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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 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

Camp Webb Announcement

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April 22, 2020

Dear friends in Christ,

It is with heavy hearts that we write to inform you of our decision to cancel Camp Webb for summer 2020. In consultation with Lutherdale Bible Camp, we have decided that it is best to encourage families to stay at home and stay safe until the COVID-19 pandemic is under control.

Should Lutherdale proceed with their camping sessions this summer (which we believe to be highly unlikely), they will have to institute social distancing, masks, and gloves, and will keep groups to a limit of 5 and under. They are still determining if this is possible. In our case, we are housed in a much smaller and intimate space with less availability to spread out and keep our campers and staff safe. More importantly, we believe the necessary precautions would severely undermine the program and experience we want to offer.

At this time, we are considering the possibility of offering camp virtually. The Rev. Elizabeth Tester, Camp Webb Director, will be researching ways that we might connect and stay in touch this summer through virtual means in addition to other avenues of participation. Please stay tuned.

In the meantime, if you have paid towards your camping fee this summer, you may request a refund by contacting Canon Kevin Huddleston, Interim Canon for Finance at .  Alternatively, you might wish to consider designating any fees paid a donation to the Camp Webb Scholarship Fund, which helps campers from economically challenged families attend camp.

While we will not gather in person this summer, we continue to be connected through the Holy Spirit and in our Episcopal identity. We would invite you to sing camp songs and play camp games in the safety of your own homes and with the understanding that this too shall pass, and, when it does, we will come together again to celebrate at Camp Webb.

God’s blessing and peace be with each of you.

The Rt. Rev. Steven Andrew Miller, Bishop

The Rev. Elizabeth Tester, Camp Webb Director