Wednesday 13 May 2020

Some thoughts around reopening churches

Here are some things I’ve gleaned from around the web that might help guide our planning. Of course, we will need to be aware of the situation in our immediate communities and congregations. There may be announcements and directives from the Region or the General Council as well as decisions in the local governing body. And, then too, there is the likely but still undefined possibility of subsequent waves. We have been patient with this unusual and trying time. We have been well-served by so many in the research and health fields. We see the burdens on political leaders at all levels. We need to continue to hold them in our prayers.

Step One:
·       Wait for the Public Health officials to permit worship services and other rituals; be attentive to numbers; even if your building is large enough to allow physical distancing (especially for singing), consider “choke points”: entrances, exits, aisles, washrooms, etc.
·       Consider moving recording of on-line services to the sanctuary if you aren’t doing it now to give people a sense of connection.
·       With weddings/funerals only publicize details to limited numbers to avoid hurt feelings. For a wedding you only “need” five people: the couple, witnesses, and presider.
·       Continue to gather small groups online.
·       Keep office activities to essential operations. Wearing masks should be the norm. Frequent sanitizing of surfaces.
·       Discuss with users/renters what a return to the building might look like. Can you control numbers and distancing? What are cleaning requirements going to be?
·       Meetings in person can be held, with masks and social distancing (but do you really want to talk to each other from six feet away to discuss important issues?). Consider the Manual rules for legal meetings.
·       Many of our volunteers are older and have underlying conditions.  They should be encouraged to continue to practice rigorous health protocols.
·       Remember that the gradual loosening of restrictions is going to take time and experimentation by the authorities.

Step Two
·       When the next size of gathering (say 50) is permitted, that will include a significant number of our Region 15 congregations.  Before you rush back into the building:
o   Consider the questions raised above around cleanliness and choke points;
o   Plan how you will clean surfaces;
o   Have a contingency in case you have an unexpected overflow;
o   Continue to share worship online (if you’ve been doing that) so that people aren’t forced to choose between their safety and their faith community;
o   If masks continue to be recommended in public spaces, continue to wear them in church.
o   Give serious consideration to the risks inherent in any communion celebration;
o   Pay attention to what we know about the spread of droplets from singing;
o   No touch options for passing the peace;
o   Try to limit use of hymnbooks and other resources; substitute single use bulletins or screens;
o   Avoid a coffee or fellowship hour or any form of mingling;

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