Update to COVID-19 Protocols
The pandemic has evolved, but is not ended: The seasons have advanced, vaccination rates have increased, disease transmission vectors have become better understood, and the City of Austin has sustained a risk level of 3 since early March. The Episcopal Diocese of Texas, the CDC, and Austin Public Health remain thoughtful and cautious, but have updated their guidance in recent weeks in response to changing conditions, and All Saints’ will respond accordingly, using these primary sources of data and guidance:
- Episcopal Diocese of Texas Updated Guidance (Updated March 18, 2021)
- CDC Fully Vaccinated Guidance (Updated April 27, 2021)
- Austin COVID-19 Risk-Based Guidelines
Some groups already are gathering in limited ways, and this message is intended to establish safe and fair protocols across the parish. Updated parish guidelines will take effect immediately, and remain in effect until the May 17 Vestry meeting, at which time the Vestry will be asked to extend, modify, or rescind them. These guidelines should be understood to apply to all parts of the church property, and to any off-site gathering sponsored or promoted by All Saints’.
Anyone in an at-risk category for COVID-19 is discouraged from gathering with others per diocesan guidance.
No one with COVID-19 symptoms may gather at All Saints’ or at a parish-sponsored or -promoted event, per diocesan guidance.
Vaccination for all eligible people is strongly recommended, but not required for gathering at or exercising any lay role at All Saints’, so long as all other protocols are observed. The requirement that in-person worship leaders (including readers) at the 10:30 service be vaccinated is rescinded. “Vaccinated-only” activities and roles will not be established, but small, private sub-groups are allowed. For example, parishioners participating in Supper Clubs may choose "all-vaccinated" gatherings, as long as provision is made for those who are not vaccinated.
Masking that covers the nose and mouth and 6-foot minimum distancing between people from different households remain mandatory at all times inside all buildings, in compliance with diocesan guidelines, and in consideration of the fact that the ventilation system in Gregg House dates to the 1950s.
When gathering outside, updated and relaxed CDC guidelines for masking are in effect, with the working assumption that not everyone in a given gathering is vaccinated.
Gathering outside always is strongly preferred over gathering inside. Note that the picnic tables are available on a first-come, first-served basis, unless reserved through Marvin at the parish office.
When scheduling an indoor gathering at All Saints’, please reserve space through Marvin at the parish office, even if the gathering schedule pre-dates the pandemic, so we’ll know to expect you. Any gatherings in the choir room also need to be approved by Gregory Eaton, and the choir room bathroom will be closed.
Indoor gathering limits are governed by Austin Public Health guidelines. As of this writing, Austin is in Stage 3, and in observance of APH guidelines, no more than 10 people may gather inside at a time. During Stage 2, no more than 25 may gather inside at a time. The preschool is exempt from these limits because they operate under a safety protocol approved by their board and by the Vestry, and has a separate and superior ventilation system. All gathering will be suspended and reviewed if Austin re-enters Stage 4, or if COVID is suspected of having been transmitted at an All Saints' gathering.
No more than one person at a time may occupy any restroom. When possible, doors should be left open to facilitate ventilation. When more than one person is waiting for a restroom, please wait outside.
Convenient access to hand-washing sinks, hand sanitizer, and disposable masks must be available all gatherings.
Twelve-step meetings and other outside groups may resume gathering under the limitations of these guidelines.
Safety plans for any event that involves food preparation must be reviewed and approved in advance by the Rector (or interim), or by the senior warden if the Rector (or interim) is not available.
Any group in the parish, and specifically noting the Children and Youth committee, the music program, Loaves & Fishes, and Home Cooked Fridays, may adopt more conservative guidelines as needed to ensure the safety of all involved.
Sunday worship continues as it has since Easter, with Holy Eucharist at 8 a.m. on the south lawn, and Morning Prayer online at 10:30 at https://www.allsaints-austin.org/worship. Registration no longer is required at 8 a.m., but check-in still is.
Congregational singing now is permitted if masking and distancing is observed, and musical selections are short.
Celebrants, preachers, deacons, officiants, and readers may remove their masks to address an outdoor congregation, with a minimum of 10-feet distance.
Eucharistic celebrants should wash hands thoroughly immediately before worship, but may return to ceremonial handwashing (lavabo bowl) at the Eucharistic Prayer. Bread and wine should remain covered during the Eucharistic Prayer.
The Eucharistic congregation still may not yet drink from the chalice, but may receive the Blood of Christ by intinction, dipping the host into the wine, being careful not to contact the wine with fingers.
Properly-fitted masks must be worn during administration of communion. Those receiving communion should wait until the Eucharistic minister has moved away to remove their masks.
Beginning Monday, May 3, the paid parish staff will observe limited in-person office hours that will vary by person. The purpose of this is to offer the congregation reliable access to parish staff, and to practice and refine safe office protocols. The exterior doors will remain locked for now, and visitors will be admitted ONLY by appointment. Whenever possible, visitors should meet with parish staff outside, and always while wearing properly-fitted masks and socially distancing.
These published hours refer only to each staff member’s scheduled in-office time. Please note that all the staff has worked a full schedule throughout the pandemic by working from home, and will continue to do so.
- Lane Hensley: Mon-Thu, 10-4; Sun 7-1
- Steve Kinney: Tue, 9-12; Sun 7-1
- Gregory Eaton: Tue 9-4, Wed 1-8, Sun 7-1
- Don Carlson: Mon-Thu 8-Noon
- Mona Myers: Mon-Fri 9-12; Sun 7-9
- Mayra Guevara: Tue, Thu, 11-3
- Marvin Jones: Mon, Tue, Thu, Fri 6:30-3; Sun 6-1
Weekly staff meetings will move to Tuesdays at 11 a.m., at the picnic tables.
Consistent with Bishop Doyle’s framing of our return to “normalcy” as a succession of steps and phases, I expect that these protocols will be adapted over time. In some cases, we may need to take backward steps in order to take safe passage to more forward steps. Not everyone will agree that these are the right measures. Some will argue that they are too aggressive, and others will argue the reverse. But I’m pleased with our progress, and by the continued thoughtful engagement of all of you. Conversations with other clergy suggest to me that All Saints’ has fared relatively well during the pandemic, and that our community life and care for each other and the world is safe and ready to bloom again in God’s good time. Blessings to you all for a safe and happy summer.