Greetings MN Ministers! In this update my intent is to help us prepare for the reopening of Minnesota churches. During this season, we’ve all come to understand that the church is alive and well, and we look forward to the day when we will again be able to celebrate in corporate worship together. At this point it is premature to set an absolute date for that reopening, but the preparation for that date should be on-going on our part. As we prepare, we should not expect opening with “business as usual”.
Though we are eager to come back together, if you are not prepared to open for services in accordance with the CDC and our Governor’s upcoming guidelines, then it would be better to hold off until you are prepared to welcome guests appropriately. Let’s do our best to get ready! We anticipate that Governor Walz will give us a start date soon, along with a detailed list of Phase I guidelines for churches to follow. We should expect that for in-person services he will include guidelines that restrict attendance in one way or another (perhaps 50% seating capacity) to allow for social distancing. Now is the time to be studying the best approach to maximize the potential of our facilities as we prepare to reopen… it is an opportunity for us to get creative.
A couple of random thoughts are to be patient and don’t be in a hurry to reopen, especially if safety implementations are not in place. Also, please do not abandon your ONLINE PRESENCE for those who won’t/can’t attend in person.
Here are some further considerations for you to process as you prepare for reopening:
- Some churches will choose not to reopen on the first available day
- No pastor should feel rushed to open. If you’re not ready, don’t open.
- If you don’t have a solid written plan, don’t open.
- What areas of the church need extra attention at this time (restrooms, door knobs)?
- What new volunteers can be recruited to assist?
- What cleaning protocols need to be developed?
- What good habits or new ministry considerations has your Church embraced that should continue, and what should you stop doing?
- Do we have clear signage?
- Are we ready for the new challenges our plan will bring (i.e. managing services with children in the sanctuary)?
- Encourage the vulnerable to stay home until a time when they are more comfortable, or perhaps provide a “senior service” exclusively for attendees 65 & over as an option.
- COMMUNICATE as much as possible ahead of time to your church family your guidelines so they will know what to expect.
Finally, here are some potential guidelines regarding the actual Sanctuary Service itself. The following guidelines are patterned after a few other states who have already reopened. We are blessed that some other Districts are ahead of us on the calendar in this process (When Gov Walz releases his statement, we will provide updates to this list):
- Thoroughly sanitize the church building before each service.
- Have hand sanitizer stations at each entrance for attendees.
- Masks & gloves should be provided to the greeters who will remain at a 6’ distance.
- Encourage the use of masks by attendees (dependent on Gov’s guidelines).
- There will be a “no physical touch” policy and a 6’ distance will be requested of all persons not under the same household.
- Fellowship & Commons areas are to be closed.
- Coffee/food services will not be provided.
- Children’s services, nursery and pre-school care will not be available (Phase I).
- Families are requested to sit together in the sanctuary and there will be at least two empty seats (or 6’ separation) between parties in a row.
- There will be alternate rows between attendees (every other row left empty).
- Restrooms should be limited in number of people so there is 6’ of separation.
- Refrain from passing collection plates and instead provide a central collection box in the building where families can pass by individually, or continue on-line giving.
- At the close of the service, release by rows, encourage social distancing and have people leave promptly to their vehicles.
- Sanitize seats and frequently touched surfaces between services.
- Administer communion without attendees having to touch the same surfaces & objects.
Let me close by pointing out that churches that have recognition as General Council affiliated assemblies are self-governing. Churches not yet having met the General Council status guidelines, however, and who are currently affiliated as MDC “District Affiliated” or “District Supervised” assemblies, will be required to abide by a similar list as the one listed above. All churches are to have a written policy/plan for reopening, and “District Affiliated” or “District Supervised” churches will be asked to communicate your written plan to your presbyter prior to reopening.
I close “again” by saying thanks for your amazing leadership through this hour of crisis.
With love and appreciation,
PS: Pastor Rod Loy from North Little Rock, AR, is doing an incredible job leading his church through the reopening process. Check it out at https://firstnlr.com/register/