News & Messages

Message from the Episcopal Bishops of Wisconsin on COVID guidance

Dear Friends in Christ,

While we are grateful to God for the progress we have made in keeping people safe from COVID infection, we are writing today to remind Episcopalians in the State of Wisconsin that the pandemic is not over. Indeed, we now know that the most recently detected variant, Omicron, has been detected in our state. The data is still being collected, but it seems clear that this variant is significantly more transmissible than Delta and that current vaccines and boosters do not prevent transmission in all cases. We do know that vaccinations and boosters still provide important protection against developing the most serious illness and hospitalization.

This is a moment to ask all of our congregations to continue to take the pandemic with due seriousness and care. Let us recommit ourselves to the responsible, careful practices we have learned over the past months. In order to keep one another as safe as possible, we strongly encourage masking and social distancing when we gather. We urge every eligible member of the church to be fully vaccinated and to receive appropriate booster shots. We commend the continuation of virtual options for worship and other meetings. And we commend the guidelines adopted in most of our churches regarding masking, social distancing, and the reception of Holy Communion.

These are challenging times for us all, but we are members of the Body of Christ who is the light of the world. In these Advent days leading to the Christmas Feast, let us renew our trust in the God who is with us in every circumstance, in every challenge or time of uncertainty or fear. Let us commit ourselves to be bearers of God’s light and love to one another and to the world.

 In Christ,

 The Rt. Rev. Matthew Gunter
Bishop of the Diocese of Fond du Lac
Bishop Provisional the Diocese of Eau Claire

The Rt. Rev. Jeffrey Lee
Bishop Provisional of the Diocese of Milwaukee

Letter to the Diocese from the Standing Committee: March 4, 2021

March 4, 2021

Dear friends,

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ.

Many have us have endured one of the hardest years in our lives in the 50 weeks since we ceased most in-person gatherings in the Episcopal Diocese of Milwaukee. We have done something that has been extraordinarily difficult to demonstrate God’s love to the elderly and the medically vulnerable in our midst. And while the need to take basic precautions, wear masks and socially distance in gatherings will remain for a time, it has become apparent to the Standing Committee that we can now change tactics and respond to the situation facing our churches somewhat differently.

We are writing today to tell you that the Standing Committee is deeply aware of the pain that many of the parishioners and clergy in our parishes are experiencing as a result of our current situation. The choice to have very tight criteria for in-person gatherings over the last year, born out of a desire to protect the vulnerable and to respect the dignity of every human being, has kept people safe from the virus, but you have clearly communicated with us the poignant, tender and difficult ways our decisions have impacted you and your parish communities.

Our role as the Standing Committee is not only to keep our communities safe from the virus, which, together with the Way Forward Task Force, we will continue to work hard to do. We also have to balance the need to keep people safe from the virus with the grief, loss, need and hurt that are being experienced by many people in our churches today. We are thankful to the Way Forward Task Force members for their ministry over the last year and for their continued work on our behalf in this next season. In faithful love and service to all of us, they have kept us safe, and they are committed to helping us regather as safely as it is possible to do so.

After hearing from so many of you, and after consulting with the Way Forward Task Force and receiving substantial input and feedback from them, we are pleased to inform you that Standing Committee is issuing a new set of Returning to Public Worship Guidelines effective the Fourth Sunday in Lent, March 14.

These guidelines, which are found here, contain the following major changes:

  • The guidelines raise our risk tolerance and change our thresholds for indoor gatherings such that at this time, every parish in the diocese will be able to meet with at least 10 people indoors and parishes in most counties will be able to meet with 25 people indoors (or whatever lesser number their maximum capacity with social distancing is);
  • The guidelines lay out a process by which parishes may use a given space for worship multiple times in one day with some pre-work on ventilation and HVAC systems;
  • The guidelines streamline the process of obtaining approval from the Way Forward Taskforce for the resumption of worship services so that it is less cumbersome.

In addition to these changes, we’d like to remind you that in the last edition of the guidelines, released in early February, restrictions on the number of people gathered outdoors were removed, making it possible for all parishes to offer outdoor gatherings with as many people as will fit provided they are spaced at 6’ or greater.

