When to Reopen Church? (And When to Re-Close)

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I've heard of councils struggling with the question of how and when to re-open. Sadly, I've also heard of this issue causing pain and division.

How are you approaching this weighty decision as a church? Please also share links to any good articles or resources you've used to guide your discussions.

And, knowing that waves of infection can ebb and flow in a community, have you discussed what criteria you'll use for determining when to temporarily close again if needed?

Let's use this space to compare notes and resources...

Of course, whatever you do should be in keeping with the guidance of your local health department. There's no one-size-fits-all, and they'll know the risks in your local community at any given time.

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Community Builder

Great idea!

Hi there.  I am a parish nurse in a church here in Edmonton Alberta.  I belong to a number of on line groups looking at re-entry practices around Canada and the US.  This is a huge conversation with many topics that need our attention.  For sure, we will be guided by our medical officers of health and government officials and I look forward to hearing more from them.  

If I am being honest, I find the process more than a bit daunting.  I think about the far reaching effects of this on churches; entry and exit practices, communion practices, singing, children/nursery services, food handling practices, baptisms, janitorial implications, masking, etc. etc. However, I believe we do need to start the conversations now so that when we are allowed to re-open, we will already have defined the guiding principles churches need to adhere to in order to keep us all safe.  

Here is a link to an interview with an Epidemiologist, Dr. Osterholm- in discussion with faith communities in Minnesota in which he addresses some important issues about re-opening. 

Some of the US states are re-opening their churches and they have guides available (i.e. https://gabaptist.egnyte.com/dl/42FRJsEWEf/ Georgia) Wisconcin has one as well.  

There is also a very well written article here about singing that is worth reading.  It will make you think and should cause some pause in the way corporate music practices will need to change as we move forward.  As a first soprano in my choir this breaks my heart.  https://www.drheathernelson.com/singingandcovid19?fbclid=IwAR0HD4zKkFQ0HbKqNhpb4boOak_2dn7g-HA6Ts_4Y6rRyoYHYttSjXBEYGc

I would welcome your comments as this unfolds for us all.   

Kathy Dempsey-Glegloff

 

 

 

 

As expected, here is a link to the Alberta government document https://www.alberta.ca/assets/documents/covid-19-relaunch-guidance-place...

Kathy

Admin

Wow, there's a lot of good stuff in there that I hadn't even thought about. Like singing being a risky activity! Makes sense, though.

Someone just drew my attention to this article, also from Alberta, that offers a sobering caution from a church that followed protocols at a church event. Even so, of the 41 who attended 24 were infected and 2 died. So sad.

'I would do anything for a do-over': Calgary church hopes others learn from their tragic COVID-19 experience (from CTV News)

Admin

Sobering article. 

Admin

Two more resources:

When Your Church Reopens, Here’s How to Meet Safely (from Christianity Today)

24 Questions Your Church Should Answer Before People Return (from Ken Braddy, Lifeway/SBC)

 

Admin

This was shared with a group of pastors last week. I particularly like the first section of 'values that will guide our decision-making'. Seems wise to name and agree on some values first.

Reopening Questions, Considerations, and Strategies (from Harbor Churches)

Community Builder

Here is a resource created for CRC churches regarding re-opening conversation starters. Please check out the link below. The Lord bless you in your leadership during these unexpected times. 

CRC Re-Opening Churches Conversation Starters (from Classis Wisconsin)

Hi Rod.  Nice to hear from you in this 'new' context.  Hope all is well.  Kathy

 

Participant

Lots of great information here to start the process of reopening of our churches! Thank You

 I hope we keep the internet services too. It has been wonderful for me because I couldn't attend before this crisis due to a chronic illness that keeps me pretty much housebound anyway! 
 I am still hope regular services can start too. My family enjoy the worship.

Admin

Thanks for sharing that helpful perspective, Ken. For many like you, at-home is the way they normally experience worship. So important for us to remember that!

I've really enjoyed my church's new way of at-home worship, and have found it to be enriching in different ways. Sure, I look forward to worshipping in person again. But I certainly don't feel the need to push the envelope or take any unnecessary risks to do it soon.

Participant

Thanks Tim

Participant

I am a member of the Reopening Team at Shawnee Park CRC in Grand Rapids. Two resources that we are making use of are the Humanitarian Disaster Institute at Wheaton College (wheatoncollege.edu/humanitariandisasterinstitute). They have written articles and a have a series of webinars on the topic. Also Ed Stetzer (edstetzer.com), director of the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton, has written on the topic. A third resource is the evangelical periodical Christianity Today (christianitytoday.com).   

 

Hello!

In British Columbia, we have permission to resume public worship in June. Services will be limited to 50 in attendance and with all the provincial health protocols in place. Our space allows for this and we will also be continuing with live streaming the services for those of the congregation who choose to stay home for health or other personal reasons. We have yet to develop a strategy for members to either sign-up or be put on rotation, but those are just details. It's exciting to resume and our first service will include installation of new council members and Communion.

Why is this a big deal?

Just open ... as people feel comfortable, safe, moved, they will come... or they won't ...

Your people will distance themselves if they feel it is necessary, they will get closer if they feel it is not ...

Your people will wear masks if they feel it is necessary, they won't if they feel it is not ...

Your people will hug again when they have permission from both huggees, or they won't ...

Just treat people like the smart, informed, spirit-filled people they are ... and not like some kindergarten class that needs instructions as to what line to be in and when to go out for recess...

Just open ... if you wait for perfection it will never happen...

Just open ... if you wait for congregation agreement it will never happen...

Just open ... if you wait for the "experts" to agree it will never happen...

Just open ... THEN people have a choice, when closed, there is no choice ... you've made the choice for them...

During the Diocletian persecution, a group of North African Christians were brought to trial in Carthage for meeting illegally for worship. When asked why they had persisted in this practice, one replied, “Sine Dominico, non possumus”: “Without this thing of the Lord, we cannot live.”

Just open ... without this thing of the Lord, we cannot live.

Just open

Admin

I can imagine a lot of issues with that approach, and real potential for hurt relationships and harm to health. Do we pass the offering plate? Do we invite the kids up for the blessing? Will nursery be offered? What happens if someone is wanting to keep distance and someone else sits right behind them and sings down their neck? What if one person is wearing a mask and keeping distance and another church member comes right up to them to chat without a mask? Do we have coffee time after the service, and will the servers take any precautions? Etc.

Even assuming all members are trying to stay fully informed, it may be from different sources and some of it might conflict. The church in the article linked above agreed upon significant precautions, and still ended up with more than half the people attending their event getting the virus and two church members dying.

Communal worship is, well, communal. And like any community, we rely on many social norms that we typically take for granted. Right now, those norms are upended. Before opening for worship, it seems wise for church leaders to help establish what the new norms will be and communicate those so people know what to expect and can decide, for themselves, whether to participate. That's the topic of this thread.

Steven, this is not about feelings and about individualism. Just because someone doesn't care about medical advice, does not mean their actions don't affect others. In this case societal rights trump individual rights. That is an area the Canadian Bill of Rights should consider more.

In addition to keeping an eye on the requirements of the law and recommendations of the government, we've also been consulting regularly with healthcare professionals (nurses, doctors, personal support workers, etc) in our own congregation. There's so much misinformation out there that it's reassuring to have things confirmed or corrected by people who you know and trust. 

Participant

That was a good article! Thx Tim for the link.

Admin

More news stories are appearing about churches that caused COVID-19 spread. Today the CDC issued this detailed study of one such incident:

High COVID-19 Attack Rate Among Attendees at Events at a Church (from the CDC)