News & Messages

Guidelines for Returning to Public Worship

May 28, 2020

To clergy, wardens, and people of the Diocese of Milwaukee,

I write to you today as your bishop, chief pastor and canonical overseer regarding the reopening of our churches for public worship. The pastoral direction that clergy and churches of the Diocese of Milwaukee suspend public worship is now extended until at least July 5. I will continue to assess this situation in light of developments and prepare to give directions for the future. It is possible that it will be necessary to extend this directive even longer. This directive applies to all our congregations, clergy and licensed lay ministers.

Below you will find the updated guidelines for public worship developed by the Way Forward Task Force. Before returning to public worship, each congregation must submit a plan by email to the Office of the Bishop for review and approval by the task force. Please complete the following survey at https://forms.gle/KSPPo6yDMiM8C9KC9 so we can prepare to review them.

Returning to Public Worship Guidelines

Once your plan is complete, please email the plan to Deacon Bill Dunlop ( ) and copy me ( ) and Patty Jaffke ( ). A congregation must receive written approval from the Office of the Bishop before returning to public worship. The date for this return is yet to be determined. The decision to reopen will be based on gating criteria established by the Departments of Public Health.

These guidelines are being issued now so that you may have ample time to prepare to resume public worship. They contain both requirements and recommendations not only for public worship but for the ministry of Lay Eucharistic Visitors to those who are unable to attend.

In addition, I am revising the current direction regarding online parish worship effective on June 14, 2020, the second Sunday after Pentecost. Those congregations wishing to offer Sunday morning parish online worship may do so provided:

  1. It is a service that follows the rubrics of the Book of Common Prayer.
  2. All requirements established by both myself and the Governor’s Badger Bounce Back Plan are observed.
  3. It is mindful of the theology of worship set forth in the Presiding Bishop’s Word to the Church.

We will continue to offer a diocesan service at 10:00 am on Sundays as a support to those congregations that are in search, do not yet have the technical capability to produce their own service, or simply choose to use this offering for their principal Sunday service. It can also be used in place of hiring supply clergy because of vacation schedules or illness.

Please note that permission to resume public worship does not constitute encouragement. I would commend to you the prayerful discernment of the rector and vestry of St. Christopher’s, River Hills for your consideration. You may find a copy of their letter to the Way Forward Task Force here. I believe times such as these require this sort of wise and thoughtful discernment.

May God continue to bless us as we go through this most interesting time.
 
Yours in Christ,

The Rt. Rev. Steven Andrew Miller
Bishop of Milwaukee

Additional Resource:

Checklist from the Church Mutual Aid insurance company: Recommendations for a Safe Return to Public Worship

Response to Wisconsin Supreme Court Ruling from Bishop Miller

May 14, 2020

Our citizenship is in heaven and from it we await a Savior. (Philippians 3:20)
 
Dear Friends in Christ,
 
The verse quoted above came to me when I learned yesterday afternoon that the Wisconsin Supreme Court struck down the “Safer at Home” order issued by the Governor and the Department of Health Services. Watching the news this morning, my television screen was filled with pictures of people gathered in Wisconsin bars at anything but a safe social distance. In fact, our state now has a F rating for Social Distancing according to local news reports.

This particularly saddens me because over the last two weeks I have been working with our Way Forward Task Force* to produce a plan with appropriate protocols to reopen our churches once Phase One of the Badger Bounce Back plan is initiated. The Way Forward Task Force is a group of people I’ve assembled made up of medical professionals and diocesan clergy to examine data and advice from public health officials as well as other dioceses and judicatories. It is my hope that the task force will complete its work shortly so that congregations will have ample opportunity to prepare to resume public worship in accordance with these guidelines. My fear is that behaviors in the aftermath of this early opening in parts of our State will make it necessary to delay resuming public worship because of a renewed outbreak of COVID-19 cases at numbers that exhaust our health care resources.

I know some of you are very anxious to return to in person worship. I would remind you of those much cherished words of the Apostle Paul found in his first letter to the Corinthians, “Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right.  Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things (1 Cor. 13:4-8). In this situation, our love of our neighbor requires that all of us display these attributes of love now and as we move forward.

