COVID-19 Prevention and Preparedness

Our Response to the COVID-10 Pandemic

Please note: Recommended resources are listed at the bottom of the page.

Guidelines from the Way Forward Task Force

Regathering Risk Assessment Dashboard
Returning to Public Worship Guidelines
Frequently Asked Questions

Update from the Way Forward Task Force

July 2, 2020

Clergy and Parish Officers,

Greetings from the Way Forward Task Force. As we are navigating through the COVID-19 pandemic, questions continue to arise on reopening churches. Each week we are receiving those questions and if possible providing answers to assist everyone in preparing for a low-risk and safe reopening of our church buildings when the proper time comes. The following is a link to those questions and answers:
 
Frequently Asked Questions (7/2/20 update)
 
The task force will incorporate any changes into the next publication of the Way Forward Guidelines. We also ask that when a reopening plan is submitted, you include the information in the following checklist:
 
Checklist
 
The CDC has published information to make personal, informed decisions on attending events including church services for individuals over 60 years old and those with conditions that place them at higher risk to serious effects of the COVID-19 virus. Please share these documents with as many people as possible so that our community members are as well prepared for the decision-making process for attending any events; church, family or others. Here are the two websites:
 
People of Any Age with Underlying Medical Conditions
 
Older Adults

Creating a Digital Space

In this new pandemic world, all of us have been struggling to find new ways for our parishioners to worship and engage in fellowship. From our conversations with you, it has become apparent that these formats will become a permanent feature of our ministry, even after the COVID contingencies are over.

 We think that this is a good time to step back and consider what the range of options are for creating a digital space for your parish. Whatever it is that you are doing now, we would like to offer you an in-depth guide from folks who are experts not only in the technical aspects, but also the areas of worship and pastoral leadership. The Rev. Don Fleischman and John Washbush, who have produced our diocesan Sunday worship services, will be your guides through this wilderness. They also have used the equipment suggested and can help with specific questions you may have.

Full Cover Letter
Our Digital Parish: Conversation Questions
Application

Updated Frequently Asked Questions

The Way Forward Task Force updated the Frequently Asked Questions at their meeting Tuesday, June 23, and are providing them to assist parishes who are preparing or updating their Way Forward plans. Hopefully these will clarify your preparations. Please direct questions to Bishop Miller ( and Deacon Bill Dunlop ( ).

Updated Frequently Updated Questions (updated June 24)

Messages and Announcements from Bishop Miller and 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

June 10, 2020

Clergy and Parish Officers,

At our meeting last night, the Way Forward Task Force approved the checklist that will be used to evaluate parish plans. You may use it in the preparation of their parish plans. Plans already submitted will be evaluated to using it.

Parish Plan Checklist
 
Additionally, the task force is anticipating making some revisions to the guidelines following their next meeting on June 16. These will address questions and comments concerning outdoor worship, baptisms, tenant activities in buildings, and special instructions for clergy.

A reminder: 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. Once your plan is complete, please email the plan to Deacon Bill Dunlop ( ) and copy Bishop Miller ( ) 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.

If you have any questions, you may direct them to Deacon Bill Dunlop.

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


April 17, 2020

To the Clergy and People of the Diocese of Milwaukee

Dear Friends in Christ,

Grace to you and peace in this week as we rejoice in Jesus’ resurrection. Easter week reminds us that God will make us more than conquerors through his deathless love. While our Easter celebrations are different, what remains the same is God’s love, grace, and victory given to us in Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit.

I write you again today as your bishop, chief pastor and canonical overseer as promised. The purpose of this letter is to inform you of my decision to extend the pastoral direction that Clergy and Churches of the Diocese of Milwaukee suspend public worship until at least May 31. I will continue to assess this situation in light of developments and prepare to give directions for the future. It might be necessary to extend this directive even longer. This directive applies to all our congregations, clergy and licensed lay ministers.

I have already begun thinking about what safeguards will need to be in place when we do resume public worship. In the days ahead, I will be working together with staff, the Standing Committee, and the Executive Council to establish clear and comprehensive guidelines for our return to public worship when that is both possible and permitted.

I continue to spend my days in Zoom conferences, webinars, and phone calls. It is a very different way to do ministry. I am sure this is true for the majority of our clergy as well. I have never been as busy since when I began my ministry as your bishop 17 years ago. In the midst of it all, I am sustained by your God’s grace and your prayers. The joy of seeing some of you at Zoom coffee hours has been a joy for Cindy and me. We look forward to seeing you in this way until we can be together again.

