In an open letter to Mississippi’s Episcopal pastors, the bishop of the Episcopal Church in Mississippi informed them that he was suspending in-person services and other activities due to COVID-19.
Bishop Brian R. Seage cited the public health guidance released Wednesday by the Mississippi State Health Department and State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs to “avoid any social gatherings that includes individuals outside of the nuclear family or household.” Dobbs specifically mentioned in-person church services in his guidance.
Seage also noted that he has been following the recent “dramatic and personally alarming” rise in case numbers and hospitalizations in Mississippi. After two days of more than 2,000 cases reported in the state, the seven-day average of new cases rose to 1,665 Thursday, more than double the average just a month ago. Hospitalizations are very nearly at the peak seen in July, and several hospitals have no ICU beds available.
“Based on the statistics and today’s Public Health Guidance, I am formally adopting Dr. Dobbs’ recommendation,” the bishop wrote. “Accordingly, effective immediately all in-person worship in the Episcopal Diocese of Mississippi is suspended until further notice. All other in-person gatherings in our churches (vestry meetings, Christian Education offerings, and the like) are also suspended.”
Seage went on to urge pastors to use social media and other technology to broadcast worship services to church members and virtual visitors.
“It breaks my heart to make this direction, especially now, during Advent,” the bishop wrote. “This holy season of preparation always brings me hope and joy. I know that even in this uncertain time God will lead us from darkness into light.”
Read the entire letter, below.