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An Update from the Way Forward Task Force

June 18, 2020

To all the beloved in Christ in the Diocese of Milwaukee:

Dear Friends in Christ,

I am writing today to inform you of my decision to allow some of the churches in the Diocese of Milwaukee to re-gather for public worship on or after Sunday, July 12, 2020. All in-person gatherings in the diocese will comply with the current version of the Way Forward Guidelines, an updated copy is linked below in this letter. Please keep in mind that this permission is not encouragement and may be rescinded if a significant spike in cases occurs.

Due to the Wisconsin Supreme Court decision to overturn the statewide Badger Bounce Back plan and to the length of time which has already elapsed while we wait for the state to move into the first phase of that plan, the Way Forward Task Force has developed a Regathering Risk Assessment Dashboard to quantify data about the virus on a county-by-county basis. As we prepare to re-gather for public worship, this tool will provide the parishes and the diocese with a reasonably objective way to help decide collaboratively which parishes may re-gather safely, and which parishes may be best served to continue to meet virtually for the time being for the safety of all. The tool is based on active, state-reported cases to provide the best data available for evaluation of the current, fluid situation.

Any parish whose county has 50 or fewer active cases of COVID-19 per 100,000 residents is permitted to gather for in-person worship beginning July 12. These counties are indicated by the color green appearing in the active cases/100,000 field on the Dashboard tab of the spreadsheet. If your county has a color other than green, you may only begin re-gathering for worship or other gatherings once that cell has turned green and you have notified the diocese. Similarly, if your county is green now but changes to a different color, you, in collaboration with the Bishop, will most likely be required to cease in-person worship gatherings until that cell is green again.

Also, you should evaluate any meeting or event based on the probabilities in the tool based on the size of the event before conducting it. Any event with a probability of greater than 1% of a person with COVID-19 attending should be held online, restricted to a size that meets the desired probability of 1%, postponed, or canceled.

As of this writing, parishes in the following counties are currently eligible to meet for worship on or after July 12: Columbia, Crawford, Dane, Grant, Green, Iowa, Jefferson, Ozaukee, Richland, Sauk, Washington, and Waukesha. Please monitor the dashboard as case data is updated daily, and your county’s situation may change between now and July 12. The Way Forward Task Force will be monitoring this data and will attempt to provide you with updates if your county’s status changes, but please pay attention to this on your own as well.

Regardless of whether a particular county’s parishes are able to re-gather for public worship at this time, all churches of the Diocese of Milwaukee may begin offering home communion visits beginning July 12. These visits must be done in accordance with the Way Forward Guidelines. Any parish which needs to have a celebration of the Holy Eucharist to consecrate sufficient elements for these visits may do so in any county on or after July 12. Parishes in counties that are not yet “green” should only hold these celebrations if they need to do so, must limit attendance to no more than five persons, and must observe all of the Way Forward Guidelines for in-person worship.

Please be reminded that no parish may gather for public in-person worship indoors or outdoors, or hold any other in-person gatherings, before they have a plan for regathering that has been approved by the Way Forward Task Force. Online services that consecrate the Eucharist in accordance with the rubrics of the Prayer Book for home distribution may be conducted.

Please carefully familiarize yourself with the latest version of the Way Forward Guidelines.

Highlights of the changes in this version include:

  • Changed capacity limits. All inside gatherings will be limited to 10 persons for the month of July. We will make a subsequent announcement about capacities for August and going forward.

  • Specific guidelines for outdoor worship gatherings. While the first two meetings outdoors must have no more than 10 people, subsequent gatherings may have as many persons as the local public health authority and the size of the space allow (so somewhat larger gatherings may be possible depending on your context).

  • Specific guidelines for non-worship gatherings outdoors, and for 12-step groups and congregations renting Diocese of Milwaukee facilities indoors.

We have also created a Frequently Asked Questions document to assist you.

As always, if you have questions about these guidelines, please feel free to contact us. Questions specifically pertaining to the Regathering Risk Assessment Dashboard, its methodology, or its underlying data may be sent directly to the Rev. Dave Mowers ( ). All other questions and plan submittal should be sent to me ( ) with a copy to Rev. Bill Dunlop ( ) and Patty Jaffke ( ).

Yours in Christ,

The Rt. Rev. Steven Andrew Miller
Bishop of Milwaukee

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