The rise of the coronavirus pandemic and the social distancing measures that came with it forced churches to transition to online worship and ministry. Now, as many businesses cautiously reopen, and shelter-in-place orders are lifted, churches must contemplate how — or whether — to return to in-person worship.
It’s not as simple as just staying six feet away. Corporate worship contains physical contact, from passing the peace to passing the collection plate, from the coffee machine to communion. Finding alternatives to certain acts and adhering to thorough cleaning and disinfecting measures will be a challenge.
Here are some resources to guide your plan and discussions with leadership teams:
Blog post by Lifeway’s Ken Braddy titled “24 Questions Your Church Should Answer Before People Return,” which covers cleaning and maintaining distance, but also considerations about volunteers, greeters, special occasions like funerals and weddings, and accurately taking attendance.
Here are some resources from Dakotas Conference congregations:
Rev. Nicole Clade, who serves First UMC in Vermillion, South Dakota, and spouse Andy Clade, have created a detailed outline for strategically returning to in-person gatherings in steps. The strategic outline includes the Iowa Conference's three-tiered plan.
Rev. Marty Toepke-Floyd, who serves the United Methodist congregations in Redfield and Frankfort, South Dakota, shares a letter to his leadership team inviting strategic considerations and a survey distributed to members of the congregations.
Cornerstone United Methodist Church in Watertown, South Dakota communicated a plan to return to in-person worship, and outline the steps in details in a letter to all members of the congregation.
Other resources throughout the United Methodist connection:
The road to re-opening the UMC: Large church pastors provide insight and guidance to returning to in-person worship in a recorded webinar. The panel of church leaders, covered a variety of topics including strategies for re-opening buildings, safely gathering for worship and communicating plans to the community as we explore a path toward opening our spaces. View the recording of the webinar here.
Rev. Adam Hamilton shares a plan, recording on Facebook Live, about the Church of Resurrection's survey results of congregational members, plans to make sure the building is safe, and a potential schedule of a gradual return to in-person worship. View the recorded Facebook Live session here.
The South Georgia Conference of The United Methodist Church has some details about getting ready to return and having a Plan B in place. See the "Getting Ready" guide here.
Larry Johnson, who serves as the Disaster Preparedness and Response Coordinator for the Oregon-Idaho Conference, shares best practices for church cleaning and management.