Bishop Ruben Saenz Jr. issued a statement in January 2022 encouraging churches in areas where infection rates were rising to pay close attention to ever-evolving circumstances regarding the pandemic and infection rates.
These questions for worship and other ministries are to be used with your church leadership to foster important conversation related to your church activities. While one directive would be simpler for church leadership, we must keep in mind the context of our setting and the transmission rate for our particular communities.
What is the age of the congregation?
What is the rate and number of fully vaccinated individuals who become positive in your community?
What are the county and community transmission rates for a seven-day period?
What is the community vaccination rate?
for Worship and Ministries
This Guideline for Worship and other Ministries is to be used with your church leadership to foster important conversation related to your church activities. While one directive would be simpler for church leadership, we must keep in mind the context of our setting and the transmission rate for our particular communities. While using this tool as a guide, keep in mind a few circumstances:
Age of the congregation
Health status of the congregation
Rate and number of fully vaccinated individuals who become positive.
County and community transmissions for a 14-day period
Community vaccination rates
Continue holding online worship as you have been as many who are most vulnerable may not desire to be in a community gathering. Your creativity and diligence have been amazing during the previous months.
Give permission to (and encourage) those who are most vulnerable to stay home.
Realize that your clergy may have health risks that may require him/her to continue wearing a mask.
Encourage staff, volunteers, and congregants who are exhibiting symptoms or who have had close contact with a person with COVID-19 to stay home and follow state and local quarantine guidelines and requirements.
Consider posting signs available on the CDC website in restrooms or entrances promoting protective measures and limiting the spread of germs.
On the recommendations from both states, continue social distancing in worship. Maintain, by roping or taping off sections for seating, leaving 6 feet of distance from side to side and front to back.
Groups sitting together must consist of a household unity until such time as state and local health officials indicate otherwise.
If possible, consider restricting access to areas of the facility that are not in use, including any playground areas.
Prop the entrance/exit doors of the worship space open, with greeter’s present, or have the greeters open the doors for all individuals.
Continue to place bulletins in an area for individuals to pick up as they enter.
Consult with your leadership and state and local health officials about the appropriateness of Hymnals, Bibles, Prayer Books, paper, pencils back into the Worship space. Consider using overhead projectors to provide visual access to text and/or materials.
CDC continues to study the spread and effects of the novel coronavirus across the United States. A significant portion of individuals with coronavirus lack symptoms (“asymptomatic”) and that even those who eventually develop symptoms (“pre-symptomatic”) can transmit the virus to others before showing symptoms. This means that the virus can spread between people interacting in close proximity—for example, speaking, coughing, or sneezing—even if those people are not exhibiting symptoms.
State and county health officials are mixed on whether singing is safe. There is no concrete data to back up recommendations or to provide solid guidance. What health officials have agreed on is: Congregational singing is OK as long as each individual is wearing a tight-fitting mask. That means the mask covers the nose and mouth, and when the individual blows a big poof of air through the mask, there is no escaping of any air from any area of the mask. Increased distancing between family units and individuals is recommended from 6 to 10 feet.
Continue to wave or greet others with a simple nod of the head and words. No handshakes or hugs.
If no other groups are in the worship space through the next week, there is no need to sanitize, if your HVAC air handler is working properly.
If Holy Communion is to be observed, servers are to wear masks and gloves; individuals maintain 6 feet of distancing as they come forward to receive a piece of the bread; juice is served in small individual cups.
Only the parents and siblings of the child should be present within 3 feet of the baptismal font. Other family members must remain at 6 feet distance and maintain distancing between families and/or others present and stepping forward with the family.
Entering and Exiting the Church
Have the doors to the facility propped open, with greeters present, or have one greeter open the door as a person arrive.
Have extra masks available for those who do not have one. Encourage them to take them home following worship. Please do not re-use masks.
Based on the size of your worship space, know how many individuals you can comfortably place in that area for worship. Consider how you will count individuals as they enter to know when you have reached your maximum number.
Provide a connect card to each family unit or individuals as a greeter welcomes them. Have cards filled out prior to entering the worship space and provide a place for them to place them as they are completed. Encourage the use of their personal pen or pencil or provide pencils and enough so that one is not used a second time. Allow the connection cards and pencils to remain where they are for 5 days as recommended by health officials.
Consider the Church Center App for mobile phones, attendance, giving options, and sign-up for other groups and events can easily be handled via this app for smartphones.
Only provide coffee, juice, or water in cups with lids and provide plastic utensils.
About The Guidelines
These guidelines are just that, guidelines that cover some of the best practices for keeping your pastor and your congregation members healthy and able to continue doing ministry. Remember that some clergy are as vulnerable to impact of this disease as are the vulnerable members of your congregation.
If you have questions about the guidelines for your specific community, please contact Rev. Hollie Tapley, Disaster Response Coordinator, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The CDC and other health officials recommend cleaning and sanitizing as you have since the beginning of the pandemic.
If a room or space is not used from Sunday to Sunday, that room does not need to be cleaned or sanitized, except for soft surfaces, doorknobs, metal chairs, coffee pots, etc.
Clean and sanitize restrooms after each event when they are used.
Continue to clean surfaces that are touched often.
What Steps to Take with a Known Exposure in Your Facility
Contact tracing will continue to be a need. Record each person’s name, phone, email address, the date, time in and time out of the facility for worship, small groups, daycare, meetings, and other events. Hold on to this information week to week. Using an app, like Church Center for example, is a great way to record attendance for worship and other events.
Upon notification from an individual, notify your local health department, your insurance company, and your district superintendent.
Upon notification from your local health department of a positive result from someone who has been in your facility, follow their directions. Notify your insurance company and district superintendent.
Follow instructions from your local health department to communicate with staff and congregants about potential exposure while maintaining confidentiality.
Clean and disinfect the facility where the individual was.
If this case was in a worship service, be prepared to not hold in-person services for the next 14 days.
This journey towards our new normal has been long and challenging. As the journey continues, let us continue to be people who practice doing no harm and keeping all individuals safe.