Episcopal bishop says churches still open in Western Diocese

Linn Ann Huntington
Special to Hays Daily News

The Episcopal Church bishop for Western Kansas has refuted a report in a recent wire services story that claimed in-person services and meetings for congregations in Western Kansas have been suspended for two weeks.

A Friday media report indicated the Episcopal bishops for both the Eastern and Western dioceses in Kansas had suspended public worship services due to the increase in COVID-19 cases.

But Bishop Mark Cowell, who oversees the Western Kansas Diocese, said in a telephone interview Saturday night that is not true.

“Some of the churches (in the Western Diocese) may have closed themselves, but I have not closed any of them,” Cowell said.

The Rev. Shay Craig, pastor at St. Michael’s Episcopal Church, 2900 Canal Blvd., sent an e-mail to her parishioners on Saturday that St. Michael’s would hold its in-person 10 a.m. Sunday service as usual.

Craig said the church’s “Blue Christmas” worship service, planned for 6 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 22, is also still scheduled. This service is specially designed for people who feel sad and lonely during what for others is a festive time of year.

Craig is also the pastor at St. Andrew Episcopal Church, 2422 Hyacinth Ave., which is still holding its normal in-person worship service at 8 a.m. Sundays, she said.

Both churches ask that worshippers wear masks and observe social distancing, she said.

Cowell, whose office is in Hutchinson, oversees around 25 Episcopal churches in Western Kansas. The diocese extends from I-35 west to the Colorado Line, north to Nebraska, and south to Oklahoma. It includes Salina, but does not include Wichita.