As of May 7, 2020
Over the past several weeks, we have learned so much about what it means to be church and how many ways there are to be church without gathering in person or making full use of our church buildings. Even as we do these things, we yearn for the time when we will be back together in community.
This page is intended to assist those responsible for making decisions in all parts of the church. It is not a directive but is offered as guidance. Updates will be offered as the situation develops, and your input is welcome.
The Big Picture
- The safety of staff, volunteers, church members, and all those we serve needs to guide our decisions about reopening any activities.
- It is likely that COVID-19 will continue to affect the ways we behave and the activities we take part in for at least the next year.
- Common guiding principles will be decided cooperatively by senior General Council and regional council staff. Regional councils and local communities of faith will implement these principles, bearing in mind regional and local variations in circumstances.
- Decisions about larger denomination-wide events will be made by the General Council Executive or senior leadership.
Public Health Directives and Gradual Reopening
- It is important to keep up to date on all government and public health directives and guidelines, and to adhere to them.
- Simply adhering to these directives and guidelines may not be enough. We need to keep in mind our context, including the types of activities we host, and the age and health demographics (health vulnerabilities) of participants.
- Do not look for ways to get around or bend the public health directives and guidelines. We need to work within both the rule and the spirit in which they are given.
- Although many things are not clear, one that is clear is that the return will not happen all at once. As with the general return in our communities, plan on a staged renewal of activities and with the adaptations necessary to protect safety. Consider “hybrid” plans: ones that allow for face-to-face gathering where it is necessary, but using distance gatherings (conference calling, online, etc.) where possible.
- In the various government plans being released across the country, moving to the next step depends on continued assessment of the progress of containing COVID-19. If a levelling off of new cases is followed by another wave, the movement toward reopening will be slowed down. The church needs to pay attention to these same considerations.
- Things may look different for a while or for a long while. Some things may even look different permanently, as there have been learnings from this pandemic time that we will want to remember later.
- Each community of faith should consider having a COVID-19 Reopening Committee that works with the governing body about actions specific to your pastoral charge and the regional council.
Moving through the Phases
Some considerations for your governing body and Reopening Committee to think about before moving from one phase to another. You may need to give specific instructions or do certain things to help people understand that they will need to do some things differently when they first return to worshipping or otherwise gathering in the church building.
- What extra cleaning practices need to be implemented?
- What changes will you make in worship practices?
- How will you discourage hand-shaking or other physical contact?
- Do you hold a “coffee hour,” and if so what does it look like, and then when to reopen gatherings with food?
- What protocols are needed for rental groups, and how will you work or communicate with them on these protocols?
- Will your practices on “return” be acceptable to your insurer?
- Having done things so differently during this time, what of the “differently” is there merit in continuing?
- If you moved study groups or daily devotionals online and liked it, is it sustainable in terms of ministry personnel time to continue to do it the new way and pick up how you had been doing it?