President Erwin’s letter to the ULS community regarding updated and enhanced COVID guidelines and September events

Dear ULS community:

I hope you’re enjoying the last days of summer. Welcome to those who have joined the ULS community through August intensives, and to those who are joining now at the start of the semester. I look forward to meeting you in person—soon, I hope. We are excited to start classes on Monday, even though we still face daunting challenges related to the coronavirus.

As you know, the COVID variants continue to be a serious threat around the country and here in Pennsylvania. The rate of COVID infection among unvaccinated individuals continues to rise, overburdening ICU’s and healthcare workers – much like last year. This is true both for Adams County, where our Gettysburg campus is located, and for Philadelphia County.

But the value of the vaccines is evident to all in the vastly lower levels of serious illness among those who have been vaccinated. The simple difference is the vaccine. With the recent FDA full approval of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, and the pending full approval of the Moderna vaccine, there is little reason for any ULS student, staff or faculty member not to get vaccinated. Except for those few with highly specific medical counterindications, vaccination is an obvious good choice at extraordinarily low risk.

The ULS Emergency Planning and Operations Task Force (EPO) continues to meet regularly to assess the data coming from the CDC and the state. After the most recent meeting earlier this week, I want to take this opportunity to reiterate and enhance our guidelines as follows:

  • In person classes, meetings, and worship may still be held on both physical campuses, subject to the limitations in the points that follow.
  • It is our expectation that anyone who comes physically to either campus for any reason, is fully vaccinated. If this is medically impossible for you, and you still need to come to campus, you must inform your supervisor (if staff), the Dean (if faculty), or the Registrar, (if a student). We will work with you on a     case-by-case basis. You may be required to document your exemption, but any exceptions will be at your own risk.
  • Our current policy requiring a mask (covering both nose and mouth) at all times while inside any ULS building remains in place. This includes instructors teaching in person and students taking in person classes.
  • The policy also includes physical attendance at chapel. For the time being, special care (masking and distancing) should be exercised while singing, and this may be restricted further by those organizing and leading worship.
  • The only exceptions are situations where transmission of the virus cannot happen, as in one’s private workspace with doors closed.
  • The process for students, faculty and staff to report a positive COVID test remains the same as stated in the email sent on August 3, as do the expectations of staying home.
  • There is no way to account for every situation we find ourselves in. For on campus ULS events, we must share responsibility. In meetings, the convener; in     classes, the instructor; in worship, the presider should set the tone and reiterate the expectations.
  • Virtual and online options may always be used to conduct normal seminary business, attend classes, and engage in worship, and for the month of September that may be the wiser and more convenient option for many.

Should the number of COVID cases continue to rise around the country and in Pennsylvania, ULS may have to increase restrictions and further update this policy. It is my hope that this won’t be necessary and that I can count on those of you who are unvaccinated to be mindful and respectful of your colleagues and fellow students by getting vaccinated as soon as possible.

Update on September events

  • Fall Convocation and planned alumni events on September 22 have been moved from in-person to virtual. Updated information will be posted next week on our homepage and online calendar of events. This decision was made based on registration numbers and feedback from interested participants who are wary of attending in person.
  • Masks are required for anyone attending in-person worship. Social distancing and other safety protocols will be in place in both chapels, and singing will be regulated closely. 


The EPO Task Force will meet again in mid-September to evaluate October’s in person events and will communicate any updates to you. The president and the board chair will soon make a call on whether to move the late-September board meeting to an online format.

I realize that we are all tired of the burdens of care, but the situation is dangerous, as much for the wider communities in which we move as for our own ULS learning community. The combination of masks and the vaccine are indisputably the most effective ways to combat the spread of COVID and its variants. 

Thank you for your patience and endurance, and for your continued respect and care for the health of all. May God bless you and protect you, as you do your part to protect others.

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