COVID-19: Episcopal Diocese of Texas Supports Masks for All and Discusses Their Response to COVID-19



Bishop Andy Doyle with the Episcopal Diocese of Texas discusses how each of their congregations is responding to COVID-19 and the commitment they have made to their communities with the Masks for All campaign.

"And I think that at times like this, it's important. . .we can come together as a community and do something like Masks for All that is a way in which we make a witness of Christ to the wider community, both by doing that together and then also we have the opportunity to really serve people."


Mentioned Resource:

Episcopal Diocese of Texas

Masks for All

Houston Responds COVID-19 Resources


Transcript:

Tommy Rosson:

It's Tommy Rosson with Houston Responds. And today I'm joined by Bishop Andy Doyle with the Episcopal Diocese of Texas. Thank you so much for joining me today. It's great to be with you. Absolutely. I love the record collection that's going on behind you. I wish I was there to go digging through it.


Bishop Andy Doyle:

A big vinyl collector and I love it. So it's just a little bit of a hobby where I can kind of lose myself and sorting and flipping records and yeah, it's great. Mostly classic rock and blues.


Tommy Rosson:

That's great. Yeah. Especially in this season. We need some escapes like that. Tell us a little bit about how the Episcopal Diocese here have responded, and your churches, and how you help guide your churches through the season.


Bishop Andy Doyle:

Yeah, well, the Diocese of Texas is a judicatory that spread out over 57 counties, about 46,000 square miles in Southeast Texas. So we go all the way up to Tyler, Waco, Killeen, inclued Austin and back again. And so one of the things of course, is that as you can imagine, each County, each town, each city has a very different experience of charting its course, both into staying at home work safe measures, but then also out of, and so, we have tried to provide some guidelines to allow people to move at pace, looking at how community spreads going. And so as we think about Houston in particular where we have a lot of crossover with a large bubble of churches, as you can well imagine, because of the size of the city and the surrounding areas. People were really eager to join with other congregations through your network actually, and the work that you and Steve Wells did to bring churches together.


We're eager to say, let's do this together. So one of the characteristics I think is a sense of wanting to do well, keep our people safe, get back to worship, but also to do that as a community with other pastors across the area. So we're in the process right now of imagining how we're going to do this work, which is as many of your folks who might be watching this as you all all know, it takes a lot. It's going to take a lot more people. It takes a lot more thinking. How do you get into the building is as important as where you're going to sit once you're in the building. And it's not as simple as one person per six feet. You actually are thinking family groups and overflow and what happens when people show up and how do you continue to do virtual worship when maybe you've been doing that at your home, but now you're going to do that from the church. And so the layers of complex solutions, our folks are just sorting through those and are grateful I think for the time. People are, are ready to be back at church and I hope that's a Holy longing that maybe we've learned a little bit about ourselves as we go through it. But I think we're slowly making our plans to begin to gather and are eager to do so. I know that


Tommy Rosson:

I can only imagine what it would be like to help guide churches like you said, you know, from greater Houston, a very suburban area, metropolitan area, to wake up to Tyler. But between Waco and Tyler, there's a lot of small communities, right? Some of these counties might not even have one case of COVID-19. I think I last heard that like 50 of the 250 didn't have any. You have, you know, massive counties like ours that have lots of deaths from this. So, how do you juggle that as you have kind of worked on this and you've talked to these pastors across your region, how have you handled dealing with the differences?


Bishop Andy Doyle:

Right. Well, one of the things is I have three other bishops that work with me. But in this, they really are working for me and working for the pastors in that, there are rectors in that. They are providing with some staffing help and guidelines to support one another. So that Tyler, Texas can figure out how Smith County, which has actually had a decrease for well over a week now it's heading towards, it's 14 days of decreased may well be back at worship before Houston for instance. While at the same time you have a smaller County like where our church and center is. Well, but there's a chicken plant there that just had a blossoming of Coronavirus within the worker community. And so, they'll be slower even though they're close, you know, they're not that far from Tyler and Marshall and Longview.


And so it's really been trying to provide some basic guidelines that help people make good decisions on their own, and ensuring that there's some backup. I feel like that's one of the biggest things for judicatory leaders. Or maybe you're the pastor that has several satellite congregations, you know, giving some backup to the pastors that are on the front lines, the priests that are on the front lines, because they're getting the push and pull, right? I mean, they get both. We want to go back and no, it's not time to go back. And so they get both of those. They get the civic leader, the economic leader, and the health leader, all telling them different messages. And so one of the key pieces, I think this was the brilliancy of having your group and what Bishop Scott Jones did to pull us all the, all of that really enabled us to have each other's backs.


