Dear People of God,
As we know, COVID-19 is a global pandemic and is impacting countries at different times. Even within one country, there are varying levels of infection rates and localised decision-making on restrictions. We are called to be good stewards of all that God has given us and this includes being good stewards of our people. This is particularly important when our church members may be at risk in other areas of their lives, such as in work or in public spaces. This is not just about us individually, it is about us loving our neighbours. I urge us all to focus on who we are as MCC, even in the midst of such uncertain times. In MCC, our core values are inclusion, community, spiritual transformation and justice. It is important to consider these values as part of the discussion on physically gathering for worship. How are we going to balance the challenges of keeping everyone safe with living out our core values?
I strongly encourage every MCC to act on best public health advice, to exercise caution and to only open for physical worship when you are certain that you can establish a clear plan and maintain the actions needed to keep everyone safe. We know that COVID-19 is affecting some in our community more than others. Our loved ones who already have health concerns, who are elderly, those of us who are Latinx, People of Colour or who are struggling economically are all at greater risk. The number of people who will be able to worship together physically will be limited for some time, in order to keep within social distancing requirements. For many churches, the most effective way of serving the community will be to continue with online worship. I know that these are challenging decisions to make; for the pastor, for the local Board, for ministry leaders. You are in my prayers as you discern the best way forward for your church.
CONSIDERATIONS AND QUESTIONS FOR BOARDS OF DIRECTORS, WORSHIP AND MINISTRY PLANNERS
Before you have dialogue, have these questions in mind (and revisit them at the end):
- How do we live out our core values of inclusion, community, justice, and spiritual transformation?
- For whom are we making these decisions and why?
- How will whatever we decide come across to the first-time visitor who arrives at our building looking to connect and engage with MCC?
- What message might we be sending to those who don’t yet know us?
Discuss thoroughly these questions, and any others that arise in your conversation:
- How will we determine it is safe enough and wise for us to gather in person again?
Will we look at what the government allows? Will we look for a plateau or decline in local cases of COVID-19?
What will we do if local infection numbers begin to rise again?
- Who will be left out or placed at higher risk if we begin gathering in-person?
Who and how many are over 65 or living with asthma, lupus, HIV, diabetes or heart issues?
- What about children? Will there be a children’s program or will children be required to stay with their family?
How will we stop children from hugging others or touching things?
- Will we continue online/virtual worship as well as gathering at a facility?
Will this be at the same time or two separate events?
- What is our plan to clean and sanitize our facility/meeting space between use?
Do we have the personnel in place to accomplish this on an ongoing basis?
If we rent or share, what is the cleaning plan of our host? Will it be sanitized before our use? What is our responsibility? Are their plans adequate for our congregation?
- How many people is our facility legally allowed to hold? What percentage is currently recommended by local health agencies? 25% capacity? 50% capacity? Any number that allows for a circumference of 6 foot /2 meters spacing between family groups or individuals?
Is it possible to offer service outside?
How many people can we safely accommodate in one service?
Do we have the staff/volunteers to conduct multiple services, in addition to online?
What is our plan to turn people away or to decide who can come if more people wish to attend than can be accommodated?
- What is our plan to get people safely in and out of the facility without them congregating/socializing?
- Who will police/enforce/ensure that people do not gather in the lobby, restroom areas or parking lot, and refrain from hugging? We know they will be excited to see one another!
- Are hand sanitizer and cleaning wipes readily available and visible especially in restroom areas? Who provides them? If we require them, should we not supply them? If we cannot provide hand sanitizer, does that not give us additional information?
- Will we require masks? If people arrive without a mask, do we have masks to provide?
Will they be required to keep their mask on for the entire service?
What will we do if they refuse and who will be responsible for enforcing whatever rules we establish?
- Will we cancel all coffee service, snacks and potluck meals?
- What worship adaptations need to be made? (Consider reviewing the list from Founder’s MCC found in the last two issues of CONNECT)
How will we receive the offering? Do communion?
Will we allow congregational singing? (Note that singing is considered as high or greater a risk of spreading the virus as coughing or sneezing.)
- Will we take names of the people who attend as they arrive at the door since we cannot/ought not to pass attendance pads? (In some locales, this will be required, not for attendance numbers but in case someone contracts the virus so health officials can do contact tracing.)
- How will we communicate our plans to our constituents? (the plans to meet, the plans for cleaning and sanitizing, any plans for continuing virtual worship, requirements to wear a mask and keep social physical distance, etc.)
- How will our communication encourage patience, understanding and non-judgement? Will our statements be supportive of people making their own informed decisions?
Will we communicate that a decision to attend in-person or virtually is not a statement about someone’s faith or trust in God? Both are acceptable ways to worship.
- How will our communications manage expectations? Will we be clear that worship will not be experienced as it was before COVID, especially if there is no hugging, no singing and no MCC style of serving communion?
- Are we doing everything within our control to ensure the safety and well-being of the members of the congregation?
Does this include those who attend in person and those who attend virtually?
- Beyond worship, what adjustments, precautions, and communications do we need to make for any other ministry gathering or activity?
How will this be communicated to any community groups that share our space?
- In an environment of great change and where we might be asking volunteers and staff to run multiple services, programs or events to accommodate the size restrictions, how will we support and take care of one another?
- Will our church insurance cover us should one or many get the virus and contact tracing points to our worship service or event?
Consider these questions, again, after your conversations:
- How do these decisions demonstrate our core values of inclusion, community, justice, and spiritual transformation?
- For whom have we made these decisions and why?
- How might our decisions come across to the first-time visitor who arrives at our building looking to connect and engage with MCC?
- What message might we be sending to those who don’t yet know us?
HELPFUL RESOURCES FROM OTHERS
We encourage Boards and ministry leaders to review this short video “Church in These VUCA Times” and consider how these times may be reshaping local ministry. This video may assist in facilitating your discussions and establishing priorities. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0uAKQXagwms&feature=youtu.be&fbclid=IwAR2M2Q69zWzA0Ztcuj9EXpAghZoWWU7IwbJqoLpU7xq2hUuZqbGQxqeLKEk
“Jewish Values Regarding Physical Reopening of Our Institutions”
This document is a Jewish resource of considerations for reopening.
Resumption of Operations, Summary Guidance
(Updated: 1 June 2020)