While we are anxious to have life return to “normal,” so far this summer we are continuing to see increasing numbers of new COVID-19 cases in California. Even so, we are considering how we could return to in-person worship.
Our California-Nevada Conference of The United Methodist Church has been testing re-opening protocols by working with 8 small churches in rural areas. In weekly webinars, they are sharing what they have learned about the planning, training, and communication needed to provide a safe setting for in-person worship services. (See more here.)
In our church, a reopening plan has been developed by Matthew Hendrickson (as Chair of Trustees), based on discussion at the June Leadership Team meeting. The plan has been submitted to our District Superintendent for pre-approval. The next step will be to confirm the plan with the Leadership Team, and work on the details of implementation with a focused team of Pastor, Trustee (Matthew), SPRC (Denise), Worship (Darcy), Lay Leader (Megan), and Lay Representative (Trish).
Some of the concerns and notes identified by the Leadership Team:
- If we are not ready to re-open when the Conference says we are allowed, then we can delay to a date we feel is appropriate based on our congregation’s needs.
- We will likely need extra volunteers to verify people are respecting health boundaries and provide guidance.
- Our protocols could include non-touch temperature measurement, asking if person feels healthy, reserving a spot in Sanctuary.
- With 6-foot distancing, we could have up to about 24 people in the pews.
- Communication is key, through all available media. Must have clear signage outside the church as to requirements and protocols.
Bishop Minerva G. Carcaño is continuing to encourage churches to adapt their view of how to minister to their community. She says, “We are going to be different.” Bishop Carcaño thanked the churches for their hard work and prayed for the safety and ministry of the churches. “We are different already. We’re being different because of what God’s teaching us—so we can be the church God is calling us to be.”
See previous thoughts on this topic: