With many states in the process of reopening, ministry leaders must make critical decisions about future worship and in-person gatherings at our physical locations. These decisions require much prayerful and practical discernment in a constantly evolving environment. Even with the uncertainty and variability of reopening plans, scientifically and medically sound information is available. As you deliberate together, be sure to assess your individual risk, the prevalence of the virus in your area and the availability of testing.
Dr. Atul Gawande, noted surgeon and author, proposes four essential pillars for safe reentry into communal spaces: hygiene, distancing, screening, and mask use. All four must operate together to minimize transmission. For example: Will there be easy access to hand-washing or sanitizing? Will communal surfaces and shared spaces be wiped down? Will attendance be limited to allow distancing, and will attendees be screened with temperature checks and self-screening questionnaires? Will your place of worship enforce mask use and distancing? Anything short of all four pillars increases transmission risk.
Regathering Workshop – May 20, 2020
During this workshop, we explored the latest information from church and government authorities, heard practical guidance from those already addressing these issues, and shared useful resources as we build our own bridge to the church of the future. One KEY question for congregations to consider: Is the quality of the in-person experience going to be better than the online or alternate experience? Other questions include: Are worship and ministry leaders comfortable with these proposed actions? Are members? What legal, liability, and financial concerns have been considered? Who will assure guidelines and safety protocols are implemented? Communicated? Who will do the ongoing work? How will guidelines created for the health & safety of everyone be enforced? More information and a framework for congregations to follow in their decision-making are shown below under MCSP Communications and Resources.
You’ll find the replay below and on our YouTube channel. Scroll down the page for even more resources about regathering from government and faith-based sources.
Featured Workshop Presenters:
- The Rev. David Guthrie, PEC – Overview and Considerations for Worship/Fellowship Gatherings
- The Rev. Dr. Nola Knouse, PEC and Music Foundation – Worship & Music
- The Rev. Keith Stirewalt, Wake Health– Public Health Considerations for Faith Community Gatherings | View Slides
- Ruth Cole Burcaw, BCM – Resources, Supplies, and Ministry Tools
MCSP Communication and Resources
- PEC Memo UPDATE Health and Safety Precautions for Church Offices and Gatherings
- PEC Memo UPDATE on Worship Gatherings (May 28, 2020)
- PEC Memo Choirs, bands, and congregational singing (May 22, 2020)
- A Plan for Regathering: A Guide for Church Boards (May 20, 2020) – Board of Cooperative Ministries (PDF of plan & worksheets | Worksheets in Word format)
- PEC Memo COVID-19 Precautions for Church Offices (May 13, 2020)
- PEC Memo on Re-Opening Activities (May 8, 2020)
- PEC Memo “Re-Opening” Church Activities and Events (April 27, 2020)
- CDC Interim Guidelines for Faith Communities and Guidance for Employers with Vulnerable Workers (PDF)
- CDC Interim Guidelines for Faith Communities (May 7, 2020 – with additional remarks from faith leaders) and additional CDC information
- Interim Guidance for Businesses and Employers to Plan and Respond to Coronavirus Disease 2019 (CDC)
- NC Executive Order – Phase 2 (PDF)
- NC Executive Order – Phase 1 (PDF)
- NC Dept of Health and Human Services – Interim Guidance for Places of Worship, Phase 2 (PDF – May 28, 2020)
- NC Guidance for Religious Services including Outdoor Worship (PDF – May 8, 2020)
- NC Easing of Restrictions (5/8/2020 FAQ | Quick Facts Side-by-Side)
From NC FAQ: Places of worship may hold services that exceed the Mass Gathering Limit of ten people if those services are held outdoors in an unenclosed space and if attendees follow Recommendations to Promote Social Distancing and Reduce Transmission for community and faith-based organizations.
- North Carolina Health and Human Services Department: COVID-19 Dashboard
- Forsyth County (NC) Health Department
Please check with your local public health department or state government for specific information outside of North Carolina.
National/State Resources for Tracking
- How We Safely Reopen (Website): State-by-state data tracking progress toward gating criteria for reopening. Gating criteria are the data-driven conditions each region or state should satisfy before proceeding to a phased opening. Sites uses the gating criteria provided by the White House in their Reopening America Again guidelines. Site tracks each state’s progress towards its reduction in symptoms and cases, health system readiness, and increased test capacity.
- COVID-19 Key Metrics by State (Website): Data tracking testing, positives, hospitalizations, and deaths by state. This site curates much of the public health data on COVID-19.
- Is Your Community Ready to Reopen? COVID ACT Now (Website)
- Effective COVID-19 Crisis Communication – Center for Infectious Disease and Policy (CIDRAP) (PDF)
- Five Ways to Monitor the Coronavirus Outbreak in the U.S. (web article)
- Map: How States are Reopening (Washington Post map – their COVID-19 content should be free)
- State Level Tracking of COVID-19 in the United States (Website)
UPDATE on the Science: 9 Things Experts Have Learned About COVID-19 So Far (published July 29, 2020)
- When Your Church Reopens, Here’s How to Meet Safely: Christianity Today (website)
- Returning to Church: Resources from the Wisconsin Council of Churches (website | helpful infographic summarizing this information)
- PCUSA Returning to Worship: Theological and Practical Considerations (PDF)
- Essential and Virtual: Updated Guidance for Gathering by the UUA (website)
- Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA): Considerations for Returning to In-Person Worship (PDF)
- Virginia Conference of the United Methodist Church: Embrace the Now, Prepare for the Next! (Website)
- Southern New England Conference UCC: Phasing Forward (website)
- Southwest Conference UCC: Suggested Phased Plan for Resuming In-Person Gatherings (PDF)
- Using a Small Ensemble for Your Online Worship May Not Be Safe
- Singing, the Church, and COVID-19: A Caution for Moving Forward in Our Current Pandemic
- The coronavirus pandemic and aerosols: Does COVID-19 transmit via expiratory particles?
