Recommendations for In-Person Worship

Recommendations for In-Person Worship

Recommendations for all In-Person Worship during Covid-19 Pandemic

May 20, 2020
(This document is available in PDF here)

  • Assess worship space in advance in order to ensure physical distancing requirements of at least 6 feet can be met before, during, and after worship. A map of the sanctuary and building can be useful to layout ahead of time where people will sit, how leaders will move, how people will enter and exit, etc.  IMPORTANT NOTE: While the CDC’s current guidelines indicate to “Stay at least 6 feet apart”, we are learning that a variety of factors such as closed or open spaces, heating and cooling patterns, volume of speech or singing can extend the distance that Covid-19 can travel.  Please provide as much space as possible between worshipers at all times.
  • Close off common areas unless required to provide service. Common areas may include foyers, lobbies, vending areas, community and multi-purpose rooms, and event spaces.  If they are needed to provide service, then take precautions ensure no social gathering take place in these areas  
  • Educate your congregants regarding their decision to attend in-person worship.
    • Advise congregants to stay home if they are feeling bad, have a cough or fever. 
    • Advise congregants to stay home if anyone in the household has tested positive for COVID-19. 
    • Advise congregants to stay home if they have nasal congestion or scratchy throat.
    • Advise congregants to stay home if they have a loss of taste or smell.
  • Churches can consider having folks register online for worship in advance so you have a sense of the number coming on any given Sunday and when you would approach capacity. 
  • Keep a record by date of names, phone and address of the clergy, employees, volunteers and all attendees in the event there is a need for contact tracing   These records should be maintained for a minimum of 1 year. 
  • Person to person contact should not be included in worship service or related gatherings:
    • Hymnals and pew bibles should be removed from the sanctuary.
    • Do not include singing for in-person worship (Note: the CDC identifies singing as a high-risk action during this pandemic).
    • All music should be included in the bulletin.
    • No greeters should hand out bulletins.  Rather, bulletins should be made available at the entrance of the sanctuary in a pile for self-service.  Like our rule for children with food, if you touch it, you take it.  It there is the capacity to project the service in real time, this method is preferable to handing out bulletins. Another option is for one usher to lay out bulletins in the pews before worship.
    • The person printing and folding the bulletins should wash hands for 20 seconds with soap and water and should wear a face mask and use latex gloves while handling the bulletins.  This same person should take the bulletins to the table in the narthex or rear of the sanctuary to avoid the need for anyone else to touch them. 
    • Utilize projection screens or apps instead of passing around hard copy bulletins and connection cards.
    • If projection is only available in the sanctuary, bulletins should be provided to the secondary remote location(s) but should also be distributed via self-service.
    • No passing the peace of Christ.
    • No Time with the Children (where children come forward).
    • No Offering plate usage.
    • No Communion shared during the pandemic. (See Order of Worship: Liturgical Considerations for alternative suggestions)
    • All ushers must maintain physical distance of 6 feet and wear gloves. Ushers / greeters may be present but standing at least 6 feet back from the entrance.  They are to provide instruction as congregants enter to take a bulletin, mask and wash hands.  The ushers should also monitor the number of people entering to assure that no more than the appropriate number are entering. They should direct overflow to the remote location(s) or to a later service, or inform people that the capacity has been reached and direct them to online links for the service.
    • Hands free open waste baskets should be placed strategically and emptied immediately after service.
    • No Fellowship food before or after worship.
    • No Nursery During Worship - we recommend all children remain with their families during worship.
    • No In-Person Small Group Meetings.
    • No Sunday School, bible studies, youth gatherings.
  • Designate one family per pew or row and block off an empty pew or row for separation.
  • Develop a plan if more than the maximum number of people come for in-person worship.
  • A videographer should be filming the service in order to stream it live to congregants who prefer to remain at home and attend only virtually.  The videographer should be cognizant of space, always maintaining at least 6 feet of space between him/herself and anyone else.  In addition, the videographer is to wear a face mask during the entire service. 
  • If possible, a second location may be used for overflow - using live streaming to present the service in the remote location.  All the same distancing rules apply to secondary location(s). 
  • Personal Protective Equipment:
    • Require face masks of all in-person worship attendees. A supply of face masks should also be available upon entrance.  No one should be allowed in the sanctuary or secondary location without a mask that completely covers the nose and mouth unless doing so would be contrary to his or her health or safety due to a medical condition. 
    • All members of the clergy and employees are required to wear a mask or other cloth face covering that completely covers the nose and mouth, unless doing so would be contrary to his or her health or safety due to medical conditions.  Members of the clergy are exempt from this rule when they are addressing attendees and are at least 12 feet away from the nearest person (e.g. when giving sermon).
    • Houses of Worship are responsible for providing personal protection to their employees.
    • If churches do not have adequate personal protection, they should not open.
    • Gloves and eye protection should be provided to clergy, employees and volunteers − gloves and eye protection are required when using cleaning chemicals.
  • Prepare for community safety in the event someone wishing to attend worship refuses to adhere to protocols and guidelines.
  • Hand sanitizer should also be available, and congregants should be asked to clean hands with it prior to entering the sanctuary.  (Provide COVID-19 prevention supplies at your organization (e.g., soap, hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol, tissues, trash baskets, and a couple of disposable facemasks, just in case someone becomes sick during an event) – use CDC Checklist.
  • All Covid-19 measures should be communicated to members in advance.  Share information through flyers on the doors, email, and social media about how you have prepared for their arrival.  Be sure to use the words “no contact” worship experience or something similar. Include any reservation requirements to attend service, protocols for attenders and your policy for those who arrive after capacity is reached.
  • Post large print signage clearly outlining policies and procedures in multiple locations visible to all who enter service locations. Include at minimum:
    • Stay home if you are sick or experiencing symptoms. 
    • At-risk populations are strongly discouraged to attend in-person worship. 
    • All persons must maintain 6 feet distance at all times except between family members.
    • Keep face coverings on at all times
  • Close your public bathrooms (or limit use and sanitize every 15 minutes) and advice congregants to use the facilities before leaving home.
  • If your sanctuary has the large windows that can be opened, open them to allow for additional ventilation during worship.  If the movement of air blows out the candles, that’s okay.  Open them anyway.
  • And, speaking of candles, have your Worship Leader light them early and suspend any acolyte duties for the time being.
  • Use structured dismissal (by rows or sections) at the close of worship allowing people to leave in smaller groups and go outside (no congregating in lobby).  Consider having ushers guide people to ensure proper distancing during exiting.  If feasible, mark minimum of 6 feet segments in the aisles. 
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