And so I think part of whether or not you're sorting this out for yourself and you're looking at a few people, maybe you're at a large church and you've got some staff members that are going to be on the front lines or your adjudicatory leader like myself. Or maybe you're just a pastor with several smaller congregations as satellites. You know, what we can do is really provide a study, a way in which we can move through this, making the very best decisions from, do you have enough stations for hand sanitizer and wipes and, you know, even providing some structures for finding those things. I mean, I think one of the biggest surprises for most of our pastors has been like everybody listening, this is, okay, so we're going back and we know we need these things and where are we going to get those things?


And just the basic kind of pieces, especially when you get a bathroom that's normally meant to house, maybe a couple of people, even a large bathroom, I'd only be able to do 10 people at a time and yet you're going to turn that into a handwashing station, which is going to see a lot more traffic. And so all of those complications are out there for us to try and navigate and figure out. And I think any place where a leader can provide that. And I'm just fortunate to have three great bishops working with me doing that work. You know, so because I couldn't do it all on my own and to have them, each one of them oversees about 60 congregations.


Tommy Rosson:

Yeah. I've been working in or working with a consulting with churches for over 30 years now, and it's safe to say this week alone, I have been at more conversations about how to sanitize a room that I have been at all 30 years combined.


Bishop Andy Doyle:

Yeah. Right. Exactly, exactly. We just don't think about it at all. And yet it's a deep part of who we are. Right. I mean, think about it, when we do a funeral for one of our members, and how, I'll never forget a priest did this beautiful funeral sermon for a friend of mine's mom and talked about her, how her role as, getting ready for worship meant that she had been in every Pew. She had been, she touched the alter. She'd set all of these kinds of things in places. And so part of what we began to realize, and we shouldn't be surprised because for us, Christians, we're incarnational people. We believe in Jesus Christ, the son of God. And so, as incarnational people, we shouldn't be surprised to find out that our communities themselves are incarnational places where we touch everything and we hug each other and we shake hands and we hand things out and we have bulletins and prayer books and hymnals and whatever the, even if you're projecting, there's still this constant relational integration of life together in our communities.


It's incarnational. So, yeah, exactly. And to think, okay, now we have to make sure all of that's clean and stays clean. That's a huge task.


Tommy Rosson:

It really is a big task. And I know that, you know, the churches that want to meet and that are looking at meeting and whether that's in May or later on, as they get into it, there's just a lot to it. And you know, I was talking to one pastor who was talking about in the same week he did do a funeral for somebody with COVID-19. On the flip side, he had about 20 emails about when are we reopening? And so he would just talking about the emotional pressure between both of those realities.


Bishop Andy Doyle:

Well, don't we long to be back together? I mean, this is kind of an amazing thing in that we certainly all of us have our core pressures, right? We have the people that when the doors are open, they're there, they're helping, they're serving, they're there every week. And then we have this larger community that's rarely in church. Maybe you're lucky to get them once a month or twice a month, right? So we have, you know, you think about Saddleback's outer circle, the circles, right? People coming in and going in the core. And, but you know, I think this separation from each other, has truly, we talking about this earlier, that has increased as this Holy longing to be together, to be the community, that faithful community together. And, part of what's so sad is that normally in most moments of life's interruptions and funerals, illnesses, crisis, we find health, prayer, vitality in these communities. And so the hard thing, some of the hardest part about this physical distancing for us has been the separation, physical separation from one another side equal. This is real, a real longing and the exhaustion that people feel and anger that people feel deeply rooted. And the lack of community, we're meant for community, we're meant for one another.


Tommy Rosson:

Yeah. Well, one of the things that we know is needed when we do get back together is masks. And that's been, we've been asked by the City of Houston and the Harris County and now other counties to help build masks, we've started this Masks for All campaign. Talk to us a little bit about why that was important for y'all to come along and support this effort.


Bishop Andy Doyle:

Well, we already, we had very early on, we had some, we have some groups that make a prayer blankets, prayer shawls for people in a big quilting ministry. And, you know, the arts within church has been a key ingredient for us and I think for many, for a long time. And so, not surprisingly, as soon as we kind of entered the physical distancing time period, we had a couple of people reach out and say, Hey, let's share these patterns for making masks. So we were doing some of that, but this allowed us to join with our other community members to participate in doing good, far beyond what we could do just as congregations by ourselves. And I think that at times like this, it's important as we've seen in hurricanes and everything else, when we can come together as a community and do something like Masks for All, that is a way in which we make a witness of Christ to the wider community, both by doing that together and then also we have the opportunity to really serve people.


