Considerations for the Reopening of Our Church
following Covid-19 Public Health Emergency
following Covid-19 Public Health Emergency
- Our number one priority, in faithfulness to our mission, is to make decisions that bear witness to the love of Christ through the love and care of the neighbor. In our church family, we have several members undergoing regular treatments for cancer. Several more have compromised immune systems due to other health conditions. Several of our members work in healthcare and as emergency first responders. Most of our active members are over the age of sixty. We recognize that the decision to refrain from public worship is one that seeks to protect the health and safety of these persons. That, in and of itself, is an act of worship.
- The guidance provided by the Pennsylvania Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control strongly recommend the continuation of online worship and virtual meetings during the “yellow” or “intermediate” phase. In-person gatherings of any kind are discouraged, whenever possible.
- The pandemic and quarantine, now moving into its third month, has been a tremendous spiritual burden on our faith community. The loss of public worship, fellowship, supportive ministries, and community outreach have diminished our congregation’s ability to care for weary souls.
- Singing has been found to facilitate the spread of droplets more than sneezing without covering one’s mouth.
- Our on-hand stock of disinfecting wipes, antibacterial soaps, and cleaning supplies is dwindling, and will quickly be exhausted without replenishment. These are unavailable for purchase in stores.
- We have seen a tremendous response to our weekly worship livestreams and nightly online devotions. Sunday livetreams have averaged around 300 engagements. The community particularly appreciates the incorporation of music into the worship.
- Our congregation has distributed care packages to 42 households since the beginning of May, with the capacity to do even more.
- The outdoor food pantry has been completely self-sustaining, due to the tremendous outpouring of food and monetary donations.
- Our church building will refrain from public events of any size until June 1.
- Please continue to encourage family, friends, and neighbors to participate in worship livestreams by sharing posts on your social media.
- If you know a supplier of cleaning supplies and disinfectants, please let us know!
- The clothing closet will remain available for emergencies only, by appointment.
- Future decisions will be made with attention paid to actions taken in nursing homes, restaurants, retailers, and other gathering places.
- We will continue to promote and offer virtual gatherings via Zoom, namely virtual coffee hours and Wednesday Midweek Renewal.
- I would like us to discuss the possibility of small, outdoor gatherings for fellowship, prayer, and bible study. There is a need for some form of in-person fellowship, particularly for persons who live alone.
- The plumbing will need to be flushed to prevent the growth of Legionella bacteria.
- We must monitor infection data listed by zip code on the Pennsylvania Department of Health website [https://www.health.pa.gov/topics/disease/coronavirus/Pages/Coronavirus.aspx]
WHEN WE RESUME PUBLIC WORSHIP
- We do not want our congregation members to feel pressured into doing anything that would compromise their individual health or safety. We will leave the choice to attend in person worship to each individual and family.
- Masks will be required for the pastor and the congregation members for the entire service.
- Singing will be prohibited.
- Hand-shaking and physical touch will be prohibited.
- Church doors will be propped open as much as possible, to reduce the touching of doorknobs and handles.
- Alternating pews will be marked off to promote social distancing.
- All hymnals and pew bibles will be removed from the pew racks until further notice. Worship bulletins will be placed on a table in the narthex.
- The offering plates will not be passed. A collection box will be placed in the rear of the sanctuary.
- Holy Communion will be distributed to congregants via stations, with one pew dismissed at a time. Please do not queue up in a single line.
- We must have adequate supplies of hand sanitizer, face masks, and antibacterial soap on hand at all times.
- Records of persons in attendance at events will be maintained in the church offices, so that, in the event that a participant tests positive, we can notify those who may have been in contact with them.
- Facilities and furnishings will be sanitized following each gathering.