Several congregations have asked the Regional Office to provide some guidance on returning to in-person worship. I am delighted to suggest some guidelines for your leadership to consider as you make plans.
The Oklahoma State Health Department is reporting lower numbers for COVID-19 positivity rates and hospitalizations. Let’s just pause and celebrate that for a moment! Sadly, the COVID-19 deaths in Oklahoma and nationwide are still very high.
Also, the Oklahoma State Health Department is reporting that 17% of the Oklahoma population has been vaccinated for COVID-19! Another moment to pause and celebrate!
This week, another level of the population is eligible to be vaccinated: teachers and persons with co-morbidities. Pending vaccine supply, the state should be able to move through this segment of the population rather quickly.
Despite this good news, here is the link to the CDC Guidelines for Faith Communities, updated on February 12, 2021. The CDC Guidelines are continuing to invite all faith communities to be VERY cautious, and in fact continue to recommend on-line worship or outdoor worship.
With this information from the CDC, and as the coronavirus numbers trend down and the vaccination numbers trend up, we do not want to rush. However, I believe it is a good time to begin considering plans to return to in-person worship. If you have already returned to in-person worship, I trust you are continuing to practice all safety protocols. If you have not yet returned to in-person worship, your church members might be more than wondering when in-person worship will be possible. Also, please take into consideration your perspective and comfort level as the shepherd of the flock.
Wherever your congregation is on the grid, here are some suggested questions for discussion among your leadership, remembering that best practices are still wear a mask, wash your hands, and watch your distance.
- What does the current CDC Guidelines recommend?
- What does our church insurance provider recommend?
- What is the positivity rate of COVID-19 in your community?
- What are the hospitalizations of COVID-19 in your community?
- What is the positivity rate of COVID-19 variant in your community?
- How many church members are fully vaccinated? Will just vaccinated members be returning for a first phase? Or will all be invited to return allowing members decide what is best for their safety & well being?
- What parts of worship should still be restricted? Singing. Passing the Peace. Passing the Offering Plate and Communion. Hugging/Handshaking.
- What is a target date to begin in-person worship? Still hard to determine but we are getting closer!
- Should safety protocols continue for in-person worship? Absolutely. Wearing masks, washing hands, watching distance (6 ft).
- Will your congregation continue on-line worship? I hope so!
- Lastly, what crisis will determine a need to return to on-line worship only?
First Christian Church Norman
In Person Worship Protocols
Now that the church has returned to in-person worship at both the 8:40 and 10:45 services, we continue the following protocols that are to be strictly observed…
- *Masks must be worn over the mouth and nose at all times when in the church building.
- *Greeting one another must be done from a distance and without physical contact.
- *Extended conversations are to be held outside the church building.
- *Maintain safe distancing (at least 6 feet) in the pews between households.
- *Hymns, liturgies, prayers are to be hummed and/or spoken very softly.
- *Please wash hands and wipe down surfaces in the bathroom after use.
- *If you have been engaged in high-risk activities such as large gatherings, have been instructed to quarantine or isolate, or have been identified as a close contact of an individual with COVID-19, please do not attend worship in person.
- *If you are considered at high risk for a severe COVID-19 infection (with health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, obesity, chronic lung disease, immune deficiency, or needing supplemental oxygen), please do not attend worship in person. In addition, it has been found that individuals over age 65 are at higher risk for a more severe infection.
- *Even those who have received both vaccines must follow the above protocols to ensure maximum safety for all those participating in worship in the sanctuary.