Because our citizenship is in heaven, the pastoral direction I issued on April 17 remains in force. Through May 31, churches in the diocese are not authorized to offer public worship. This court decision, and the subsequent response of many, may make it necessary for the safety of the members of the diocese to extend the pastoral direction for an even longer period of time.

My expectation, based on the advice of the task force, is that we will begin a phased re-opening for public worship 14 days after the initiation of Phase One of the Badger Bounce Back plan. I pray that day comes sooner rather than later.
 
Yours in Christ,

The Rt. Rev. Steven Andrew Miller
Bishop of Milwaukee
 

*Members of the Way Forward Task Force:
Amy Dunlop, MSN, PPCNP-BC, APNP; the Rev. Dave Mowers; the Rev. Geoff Ward; James Mahoney, MD; the Rev. Jana Troutman-Miller; William Berger, MD; the Rev. Bill Dunlop; Bishop Steven A. Miller

The Hospitality Center and St. Luke's, Racine deepen connections with their community

All of our churches have developed new and innovative ways of connecting with their parishes and with their communities. We'd like to explore and highlight how our parishes are living into their mission and ministry during this time of social distancing and our Safer at Home order.

On Friday, March 13, the Hospitality Center, along with the rest of Wisconsin, found itself making changes we never thought would be necessary. On that day 121 people visited the Hospitality Center for breakfast, lunch, conversation, fellowship, and to get out of the brisk spring weather. By Monday the 16th, we had shifted to a to "to-go" meal format, offering breakfast and lunch in take-out containers and plastic bags. As the world adjusted to the "Safer at Home" order and CDC guidelines about social distancing, hand washing, and sanitization, the Hospitality Center also made changes. We spray-painted Xs on our sidewalk seven feet apart, much like in a grocery store. We moved meal distribution to just inside our front doors, allowing only one guest in at a time for meals. We repurposed the meal hall into a food staging and preparation area, ensuring our volunteers would be able to stand six feet apart while packaging meals.  

But not everything changed. The heartbeat of the Hospitality Center has always been our volunteers. And while some volunteers have taken a hiatus in order to keep themselves and family members healthy, others have gone above and beyond. We have a committed team of seven regular volunteers plus a few weekly volunteers who have kept up the standard of hot meals served five days each week. While packaged differently now, every meal contains a hot protein serving, salad, fruit, dessert, and either milk or water. Thanks to tremendous donations from all over our community, we supplement each meal with granola bars and other pre-packaged snack items. By the end of March, our number of meals served eclipsed the previous month. Since then we have seen a steady flow of guests, serving an average of 110 people each day. We anticipate this number might increase as the economic impact of the virus hits home for those currently without work. 

Another thing that hasn't changed: Even in the era of social distancing, we have maintained contact with our regular guests and have met many new guests whose changed life circumstances have led them to seek us out. Each day we have the opportunity to check in and share up to date information given to us by the city, county, and local healthcare providers. We have given out a steady stream of handmade face masks along with instructions for proper use. Our mission today is equal parts hospitality and public health, spreading accurate information and health safety practices to a vulnerable population.  

In addition to the changes at the Hospitality Center, the clergy and people of St. Luke's have embraced a rite from the Book of Occasional Services, "A Celebration for a Home." For many members of the parish, particularly retirees and non-essential workers, our homes have become even more sacred than before. They are not only our place of refuge, but also our place of worship, and sometimes our place of confinement. The prayers in "A Celebration for a Home" provide liturgical language for blessing these spaces as well as casting out any evil that might be present. While maintaining social distancing, Fr. Seth has arranged pastoral visits in order to bring Christ and the Church more visibly into the lives of the congregation. We use opening and closing prayers from "A Celebration" and oftentimes pray a blessing over the "terrace or garden." During one special visit, the director of the Racine Public Library (a St. Luke's parishioner) and Fr. Seth circumnavigated the library, praying the blessing for "a guest room" in spots around the library known to be frequented at night by those experiencing homelessness.  Yes, the practice of pastoral visitation and house blessing is nothing new. And yet, for St. Luke's and Fr. Seth, it has awakened a connection between clergy and parish and deepened our sense of God's presence in our homes and in our world.  

~Fr. Seth Raymond
Executive Director of the Hospitality Center and rector of St. Luke's

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