And so, you know, this has that dual piece of, while providing a space in which we make a joint witness with all of our other brothers and sisters across the city of Houston, Harris County especially. We also are doing this thing, that really enable people to access food, health, all of the things that they need, especially the most marginalized in our society. So, by providing this, I think the mayor was right, that we can't have a have and have not situation. I think that that really has captured the imagination of our people. And it was an easy, yes, easy yes and everybody who's listening to this. I hope you'll join. It's been great for me to go and see and our websites, people doing this work and inviting others. And I hope that if your congregation hasn't yet signed on for the Masks for All, that you all will join us and the many churches around the city and synagogues and mosques, by the way, who are doing this. This is a big witness for the people and the faithful people of Houston to undertake.


Tommy Rosson:

Absolutely. And you know, it's, it's, it's interesting as we've kind of just helped to get this underway. You know, the local congregation really is an entity of itself. It responds to itself. And it's so fascinating how those that aren't in the faith community think this is a lot of logistical work on our behalf and it, and there are some, but really, I mean this is connecting the local congregation with the local community services in that community to make sure they have masks and then as needed provided for areas that might not be resourced enough to have those. But that's the really great part of this is really not flowing it through a process. It's connecting the local congregation with the needs in their community so they can meet them. I know that your churches across, your diocese are doing this in many ways. Tell us a little bit about how the Episcopal churches are meeting the needs of their community across.. This is an opportunity for you to brag on some of them.


Bishop Andy Doyle:

It's been really hard, right? Because we've had to figure out, you know, normally even our service ministries are very interactive and so trying to figure out how we can do that. But we've had people deal with, we've had churches open as shelters, churches, a number of churches doing blood drives with local blood services in their cities, a number of food ministries were they figured out a way to work with local food banks to provide where we have food insecurity, and hundreds and the hundreds. That's probably one of the biggest services that our churches have been engaging in over the last few weeks. And so, you know, I think there are lots of ways, I think as we are beginning to open back up, there'll be other ways in which we can provide comfort and solace and care for the people in our community.


We're also doing a lot of pick up meals for people living on the street or the working poor as well. And trying to continue that while we've had to shut down services like legal services, shower services, and some of the other, mental health care pieces. And so we're eager to get those back up, but we have been trying to do the best we can, by just getting some basic cares and needs met. So, yeah, lots of great stuff. And I can, you know, I'm a really proud Houstonian, and have lived in Harris County now almost all of my life while I've lived around Texas a little bit. And the truth is that, this is a very generous community. And I know that, while I can easily brag on my congregations and the people in them, I know that, faithful people of Houston are doing a lot of amazing, amazing work, much of which will go untold even when this is done. And I just say that as a leader who oversees a number of churches, we see you, and we see what people are doing and it makes a huge difference.


Tommy Rosson:

That's great. You know, that is the reason why even Houston Responds exists, is there are these unique seasons in which churches can really engage and fill a massive gap that might not necessarily be in their DNA or part of their mission on a regular basis. But in these seasons, it's critical. They get engaged. This is one of those seasons. And so it's, it's always exciting every time this happens. Unfortunately, it happens in Houston, happens way too often, but it is exciting during the seasons to see the local church step up, fill those gaps and do amazing things. Anything else you'd like to add?


Bishop Andy Doyle:

No, I'm just grateful for you and Houston Responds really, for all of the leadership through the reopening, but also the fast for all of these kinds of things and grateful for our long relationship with you. A number of congregations who participate and have participated in the past. And so it's a good friendship and grateful for your ministry and the work that you did with us. Thank you.


Tommy Rosson:

Well, thank you. I appreciate those words. Pastors, if you'd like more resources about how to respond to COVID-19 volunteer opportunities, participate in Masks for All or see more videos like this Faith Leader Insight. Go to www.houstonresponds.org/covid-19. Thank you for joining us today.


Additional COVID-19 resources for congregations available here.

SUBSCRIBE to our e-news for updates, resources and more.

  • LinkedIn - White Circle
  • Facebook - White Circle

CONTACT A COALITION

CLICK HERE to find your Houston Responds coalition to contact directly.

© Copyright 2020 | Houston Responds is a 501 (c)(3). 

CONTACT HOUSTON RESPONDS
PHONE: 281-201-3999