Please know of my ongoing prayers for you all as this pandemic continues to unfold. If you would like me to pray for friends and loved ones who are working on the front lines of this pandemic, please send their names to me at   and I will add their name to my list. I ask you to pray for me as I seek to minister faithfully at this time. Pray for all our clergy and people.

Grace to you and peace.

+Steven

The Rt. Rev. Steven Andrew Miller
Bishop
 

April 2, 2020

To the Clergy and People of the Diocese of Milwaukee
 
Dear Friends in Christ,
 
Grace to you and peace in this week when we draw near to the holiest days of our Christian faith. This year we will recall the events of Holy Week through a lens we could not have imagined. Like Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane, we wish and long for something different – take this cup from us. And yet like Jesus, our prayer must be not my will but thine be done.
 
I write you again today as your bishop, chief pastor and canonical overseer, as promised. The purpose of this letter is to inform you of my decision to extend the pastoral direction that clergy and churches of the Diocese of Milwaukee suspend public worship until at least May 1. On April 27, I will reassess this situation in light of developments and give directions for the future. This directive applies to all our congregations, clergy and licensed lay ministers.
 
What I wrote to you last month remains true, "it pains me to make this decision but I believe it is for the best of all. Loving our neighbor requires giving up for the sake of others.” I wish we would have been able to open our churches for Holy Week and Easter. Unfortunately, this is not the case. It is even possible that it might be necessary to extend this directive into June and perhaps even longer.
 
Like many of you, my days are now spent in Zoom conferences, webinars, and phone calls. It is a very different way to do ministry. What has not changed is the comfort I find in the daily offices of Morning and Evening Prayer, which has been the anchor of my prayer life for over forty years. I am pleased to see so many of our congregations gathering for the Daily Office through the internet. Many of my colleagues have remarked that the Office is said with more frequency than at any time we can remember. Just as important are the ways that we are reaching out to one another in both new and familiar ways. We are staying connected in new ways — online Bible studies, coffee hours, book studies, prayer groups — while continuing to use tried and true methods such as phone trees and personal phone calls. I dare say we are more connected to one another in real-time than ever before. Theologically, we are never unconnected because we have been joined to one another in Christ through baptism. These gatherings manifest that truth at a time we need to remember it the most.
 
Please know of my prayers for you all as this pandemic continues to unfold. If you would like me to pray for friends and loved ones who are working on the front lines of this pandemic, please send their names to me at  , and I will add their name to my list. I ask you to pray for me as I seek to minister faithfully at this time. Pray for all our clergy and people.
 
Grace to you and peace.
 
+Steven

The Rt. Rev. Steven Andrew Miller
Bishop

PDF of this message

The Annunciation
March 25, 2020

Dear Friends in Christ,

Grace and Peace to you on this most holy day when we remember the Good News, "The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” That word showed us the way to walk in love by giving ourselves to and for one other as the heart of our way and love.

Out of love and compassion for each other, we have ceased worshipping together in our parishes for the duration of the Safer at Home order. Out of that same love, compassion and care, we are gathering to worship as one diocese so that our clergy and lay leaders can focus on essential ministries of care and compassion.

We invite you to come together as a diocese to worship with us on Sunday mornings. At 10 am, we will livestream a Liturgy of the Word service through YouTube and Facebook Live. These services will feature officiants, preachers, readers, and musicians from throughout the diocese. We will also have bulletins available for you to follow along at home.

We look forward to coming together as a diocese to worship and pray with you. Please join us.

+Steven

The Rt. Rev. Steven A. Miller
Bishop of Milwaukee

March 21, 2020

A Statement from Bishop Miller Regarding 12-Step Groups

Dear Friends in Christ,
 
The diocese has been participating in statewide calls with Lt. Governor Barnes and clergy. You may have been hearing from other clergy different information concerning the number of people allowed in gatherings and interpretations of the governor’s restrictions. 
 
I have reviewed my letter from March 17, 2020, and the guidance restricting meetings to no more than 5 people exceeds the state-mandated requirements at this time, with one exception. This 5-person restriction remains in place within the diocese.
 
