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January 5, 2022

As we begin a new year and continue to deal with Covid-19 and its variants, I strongly encourage you to remain vigilant in your precaution-taking when gathering for in-person worship, attending meetings and living your daily life. Because the Omicron variant spreads more easily than previous variants, it is recommended that masks be worn indoors when gathering with others, hand sanitizer is used often and safe distancing be practiced. Your congregation’s leadership can decide whether or not worship and other activities need to revert to online only options. The next several weeks will likely see a rise in positive cases and hospitalizations. The seven counties of the Allegheny Synod continue to see at least double digit increases in cases each day; sometimes triple digits. 


I know we are all craving the comfort of gathering together. I do, too. Please continue to follow the CDC guidelines for indoor gatherings. The guidance has changed rapidly and often. I continue to recommend that we wear masks when gathering indoors with groups of people, regardless of vaccination status, use hand sanitizer and practice safe distancing. In these Winter months when colds, the flu and the continuing pandemic seem to flare up, I have encouraged our pastors to consider holding meetings such as Council or other committees online.


None of this has been easy. All of us wish it was over. We are tired of all the changing guidance and confusing reports. Remain steadfast. Take some precautions to protect yourself and others.


When I am feeling weary, it helps to take breath and reflect. Here’s a few ways to do that:

-Take a moment to give thanks for all that we have learned in the past two years

-Act on what you can control and try to move on from those things you can’t control

-Take 20 minutes each day to take care of you; pray, take a walk, call a friend.

-Remember that God is with us, walking alongside us through these challenges.


Remember that you are loved. I am cheering for you.

+Bishop Paula

8/4/2021 COVID-19 Recommendation Update:

On July 27th, the CDC offered new guidelines on masking for vaccinated people. The recommendation is that vaccinated persons should return to wearing masks indoors if you are in an area where there is substantial or high transmission of COVID. We have pasted the recommendation below in this message.


To check what the transmission rate is for your county, we have pasted below links to the CDC map for Covid transmission rates, and the Mayo Clinic map for Covid transmission rates. On the CDC map, you need to select PA and your county. On the Mayo Clinic map, you can see a 14 day forecast of what transmission rates will do moving forward.


As we have done throughout this time of COVID, I am recommending following the guidelines from the CDC and PA Dept of Health. If you are in a county that has Substantial or High risk of transmission, I am recommending vaccinated individuals return to wearing masks for indoor activities. This would include meetings and worship.


As of today, Somerset and Clearfield counties are the only counties in our Synod where there is ‘Substantial’ risk of spread according to the CDC.


Masking for indoor activities has been the only recommendation we have received to date.


I know that you are tired. I know that we all wished we were beyond this. I know that many of you are vaccinated and thought that meant that all of this was behind us. But wearing masks at this time is about protecting those around us. Thankfully, vaccinated persons have so far not been affected terribly by the virus, but this Delta variant is very contagious and vaccinated persons can still transmit the disease to the unvaccinated. Our returning to masking in areas of Substantial and High spread is about protecting those who can’t or won’t get vaccinated.


Also, following these recommendations from the CDC can help us prevent having another outbreak and having to return to another shut down.


Thank you for all you are doing to care for each other and to take those steps to keep each other safe.


God bless

Bishop Michael



July 27th Recommendation from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention


CDC County View Map – you will need to select for Pennsylvania


Mayo-Clinic Coronavirus tracking map, with 14 day forecast

Pennsylvania Coronavirus Map: Tracking the Trends - Mayo Clinic



OFFICE REOPENING ... A Message from the Synod Staff


The Allegheny Synod Office will reopen on June 22 with regular hours, 8:30 am to 4:30 pm. Staff will be in the office Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday (22, 23, 24) during regular business hours and working remotely on Thursday and Friday (25, 26). We will see people on an appointment-only basis for the time being. If you need to come to the office, please call ahead to make an appointment. We respectfully request that when you come to the office, you wear a mask and practice social distancing. If you serve on a committee that is meeting in the Synod Office, we ask the same—masks and distancing. If there is not enough room in the conference room for distancing, please make arrangements for a Zoom meeting or a larger space off-site in which distancing can occur.

As always, the staff is available via e-mail:

Bishop Rhyne:

Michelle Bossler:

We will post our in-office time for the week of June 29 by June 25.

Thank you for your patience and understanding as we work toward safely returning to the office and hosting you.

Peace be with you+

The Allegheny Synod Staff

ELCA Resource page

PA Government Reopening page


PA Government news brief on reopening


CDC Community page


Guidelines for GREEN PHASE from Governor Wolf

Work & Congregate Setting Restrictions

  • Continued Telework Strongly Encouraged

  • Businesses with In-Person Operations Must Follow Updated Business and Building Safety Requirements

  • All Businesses Operating at 50% Occupancy in the Yellow Phase May Increase to 75% Occupancy

  • Child Care May Open Complying with Guidance

  • Congregate Care Restrictions in Place

  • Prison and Hospital Restrictions Determined by Individual Facilities

  • Schools Subject to CDC and Commonwealth Guidance


Social Restrictions

  • Large Gatherings of More Than 250 Prohibited

  • Restaurants and Bars Open at 50% Occupancy

  • Personal Care Services (including hair salons and barbershops) Open at 50% Occupancy and by Appointment Only

  • Indoor Recreation, Health and Wellness Facilities, and Personal Care Services (such as gyms and spas) Open at 50% Occupancy with Appointments Strongly Encouraged

  • All Entertainment (such as casinos, theaters, and shopping malls) Open at 50% Occupancy
    Construction Activity May Return to Full Capacity with Continued Implementation of Protocols

  • All businesses must follow CDC and DOH guidance for social distancing and cleaning

  • Monitor public health indicators, adjust orders and restrictions as necessary

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