- What Do Science and Data Say About the Near Term Future of Singing (Video)
- The Future of Singing Together
- Wisconsin Council of Churches: Info on Church Music
When Can We Sing? The Rev. Dr. Nola Knouse, Moravian Music Foundation (see video below; here’s a transcript of her talk)
PPE Supplies & Cleaning Equipment – Possible Sources
- Outreach.com: Prepare Your Church For Reopening
- Indera Mills (Face Masks)
- Project Mask Winston-Salem (mask pattern; opportunity to sew masks)
- The Nightingale Face Mask (used for the Masks for All project)
- (NC) Mill-Chem: OdoBan Virucide (disinfectant cleaner) by the gallon, touchless hand sanitizer dispensers, stands. See supply source PDF below for account rep and contact info.
- Look Our Way: Reusable, custom, and disposable masks. Discounts for larger quantities.
- Restaurant Depot: Possible source for gloves, cleaners, equipment. Free membership at warehouse stores for non-profits.
- Global Industrial: Disposable masks, face shields, infrared thermometers, other cleaning supplies,
- Amazon and other online retailers: Miscellaneous items such as gloves, reusable masks, mask supplies, sanitizer, hand pumps for gallon sanitizer, spray bottles, dispensers.
Supplies for reopening:
- Hand sanitizer, touchless dispensers, stands
- Disinfectant multi-purpose cleaner
- Masks (re-usable and disposable)
- Pastors Toolbox: Save A Seat
- Floor stickers & decals, touch tools, individual hand sanitizers & wipes
- Electrostatic disinfectant applicator (sprayer)*
*A Word about Electrostatic Disinfectant Applicators: UCMC the Clorox Pro 360 applicator, which kills 99.9% of bacteria in 5 seconds, kills cold and flu viruses, MRSA and norovirus in 2 minutes or less. 65% less solution used than hand spraying and wiping, 75% faster (covers 18,000 square feet per hour). Less expensive than hand-spraying and wiping down all surfaces. We’ll use weekly (Fri/Sat) in preparation for Sunday. Allow at least 12 weeks for delivery. Learn about system efficiency and effectiveness in this video. Review supply source PDF below for source information.
Special thanks to Dan Johnson, Trustee chair , Union Cross Moravian Church for sharing their supply sources. His advice to others? Purchase it now! Lead times are very long.
Other Articles for Consideration
- *NEW- July 14, 2020: Safer Physical Re-gathering for your Congregation | Wake Forest Baptist Hospital
- *NEW – June 5, 2020: How to Be as Safe as Possible in your House of Worship (article)
- So Your Church is Opening Up . . . The Millennial Pastor (this article contains a PDF link to a comprehensive checklist of health & safety guidelines for churches)
- Religious Americans Agree on Limited In-Person Services, Split on Returning to Worship as Usual (Website)
- When Church Reopens, What Will Be Left and Who Will Still Come? (article by Carey Nieuwhof)
- Five Frequently Asked Questions about Online Church (article by Jim Keat)
- Being the Church Online
- Churches Could Be the Deadliest Places in the COVID-19 Pandemic
- Churches Should Not Be the First to Reopen
- 10 Considerations for Reopening Church: Returning to Worship Cannot Mean Returning to Normal
- 6 Priorities Your Church Must Have in Place Before Gathering in Person Again
- 10 Questions to Ask Your Congregation Before You Reopen
- 24 Questions Your Church Should Answer Before People Return
- 4 BIG Questions To Help You Successfully Re-open Your Church
- How to Survey Your Congregation as You Build Your Reopening Plan
- The Risks – Know Them – Avoid Them
- ‘I would do anything for a do-over’: Calgary Church Hopes Others Learn From Their Tragic COVID-19 Experience
- Masks Help Stop the Spread of Coronavirus
- Amid the Coronavirus Crisis, A Regimen for Re-entry
- Preparing Your Church for the Coronavirus: A Plan (PDF) – Wheaton Seminary
- Back to Work Safely (website)
- Barna Clergy Survey about Resuming Physical Worship (website)
- Expert Weights in on Public Mask Wearing (website)
- Beyond ‘Plandemic’: A Christian Response to Conspiracies (website)
- Memphis Faith Leaders Stand Together (video)
These are the “Recommendations to Promote Social Distancing and Reduce Transmission” found in the NC Governor’s May 5, 2020 executive order:
Individuals leaving their residence for Allowable Activities are strongly advised to take the following steps to reduce transmission:
1. Maintain at least six (6) feet social distancing from other individuals, with the exception of family or household members.
2. Wear a cloth Face Covering when leaving home and wear it inside all public settings such as grocery stores, pharmacies, or other retail or public-serving businesses. A Face Covering should also be worn outdoors when you cannot maintain at least six (6) feet distancing from other people with the exception of family or household members. These coverings function to protect other people more than the wearer.
3. Carry hand sanitizer with you when leaving home, and use it frequently.
4. Wash hands using soap and water for at least twenty (20) seconds as frequently as possible.
5. Regularly clean high-touch surfaces such as steering wheels, wallets, phones.
6. Stay at home if sick.