Our colleagues in ministry, the Minnesota Conference, has developed a Phased Re-Gathering Plan for Churches. Currently, the conference is encouraging groups of only 10 people or fewer are permitted to gather if each person maintains the proper distance. Drive-in worship services at which people remain their vehicles is also an option.
Bishop Ough shared the Phased Re-Gathering Plan for Churches in a pastoral message, read the entire message here. Here is an excerpt from his message:
I know how painful this is when we need each other more than ever and we long to see one another face-to-face. But as leaders of the church, we are called to care for the most vulnerable in our midst—and there is no way we can gather indoors, for an extended period of time, without exposing people in our communities to significant risk. What we know is that the virus is spread through the air, and we are contagious before we show symptoms. Gathering for celebrations such as weddings, funerals, corporate worship, and singing, are extremely high-risk activities. There have been several recent reports of congregations gathering for worship and then promptly closing after a coronavirus outbreak caused by an asymptomatic carrier. The stay-at-home order might have been lifted, but the virus is still very much with us.
Additionally, for most of our congregations, what you are able to offer online is of a higher quality than an in-person experience would be right now given the physical distancing requirements, restrictions on singing, recommendation to wear masks, and need for careful cleaning between all activities. Imagine a sanctuary where every family is six feet apart. There is no congregational singing. There are no hugs or handshakes. There is no mingling or fellowship time. The very things that people are longing for in gathering are too risky at this time. Many of our congregants, particularly the elderly, will be unlikely to accept the risks associated with in-person gatherings week after week if what they can experience at home is closer to the worship service they know and love.