Citizens for Community Values have published Guidelines for Re-Engaging in Religious Gatherings. Prudence suggests that the manner in which we begin to reengage with public worship services should remain in thoughtful alignment with the guidelines provided by national, state, and local health officials.
As we begin to look forward to the possibility of once again gathering to-gether for worship, a phased re-opening plan is advisable. Here is a glimpse of what that may look like, based on the Guidelines for Re-Engaging in Religious Gatherings:
Phase I Possible marker: Stay at home orders are lifted. All attendees are asked to take temperatures before arriving. Doors are propped open to limit touching door handles. Hand sanitizer is readily available. Coffee station re-mains closed. Individuals and family groups are seated six feet apart from others. The number of worship assistants is limited to facilitate social distancing. Soloists are used for special music rather than ensembles or choir. Service length is shorter than normal. The peace is shared verbally between pastor and congregation. Pre-packaged communion is received prior to the service and opened and consumed in the pews/chairs. Offerings are put in a stationary plate at the end of the service. Sunday School classes remain on hiatus. The elderly, ill, and other at-risk groups are still encouraged to stay at home. At-home worship resources (YouTube, mailed bulletins) continue.
Phase II Possible marker: When Ohio approves community daycares re-opening. Continue to observe Phase I protocols. In-person ministries (Bible studies, Sunday School, etc.) resume based on comfort level of leaders.
Phase III Possible marker: When Ohio lifts restrictions on large group gatherings. Service schedules cautiously return to normal.
For the remainder of the year or longer, we will need to be ready to move from phase to phase. For example, in the fall, if there is another spike in cases of coronavirus, we may need to go back to Phase I or even suspend in-person worship again for a period of time. We will continue to communicate specific plans as they are developed.
Pastor Tom Pairan