Plan for Re-Entry for Great Lakes Episcopalians: Phase II Summary
The following is a summary of the directive issued jointly by the Episcopal Bishops of Michigan in anticipation of a future time when congregations may begin occupying their physical facilities on a limited basis. These recommendations are based on extensive research and consultation with public health experts.
“As people of faith, we follow the commandment Jesus gave us – to “love our neighbors as ourselves.” Loving our neighbors these days in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic means setting limits. This is how we love our neighbors – by working to slow the spread of this extremely contagious, life-threatening virus. We know that coming together, even for the best of reasons, can spread this disease.”
Our goals include:
• Offering Hope to our communities in this uncertain time.
• Continuing to provide our people and communities with the very best pastoral care now and in the months to come.
• Providing the continuity of prayer and worship, whether gathered in person or digitally.
• Protecting the most vulnerable among us by limiting contact and initiating practices to slow the spread of infectious disease.
We are currently in Phase I, referred to in the full document as “Hiatus.” We are following all guidelines for this current phase, which includes almost zero access to the building.
A date for moving from the current phase of Hiatus to the second phase called “Re-Entry” has not been established or estimated, however it is likely to happen only in coordination with recommendations from public health experts, and in conjunction with any mandates from the State of Michigan.
At this time, congregations and their leadership are being asked to prayerfully consider and make plans for if and in what way increased use of the building may be appropriate for their particular community, in accordance with the following guidelines.
This summary only covers the ‘Re-Entry’ phase. (At some point there will be a subsequent phase with increased building use and engagement called “Deeper Participation.”) If you wish to explore the Bishops’ joint directive further, the full text can be found here.
Building Use Guidelines
When it is safe to move to the ‘Re-Entry’ phase, limited access to church buildings will be permitted under the following guidelines. First, before any re-entry, congregations must deep clean the entire church building including pews, bathrooms, doorknobs, light switches, stair railings, etc. Buildings must be thoroughly cleaned regularly and between user groups, paying extra attention to high-touch surfaces, and congregations must follow all physical distancing and hygiene guidelines including the use of non-surgical masks.
We advise that staff members continue to be permitted to work from home. We advise keeping in-office functions as minimal as possible, only to ensure essential operations. Any staff members working at the church must continue to follow social distancing and sanitary guidelines, including:
• Maintaining six feet of separation between individuals
• Regular hand washing and sanitizer use
• Regular disinfection of common surfaces including door knobs, countertops, and office electronics
Events and meetings that require close contact should be limited. Most, if not all, meetings and formation opportunities should continue to take place online.
We advise removing all non-essential items from rooms so there are fewer surfaces to touch. We advise making announcements and posting signs about non-contact greetings and reminders to refrain from shaking hands and hugging. We advise posting signs outlining COVID symptoms and urging people to stay home/seek medical attention if they experience symptoms or feel unsafe. We advise maintaining appropriate stock of tissue, soap, hand sanitizer, and disposable paper towels.
We advise the consideration of allowing building users/rental groups back in the building on the condition that they are able to observe all gathering limits and hygiene protocols.
We advise maintaining a visitor log (including phone numbers and email addresses) for all who enter the building in the event that they may have come in contact with someone with the disease and reporting is required. To the extent possible, the log should be managed by a greeter or staff person, or follow some other no-touch method. We advise creating an emergency plan for possible outbreak and how you might respond in care, in communication, and in cleanliness.
The Re-Entry phase will allow congregations the possibility to consider offering small worship services while observing the following guidelines. First, the following options are appropriate considerations as congregations begin to re-enter:
Maintaining online worship and formation opportunities for those that will still be unable to join an in-person gathering, either due to risk or a sense of safety.
Offering multiple services with fewer attendees to spread out the number of people gathered at one time.
Having people sign-up for services in advance while allowing space for visitors who may drop in.
Creating and assigning fixed seating to maintain safe distances.
Holding services outside.
Live-streaming may resume from inside the church building while maintaining appropriate physical distancing between all participants.
Requirements for Gathering Size and Contact:
In-person worship gatherings are limited to no more than 50 people, or the maximum number your space can accommodate while maintaining 6 feet of separation, 360°, between households. (50 is the maximum; smaller worship spaces will accommodate fewer based on the 6 foot radius rule.)
Non-surgical masks are required. Please consider having a supply for those who arrive to your building without one.
There is no nursery or in-person Sunday school, or coffee hour.
There is no physical touching during the passing of the peace.
There is no passing of an offering plate. Encourage worshippers to offer financial gifts online or at a stationary plate to limit contact.
Eucharist is prohibited.
To avoid crowding and bottle necks, there is no receiving line following a service. Encourage people to leave the building rather than mingling following an event or service.
All common surfaces must be cleaned before and after worship, including door knobs, counter tops, pews, electronics, and sacramental items.
Baptisms, weddings, and funerals may resume but must be limited to fewer than 50 people in attendance, while following distancing plans.
Additional Recommendations for Worship:
Singing is among the riskier behaviors when it comes to spreading the virus. We advise refraining from singing when gathered in-person.
We advise the removal of prayer books, hymnals, and bibles from pew racks during this time. Worship services should use single-use bulletins that are picked up rather than handed out, or by sending a digital copy for access on personal devices.
We advise developing a plan for dismissing congregants in an orderly way to ensure social distancing as people exit, and we advise developing a plan to reduce the number of doors that people must touch to enter your service, including the use of door stops or greeters.
We advise training and empowering your ushers to remind participants about these guidelines and state requirements.
Service and Outreach Guidelines
Requirements for group size, physical distancing, sanitation, and use of masks must be followed for all service and outreach programs.
Any food distribution must be to-go, or served by a person using gloves. Buffets are prohibited, and food for outreach programs may not be prepared inside the church building.
We advise that distribution ministries limit time spent inside the building and allow for outside or curbside service.