Eucharist in one kind – at least once a month.
I have turned to two deacons in our church who are also health professionals, Dr. Steve
Segebrecht and Jim Cummins, to advise me on the following best practices for the churches
who are beginning to worship in person.
These are the items things that must be observed by all parishes:
1. A minimum of 6 feet distance is to be maintained at all times. This is extremely important.
This is true for people when they are seated (family groups may sit together) and when they
move from space to space. The number of people allowed in worship will thus vary based on
the size of the space and the rules within each church’s county.
2. Do not attend church unless you are feeling 100 percent well. Some people are simply safer
at home and worshipping online. Some guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention about people at high risk are attached.
3. Masks are very important. In this in-between everyone who worships in person needs to
wear a mask. There is nothing political about this request. We have witnessed worship
services – even Episcopal ones – becoming hot spots for the spread of the virus, and we
must employ our best stewardship to prevent this. Strange at first, we wear masks to
protect others – to love our neighbor. Masks also serve as reminders of all those who have
died during this pandemic and of our first-responder health professionals who wear them
day and night.
4. No singing of hymns. Prayer Books should not be used. Bulletins or screens should contain
all information for worship. Instrumental music or taped music is fine with distance. Plans
for vocal soloists need to be submitted to me in an email for approval.
5. Clergy and leaders, such as lectors, should use microphones and keep their mask on while
speaking unless they can keep 25 feet of distance from others and from where others will
be. If there is that degree of distance, they may preach or celebrate without their mask.
6. When the Eucharist is celebrated, only the priest host should be touched. Wafers for the
people should be covered by a cloth or contained in a closed vessel, and when they are
distributed, they should be dropped carefully into the communicant’s hands. The celebrant
should be the sole person distributing communion, using freshly washed hands or a utensil
such as tongs.
7. Consider outdoor worship. All guidance is that outdoor activities are a lower risk than those
Here are additional items that should be considered by clergy and lay leaders of every congregation:
1. It is best for one door to be an entrance and one an exit. Ushers should seat people in
similar fashion to a wedding, and they have the important responsibility of helping people
keep 6 feet distance going forward to the altar rail or baptismal font as well.
2. Greeters at entrances to the church will ensure masks are worn and that there is an orderly
arrival into the narthex to meet an usher. If someone arrives without a mask, one will be
provided to them.
3. Hands need to be washed, and hand sanitizer used, frequently.
4. Bathroom use is strongly discouraged, except in emergencies. If bathrooms are open,
someone should be ready to sanitize after every user.
5. Baptisms should be postponed or performed with an aspergillum.
6. The church must be cleaned between services.
o As virus particles remain in the air for a period of time, the church should be closed
for a minimum of two hours before cleaning begins.
o All horizontal surfaces must be cleaned.
o Approved cleaning products such as Lysol may be used. A cleaning solution of 1/3
cup of bleach in a gallon of water, or a 70 percent alcohol solution, is also
I know this list is long and offers in-person worship that is not like anything we have done before.
Perhaps, parishes might try to creatively translate items from this list of “thou shalt nots” into “thou
shalt” small, sacrificial acts of kindness. A few of my own examples – small matters if they save lives:
Joined in heart, mind and spirit, I keep 6 feet of distance from those not in my family.
As strange as it may feel, I wear a mask with good humor and with a twinkle in my eye.
Sunday morning I drink fewer cups of coffee, and don’t need the bathroom at church.
The Right Reverend Cathleen Chittenden Bascom
Tenth Bishop, the Episcopal Diocese of Kansas
Please keep yourselves safe and healthy until we can once again be together.
Please use this link to make a donations https://edok.formstack.com/forms/edok_parish_donations