COVID-19 ReOpening plan
PLANNING FOR A PHASED RE-OPENING
The Congregational Council met Tuesday, June 2nd, to discuss future plans for returning safely to the church building for ministry and worship, following the guidance of the ELCA and the state and federal government. We framed our discussion with Jesus’ words about the Greatest Commandment, to love God and neighbor. For us, this means balancing dual needs: the need for safety in the community, especially among the most vulnerable, and the need for authentic worship, which for some, means being in the sanctuary.
The Council is proposing an incremental approach. The first step is to conduct a survey of the congregation in order to gauge readiness for returning to the building and to explore what practices would make congregants feel most comfortable. Members can expect the survey in their email inbox mid-month; people who receive the newsletter via USPS will receive a hard copy to return to the office. In addition, the Council will appoint a Re-Opening Task Force at its next meeting on July 7th.The task force will utilize the survey information and guidance from public health officials and the ELCA to plan for the safest ways to resume in-person ministry. If you are interested in serving on the task force, please contact one of the pastors or our council president, Jack Pietrick. The Council will offer updated communications as our process continues.
In the meantime, Pastor Brian and I will begin to offer some smaller-scale, in-person ministry options. We will resume home bound visitation for those who desire it, using best social distancing practices such as wearing face masks and meeting outdoors where possible. We will wait for now on sharing Holy Communion. For those unable to receive a visit safely at this time, we will continue offering spiritual support over the phone. We will also offer porch chats with parishioners who would like to meet in person for conversation and prayer. These visits will occur on the office door porch, with seating at least six feet apart. Pastors and parishioners will wear face masks; parishioners are welcome to bring their own folding chair if that is more comfortable.
Other opportunities for in-person, small group fellowship may arise, especially outdoors. If you have needs or ideas, please reach out to me, Pastor Brian, or to our Council President, Jack Pietrick at email@example.com. We will do what we can to meet your needs in this unusual time in a safe way.
We will continue to offer online opportunities during this period: Zoom worship at 9 AM on Sundays, with the video on our website for viewing later in the day; men’s and women’s fellowship groups, bible study and Tuesdays at 10 AM. Pastor Brian and I will continue our check in calls to parishioners; we also are available for phone or video conference upon request. We are grateful for our leaders on Council and Care Teams; Finance, Communications, and Property Committees; our staff; and all of you, the faithful people of God at St. Matthew, who hold our ministry in prayer.
Safety Precautions for Reopening
As we move towards reopening St. Matthew for worship in our Sanctuary once again, the safety of our church family will be the primary objective. We will rely on help from God as well as the guidance from our state government, the New England Synod, and the CDC. We expect that our phased reopening plan will include many precautions including:
• Require members and guests to wear masks at all times
• Social distancing while entering and leaving the church
• Designated seating within pews to support social distancing
• No distribution of communion
• No congregational singing or choir anthems
• No greeting lines before and after service
• Frequent cleaning of often-touched areas
• One-way aisles
• No passing of the offering plate
• Provide hand sanitizer
• Ushers wear gloves
• Most of the church building remaining closed
• Staggered parking space use to support social distancing
• Limited number of people in the sanctuary