I had exempted 12-Step programs from the gathering size requirement. The state, however, specifically has not exempted 12-Step programs from their meeting size restriction. Therefore, 12-Step programs like AA meeting in facilities in the diocese will be required to meet the state requirement of not more than 9 people in a meeting. 
 
Since the development and implementation of actions to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus is fluid and changing, we will occasionally have to make changes based on the events around us.
 
I ask for your continued prayers for all those affected by the virus and especially those in need, the elderly and those who have contracted the virus worldwide.
 
Deacon Bill Dunlop is monitoring the statewide calls on our behalf. Thank you, Bill, for volunteering to manage this.
 
+Steven
 
The Rt. Rev. Steven A. Miller
Bishop of Milwaukee


March 17, 2020

To the Clergy and People of the Diocese of Milwaukee

Dear Friends in Christ,

Grace to you and peace in this holy yet most unusual season. We live in a time that requires more of us than most of us could have imagined.

I write you today as your bishop, chief pastor and canonical overseer. With the direction from the Center for Disease Control to limit gatherings to no more than ten people, I am directing the clergy and churches of the Diocese of Milwaukee to suspend public worship indefinitely. On March 31, I will reassess this situation in light of developments and give directions for the future. We fully expect that this closure will remain in effect through Holy Week and Easter, and that our traditional gatherings for that season will be canceled or postponed until the time of social distancing can be ended. This also extends to the following:

  • No funerals may take place and must be postponed to a later date. Clergy may officiate at graveside services, being cognizant of the number of attendees. When possible, interments should be postponed to a later date.
  • No groups of more than 5 may meet in our churches. An exception is given to 12-Step programs that meet in our buildings. If possible, 12-step meetings should meet in larger rooms that allow more distance between people.

These directives apply to all our congregations, clergy and licensed lay ministers.

Please know that it pains me to make this decision, but I believe it is for the best of all. Loving our neighbor requires giving up for the sake of others. Even if we are in a low-risk group, our thoughts and concerns as followers of Jesus must be our desire to limit the spread to the most vulnerable. Something which at this point only time and social distancing may provide.

Earlier today I met with many of the diocesan clergy in a Zoom video-conference to discuss creative ways to minister and be the church in a time such as this. As always, the creative gifts of our clergy community were freely and graciously offered to one another. We discussed ways of offering online worship and formation. In addition, the diocese has expanded its capacity to host online meetings through Zoom. As this crisis continues to unfold, I will be meeting with the clergy weekly in Zoom conference.

I am well aware that this time may cause some economic hardship in our congregations. I encourage you to continue to meet your pledge commitments to your parish and give faithfully and generously to those in need. I ask that parishes observe the following hierarchy of expenditures: clergy and staff payroll, necessary expenditures and then the diocesan assessment.

As I prepared to write this letter, this thought came to my mind. Over recent years what is considered regular attendance at worship has shifted from every Sunday to bi-monthly or even monthly for many. Could it be that this necessary fast from public worship will give us a new appreciation for our parish communities and the joy of worshipping together freely? That is my prayer.

Please know of my prayers for you all as this pandemic unfolds. Pray for all who are most vulnerable, especially the poor, the elderly, the immuno-compromised and all members of the health care profession.

Grace to you and peace.

+Steven

The Rt. Rev. Steven Andrew Miller
Bishop of Milwaukee

PDF of above letter

Resources

ALL DIOCESE ONLINE WORSHIP

REFERENCE DOCUMENTS FROM THE WAY FORWARD TASK FORCE

CHECKLIST FOR RETURNING TO PUBLIC WORSHIP FROM CHURCH MUTUAL INSURANCE

FINANCIAL RELIEF FOR PARISHES DURING COVID-19

EPISCOPAL RELIEF & DEVELOPMENT RESOURCES

THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH COVID-19 RESOURCES

WISCONSIN DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH SERVICES: RESOURCES FOR FAITH-BASED ORGANIZATIONS

Bishop Miller's Letter to the Diocese — March 12, 2020

Bishop Miller's Letter to the Diocese — March 6, 2020

COVID-19 Response in the Diocese of Olympia

Wisconsin Council of Churches Webinar on Faith-Based Responses to Epidemics and Slides (link to Google Drive)

Forward Movement Resources for Prayer and Worship at Home

Centers for Disease Control

Feeding Wisconsin Trainings (resources for preparing your food pantries)