Some Georgia Episcopal churches can hold outdoor services

Bishop Robert Wright of the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta, shown at an Inauguration Day prayer service in 2019, said churches can cancel all worship services for the next two weeks or practice extreme caution amid the coronavirus threat. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM
Bishop Robert Wright of the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta, shown at an Inauguration Day prayer service in 2019, said churches can cancel all worship services for the next two weeks or practice extreme caution amid the coronavirus threat. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM

Churches in the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta can now hold services and other gatherings outside.

However, even that return has restrictions.

For instance, the number of attendees is limited to 50 persons. Those attending must also wear masks and social distancing is mandatory.

“We’re not going to move forward unless the science supports doing so,” said spokesman Don Plummer. The diocese has been working with a task force that includes medical, legal and religious experts on reopening and safety.

Attendees would also have to give some information for the benefit of contact tracing, if needed.

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“While we are a long way from resuming our familiar patterns, this represents an important step forward for us,” Bishop Robert C. Wright said in a statement. " I sincerely thank you for your partnership in keeping one another safe over the last six months."

He advised congregants to get in touch with parish leaders for a schedule of events.

Like other places of worship, many Episcopal churches went online only as the number of COVID-19 cases increased in Georgia.

In the last month or so, some houses of faith have resumed in-person worship with a smaller number of attendees or drive-in services and adherence to other recommendation by public health officials.

The Atlanta Diocese covers 117 worshiping communities, including parishes, schools, and direct service ministries in more than 75 counties in middle and north Georgia.

The Rev. Paul McCabe of the Episcopal Church of the Annunciation in Marietta said he has heard from a number of parishioners who are anxious to get together again.

He said those who have compromised immune systems or who are not comfortable gathering in person can still watch virtual services.

The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta began in-person worship services some time ago using a measured approach.

Recommendations include churches using one-way aisles, having available hand sanitizer and clearly marked entrances and exits.

Some aspects may vary slightly from parish to parish.

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