When We Worship in-Person, Please Use Extreme Caution!
by Transitional Conference Minister Char Burch
As States begin to “re-open,” the question is being asked, “when can we have in-person worship?” Unfortunately, some of our states (especially in our region) seem to be ignoring the CDC strong recommendations. Although our churches are located in various geographical settings, there are basics:
- If the number of new cases of COVID-19 have not been decreasing in your community, don’t even consider it.
- What is the make-up of the congregation – if there is a large portion of people who are more vulnerable to the virus, don’t do it. Although people can and will self-select whether to participate, church people often tend to think they are invincible – and don’t want to be excluded.
- Can you provide all the sanitation and social distancing that is required to be safe -check the CDC website (www.cdc.gov) for details.
- NO singing!! The most prevalent way the virus is spread is through verbal communication – and singing is at the highest list of concerns for worship. You may not see those droplets but singing “pushes them out.” (Read this article about how Covid-19 infected 45 members of a choir, with two dead.) In addition to singing, loud or projected preaching does the same thing – even with a microphone. Therefore, the distance between people needs to be much greater than six feet; think at least 10 feet.
- And of course – no touching, everyone must wear masks and always keep the six feet apart – which is interesting to think about moving in and out of the sanctuary, working with children, etc. Please remember that many people who have the virus are asymptomatic and do not know that they have it and therefore can spread it. When churches initially re-open, things cannot be the same as pre-COVID-19. There are reports that in small communities, cases of the virus have risen and are traced back to worship services and choir practice!
So bottom line – is the risk worth the possible outcome of exposing more people to COVID-19? Can’t we wait a little longer? People may be tired, but they are safe and being concluded through virtual and phone contacts.
All church leaders need to be involved in thinking concretely about how to re-open safely. The Wisconsin Council of Churches has published some helpful thoughts of how churches might open in stages (www.wichurches.org/2020/04/23/returning-to-church/).
During our Conference Tuesday Zoom Conversations with Clergy we will include the topic of re-opening to assist each other in considering how to do this safely. Meanwhile, the Spirit continues to be very much alive and active as we witness to God’s love.