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Utah Episcopal Diocese to stick with online worship as COVID-19 cases surge

Bishop Scott Hayashi
Posted at 8:52 AM, Nov 25, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-25 10:52:10-05

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah's Episcopal Diocese has no plans to return to in-person worship, even though it is allowed under the state's COVID-19 public health orders.

In an email to members, Bishop Scott Hayashi noted the high number of cases in Utah and that religious services are exempted from closure orders.

"As the Bishop of The Episcopal Diocese of Utah, I appreciate Governor Herbert respecting the First Amendment on the right to worship without interference from the state, but it is my belief that if there is any group of people who ought to be the most vigilant and strict in behavior to limit the spread of the virus it is the religious community," he wrote.

"We universally proclaim the concern for the welfare of all people regardless of membership. Therefore, we, of all people should be the ones who demonstrate and model this in our behavior."

Utah's public health orders allow for in-person worship services, but strongly encourages churches to follow the protocols of physical distancing and face coverings are mandated statewide. Other faiths have been phasing in worship services. For example, the Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City physically distances family groups in its churches. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has reduced occupancy in its ward houses and moved a second hour of worship online. The Islamic Society of Greater Salt Lake has also moved some of its services online.

Each week, the Cathedral of St. Mark has been posting videos of its worship services for members.

"I certainly miss being together for in-person worship and events. Nevertheless, the sacrifice of this for the good of our state and nation is one that I believe we need to make. Wearing a mask is much less of a sacrifice than that," Bishop Hayashi wrote. "Please, all who identify as people of faith, regardless of tradition, do all that we can to mitigate the spread of the virus for the good and safety of all of us."