Decision-making regarding the impact of COVID-19 on congregational life and considerations regarding reconvening in-person worship requires prayer and discernment. Clearly the decision about resuming in-person worship is a decision of the Session. Presbytery also has a responsibility to provide considerations for reconvening as the Session discerns the decision. PMRV and COM strongly encourage the Session to discuss and adopt a plan for reopening in-person worship. It is also wise to discuss a plan or procedure in the event that after reopening for in-person worship a congregation member or staff receives notification of exposure to or a diagnosis of COVID-19.
The following considerations are encouraged during discernment to create a safe space for worship in this changing environment. The information changes rapidly and the considerations are intended to provide a opportunity for a full discussion by the Session:
- Review current CDC and state health department advisories regarding large gatherings
- Review COVID-19 infection rate in the county or neighboring counties with proximity to the church. Is there a declining and low number of cases? Are cases continuing to escalate?
- What are the demographics of the congregation and how might their worship needs be served? Will electronic worship services continue for those uncomfortable with in-person worship?
- If there is a change in the rate of contagion or exposure, what might require a “pause” for in-person worship?
- Will there be a change in traffic patterns for entering and exiting the sanctuary?
- Will there be restriction on location of seating options to provide for physical distancing of a minimum of 6 feet separating people who are not residing in the same home?
- What might be the plan for appropriate cleaning of the church? Please review CDC guidelines. Might signage be used regarding access to portions of the church?
- Is there an expectation that congregation members in attendance will wear masks? If so, will they be provided?
- What will be the status of singing, placement of hymnals, bulletins, passing the peace, children’s sermons, and collecting offering?
- How might serving the Lord’s Supper be different?
- What other items might need to be considered to assure congregation members and staff feel safe in returning to in-person worship?
PMRV Leadership Team is aware the past months have been difficult as we all try to navigate the best response to COVID-19. Commission on Ministry requests a copy of each church’s plan for reconvening only to provide feedback and have examples for other congregations. Please send those plans to the Stated Clerk at firstname.lastname@example.org .
Session is charged with the determination of when and how in-person worship reconvenes and potential need to pause in-person worship. PMRV is a resource for the discernment.