We will continue to use the Regathering Risk Assessment Dashboard to keep track of the number of cases of the virus in our communities. You will notice changes to that interface that reflect the changes in the guidelines. The Way Forward Taskforce continues to update that Dashboard every day.  This tool continues to be invaluable to the Standing Committee and to the churches of the diocese.

This is a moment to celebrate, even as we continue to have some restrictions in place. We have been doing what love requires, and it has been very difficult. Now we will begin to gather together again, to bear one another’s burdens, to mourn with those who mourn, to comfort the afflicted, and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor: that the One who God raised from the dead is the One who has brought us safely to this day and will bring us safely to that day when there shall be no more crying or pain when all things will be made new, when all will be well and all manner of things shall be well.

We are so grateful for your prayers for us as we lead the diocese in this season, and please be assured of our daily prayers for you.

In the joy of the Lord Jesus Christ,

The Standing Committee of the Diocese of Milwaukee

The Rev. Scott Leannah, President
Ms. Margaret Done
Ms. Celia Fine
The Rev. Andrew Jones
The Rev. Dave Mowers
Ms. Tammy Prather
The Rev. Jana Troutman-Miller
Mr. Marcus White

A Pastoral Directive On Ash Wednesday

January 15, 2021

A Pastoral Directive On Ash Wednesday

As the churches of the Diocese of Milwaukee plan for the commemoration of Ash Wednesday on February 17, the Standing Committee offers the following pastoral directive to the clergy and churches of the diocese. 

All churches are encouraged to observe Ash Wednesday in a manner consistent with the previously published Way Forward Guidelines for worship. While we will not be able to gather in large groups this year, the guidelines do allow for in-person imposition of ashes and reception of Holy Communion both indoors and outdoors by one individual or household at a time (see this link for the relevant guideline that applies). Please notify the Way Forward Taskforce at if you would like approval to offer these sorts of gatherings for your parishes.

In addition, clergy are reminded that imposing ashes in the traditional manner is a relatively covid-safe activity so long as all other Way Forward Guidelines are followed and social distancing is maintained except for the moment of imposition. Imposing ashes can be considered safer in terms of the virus than the sharing of Holy Communion because no participants remove a mask. Like all activities, being outdoors further minimizes the risk of virus spread, but parishes may elect to use their buildings for the sake of warmth. 

With this directive, we are also issuing two changes to existing diocesan liturgical policy.

First, if the clergy and people desire to share Holy Communion as a part of an Ash Wednesday liturgy, they may use the service Communion Under Special Circumstances (BCP pp. 397-99) and distribute the Sacrament from the reserve. The rubrics for that service clearly state that it is to be "[used] with those who for reasonable cause cannot be present at a public celebration of the Eucharist," which, in our estimation, is all of us during this season. In addition, effective immediately, this service may be used on any occasion parishes wish to distribute Holy Communion: a live-streamed or recorded video of a service of Holy Communion is no longer required before distribution of communion in this manner. Of course, if a parish wishes to present a livestreamed or recorded service for Holy Communion and offer in-person distribution, they may still do so. 

Second, the Standing Committee wishes to explicitly bless clergy of the Diocese of Milwaukee using liturgies which disconnect the imposition of ashes from the remainder of the proper liturgy for Ash Wednesday. Some versions of these liturgies have become better known as Ashes to Go. While clergy participating in this sort of liturgy are urged to do so in covid-safe ways and according to the Way Forward guidelines, the Standing Committee wishes to clearly state that all clergy of the diocese may offer these liturgies without fear of reprisal from the Ecclesiastical Authority of the Diocese.

We wish you every grace and mercy for the observance of a blessed Lent. 

The Standing Committee
Episcopal Diocese of Milwaukee

The Rev. Scott Leannah, President
Ms. Margaret Done
Ms. Celia Fine
The Rev. Andrew Jones
The Rev. Dave Mowers
Ms. Tammy Prather
The Rev. Jana Troutman-Miller
Mr. Marcus White
Mr. Mark Ehrmann, Esq., Chancellor