Returning to Calvary

by Rector Scott Walters


During the spread of COVID-19 in our world, planning even for the near future has been a difficult and elusive process. But I want you to know our plan for returning to worship at Calvary, as it stands today.


First of all, we do not know when that return will happen. But we do know who will be guiding us. We have assembled a Return to Calvary task force that includes three Calvary physicians; Dr. Henry Sullivant, Dr. Betty Jo Dulaney, and Dr. Edwin Thorpe (also a vestry member); Senior Warden Kim Kitterman, and Junior Warden James Aldinger; and Calvary staff members Steve Smith (Finance & Operations), Helario Reyna (Facilities), Robyn Banks (Communications), and Ebet Peeples. When we receive directives from health and local government officials and from our bishop, this group will tailor an implementation plan to Calvary’s context and communicate it to the parish.


As Episcopalians, our response will also be directed by Bishop Phoebe Roaf and her diocesan staff. And I am meeting with the rectors of several larger Memphis parishes to coordinate our responses and share wisdom as well.


I was also invited by Dr. Scott Morris of Church Health to join an interfaith group of representatives of a variety of Memphis religious communities who agreed to respond to COVID-19 in a coordinated and collaborative way. You can find the full letter, including the signers, HERE. At its heart are these four areas of agreement:

      • We will rely on the medical and scientific community as our primary resource for information.
      • We will work collaboratively to responsibly care for those who contract COVID-19.
      • We will collaborate to determine when returning to in-person worship is possible.
      • We will continue to speak up, especially for the most vulnerable in our community.


What we know today is that the first phase of our county and city mayors’ reopening plan will not be implemented until there have been 14 consecutive days of declining new cases of COVID-19. At that time, churches will be allowed to return to worship, but only at a maximum of 25% capacity, while physical distancing and other health and sanitation requirements continue. What that looks like at Calvary, and when we decide it is safe to return, once we are allowed, will be fleshed out by our Return to Calvary group, in consultation with our bishop and the other colleagues and experts mentioned above.


I spell all of this out for you here so that you know we are not alone in our decision making. We will continue to move through this crisis as faithful members of a larger community that bears wisdom we will benefit from, and a community we are bound by our baptismal promises to love and serve.


Calvary’s faithful response to this crisis has been truly inspiring and sustaining for me. You have continued to worship, pray, care for one another, and serve a world in great need, in spite of unimaginable obstacles. I have seen God’s presence among us throughout this time, which is ultimately where my faith rests that, in the days to come, we will find a way back to health and wholeness and the life together we have missed so intensely during this time apart.