Clarification on Directives Related to Face Masks

Christ is risen!

In my May 5, 2020 directives to the Diocese, I indicated it was mandatory to wear facemasks at all services except for clergy and singers.  Priests were to wear a facemask (or clear shield) at the distribution of communion and when the proskomedia is done.

The directives of the Holy Synod state the following:

“Everyone except clergy and singers must wear facemasks in accord with civil directives

(clergy may wear plastic face shields at the distribution of communion). Synodal Directives, Appendix A #4

Most, if not all, of the civil directives in the Diocese of the Midwest mandate that facemasks be worn if proper social distancing cannot be maintained.  Rectors and Priests-in-Charge are to make sure this language is part of their local civil directive.  Because of this language, I want to make a slight modification to my directive regarding facemasks.

I strongly recommend that everyone attending church for a service still wear facemasks.  However, I am not mandating that facemasks be worn if proper social distancing can be maintained at a service.  Clergy and chanters are the exception.  I still expect clergy to wear a facemask or clear shield at the distribution of communion.  In the event the civil directive in your area regarding facemasks is a complete mandate with no conditions, then you are to abide by that directive.  (Depending on how things develop over the next month, in some areas, I may have to return to a total mandate of wearing facemasks with no conditions.)

Where churches have windows, make sure as many windows as possible are opened in the church when the service is being held.

As I learn more and more about this virus, I have the following concerns, when we start adding more people to services:

  • The number of chanters/singers will need to be addressed. Right now, there are to be no more than two (even if you are blessed to serve with 10).  The question that will need to be further addressed is when the number of singers can be increased.
  • The time length of the service is a concern. Social distancing is effective for only the short-term (30 minutes).  Our liturgy, vespers, vigil, or matins before Sunday liturgy services can run at least 45 minutes to two hours.

The Holy Synod will be meeting again at the end of the month.  I am hoping we can address these two bullet points then.

Thank you for your patience.  Please understand my only agenda here is for the safety and well being of the people I am entrusted to oversee.  The point of all of this is to minimize risk and to do no harm to others regarding the virus.

The blessing of the Lord be upon you.

With love in Christ, the unworthy


Bishop of Chicago and the Midwest

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