Dear People of God in the Diocese of Chicago:
I am writing with the difficult news that we must once again observe some significant restrictions on our common life due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Yesterday, the Illinois Department of Health recommended that for the next three weeks, residents of our state leave home only for essential activities such as going to work, purchasing food or seeking medical care. Today, Governor Pritzker amplified that advice, imploring Illinoisans to stay home and asking anyone who plans to gather with family or friends for Thanksgiving to begin quarantining today. Mayor Lori Lightfoot of Chicago went further, asking Chicagoans to leave home only for work, school or essential needs for at least the next 30 days. Mayor Lightfoot is also recommending that residents not gather with anyone outside of their household, including trusted family members and friends.
I am grateful to our civic leaders for these proactive measures. Accordingly, I am suspending in-person meetings and worship in our diocese’s congregations for at least 30 days in the city of Chicago, and for at least three weeks in congregations outside the city limits. This suspension of in-person activities will take effect on Monday, November 16. Live streaming or recording services in church buildings may continue, but may include a maximum of 10 people, and only those required to assist with essential tasks. Please be sure that employees and volunteers who feel uncomfortable assisting with in-person activities are encouraged to stay home.
My special thanks go to congregations that have found ways to continue serving the neediest among us during this particularly challenging time. Please continue these ministries as you are able, using the guidelines in our reopening plan and involving the minimum number of volunteers required.
These pandemic months have been long and uncertain. Thank you for the ways that you continue to persevere, knowing that, as Christians, we are called to love and care for our neighbors, particularly those who are most vulnerable. In the coming weeks, we can best do this by staying home as much as possible and gathering online. Thank you for the sacrifices you are making to care for God’s people in our congregations and communities.
The Rt. Rev. Jeffrey D. Lee
Bishop of Chicago