COVID-19 Taskteam Updated Recommendations

Greetings in Christ,                                                                                                    

It has been nearly two months since the COVID-19 Taskteam officially updated our recommendations. Since the virus infection statistics have continued to fluctuate, what we said in June continues to be our primary recommendations.

The graphics of  Going to Worship and Steps for Church Reopening, the covenant which you can modify to fit your circumstances, and the checklist  based on CDC guidelines all remain relevant. Church Mutual has created a Waiver Form for you to use if you choose.  If you want to have someone work with you as you develop your plans and guidelines, you are welcome to contact Sue D’Alessio (Director of Connectional Ministry) at sdalessio@wisconsinumc.org or call the Conference Office to connect with her (608-837-7328). She will connect you with Dr. Lance Peterson, the Epidemiologist working with the Taskteam, if that will be helpful.

We continue to encourage you to gather virtually in person if possible. Physical in-person gatherings continue to be higher risk. Follow the state mask-wearing guidelines always.

If you decide to gather physically in person, develop strong, caring safety policies and practices.

  • Consider the safety of the most vulnerable among you.
  • Follow all disinfecting and cleaning procedures before, during and after each gathering.
  • Keep the group small (at 25% capacity of the room, or fewer than 10, depending upon the rules where you live) and maintain distance of 6 feet.
  • Keep the gathering time short – to under 30 minutes if possible.
  • Open windows or assure healthy air-circulation in the building’s system.
  • In every activity, think safety:
    • Food? Consider pre-packaged or have each person bring their own food. Potlucks and open coffee hour with food are unsafe.
    • Music? Singing needs greater physical distancing and masks (There continues to be disagreement whether singing is less safe than speaking. Most still say it is.)
    • Worship? If you are meeting physically in person, perhaps have people make reservations to limit the number in the room. Consider holding smaller services multiple times rather than one larger service. Maybe even hold some services on a different day of the week.
    • Keep track of attendees in case you need to know who was present due to an outbreak.

The latest information says that this pandemic with continue for a long time. It will be important to be patient with yourself and others. This is a highly stressful time. It may be helpful to set some target dates as you consider re-opening. Some churches hope to re-open for Christmas – with significant safety measures in place. Some churches won’t open until later.

We are also aware that there are other risks which are exacerbated by the quarantining for this virus. Isolation can increase a sense of loneliness and depression. Sadly, there are homes where abuse (physical, sexual, drugs, and/or alcohol) leave people with greater vulnerability. In addition, economic stresses are growing and result in losses of jobs, homes, transportation, access to food, medicine, medical care and on and on. People are not able to visit loved ones, baptism, funeral and wedding plans are changing. And there are many other issues, from racism, to the environment, to natural disasters, to needs around the globe. We are carrying all this in our hearts as we face this global pandemic and economic and political crises.

As churches, we are called to respond and care with God’s hope and grace. We are surrounded by challenges – and we are surrounded by God’s Spirit who holds and heals and loves us into new life. As United Methodists, we are connected with one another, supporting and praying for each other. Together, we are God’s people, serving God’s world.

Thanks be to God!