Reopening In-Person Church

February 22, 2021

(Note: In-person worship will be the final step… not the next step)

Approved by FUMC Church Council on 8/18/2020; revised 10/20/20 and 11/17/2020

Purpose: This document will serve as a place for formulating our process and plan to reopen for public worship at First UMC – “The Coppertop.” Each of the items is subject to change as more information becomes available and as discussion and discernment continue to take place.

Sunday Morning/Worship Thoughts:

  • The church will first consider the advice of the Governor’s office and MN Bishop when determining the timeline of opening. If either recommends closure, we will do so.
  • The church will consider the availability of sanitizing products (e.g., Lysol wipes, hand sanitizer, etc.). If there is still a shortage and we can’t obtain ample supplies, we will remain closed.
  • We will ensure that we are not exceeding the number of people allowed in an area as determined by the Governor’s office and MN Bishop.
  • Upon initial reopening, the nursery will be unavailable.
  • Upon initial reopening, we will not offer coffee and food fellowship.
  • Protective masks (approved by the MN Department of Health) need to be made available and worn. *Exception is people leading worship who are more than 12 feet away from the closest person (see discussion below).
  • Sunday School classes will not begin on the same week as public worship. An announcement will be made from the pulpit and social media the week before classes restart.
  • When we move to in-person worship, children will not come forward for the children’s message, but will remain with their families.
  • Following each worship service, everyone will be encouraged to leave the building and commence their fellowship time outdoors following social distancing.
  • The office will be open only to essential staff (paid and volunteer).
  • The pastor will not be greeting before or after worship.
  • The offering will not be collected by the passing of plates.
  • Sign-up sheets, pens, etc., will not be placed out. Sign-ups may take place by an individual approaching and collecting names which they record, by bulletin insert sign-ups people can place in bins, or through electronic means.
  • The service will continue to be made available online. A posting will be made to indicate that the service is being livestreamed to reach beyond these walls.
  • Pencils, envelopes, Bibles, and hymnals will be removed from the pews.
  • A bulletin will be provided to pick up on a table but will not be handed to people. One per family.
  • Every other pew will be cordoned off, and family units should leave the center of pews empty to maintain at least six feet to the next family.
  • Interior doors should be propped open as people are entering and exiting the church. Exterior doors should be cared for by one greeter per door.
  • Entry to the building will not take place until 15 minutes prior to any service.
  • There will be no food or drink served in the building.
  • We will continue to encourage people over 65 and/or with health vulnerabilities to participate from home and will continue offering worship and connection opportunities for them remotely.
  • We require and request that people who have a fever, or feel unwell in any way, please stay home.
  • If someone knows they have been exposed to COVID-19, we require and request that they stay away from worship and any church activities for two weeks.

Congregational Care:

  • In-person visits by the pastor/parish nurse/lay pastors/staff will be unavailable until nursing homes open for visitations.
  • Hospital visits will be primarily by phone, or in urgent situations at the discretion of the pastors or parish nurse.
  • We continue to encourage people with heightened risk factors, including age or chronic health issues, to participate in worship and other church activities from home.

Other things to consider:

  • We will send out a letter and/or email/social media notification to let everyone know when we are reopening and how that will look.
  • Masks will be a requirement as we reenter the worship space and in the building at all times whenever more than one person is present. We will have a supply of masks on hand.
  • Worship leaders do not need to wear masks when leading worship as long as they remain more than 12 feet away from all others. Masks will be worn when that person(s) is not actively leading worship.
  • We will need to sanitize and clean all publicly open spaces.
  • The Director of Operations will work with staff on how will we accomplish this. Volunteer involvement         may be needed.
  • Communion elements will temporarily be given in sealed, individualized packets. The congregation will take them with them when they leave.
  • Baptism will be accomplished by the parents/sponsors putting the water on their child while the pastor extends hands in blessing and says the baptismal words. The same will be true for confirmation.
  • Congregational singing will not take place—instead we will hum with, or listen to, song leaders.
  • We will have some kind of collection box for offerings, at the front and back of the Sanctuary, as the plates won’t be passed.
  • Outdoor worship opportunities may happen, for which we will follow physical distancing rules.
  • Weddings and Funeral policy will consider the advice of the Governor’s office and MN Bishop when determining availability. Policy will be similar to worship policy (See further discussion below).
  • Groups of ten or fewer, internal and external, may meet in the building at the discretion of the Director of Operations and/or Pastor. They must fully follow policy and stay in the assigned area. Before an individual or group is present in the building, they must have an orientation to our policies and procedures by the Director of Operations or a designee. Use of the building can be revoked at any time if the COVID-19 situation changes and/or policies are not followed. This includes individuals requesting rooms for small socially distanced gatherings.
  • Outreach events, such as Ruby’s Pantry, will need prior approval of our leadership core team (council chairs, lay leaders, pastors, and director of operations), and must have a plan for safety and to follow social distancing policy.
  • In-person worship will be the final step, not the next step. As restrictions lessen, we will find in-person small group ways for prayer and connection (e.g., hours the Sanctuary is open for prayer, small group worship, drive by blessings, small group outdoor worship).
  • We recognize that airborne transmission, rather than surface transmission, appears to be the primary means of spreading the disease.

Weddings and Funerals:

  • We are currently not doing weddings although it is possible that could change and then the following policies would apply.
  • People are urged to conduct wedding and funerals outside or on Zoom whenever possible. When services are in the church parking lot, we encourage 50 or fewer participants and require social distancing and mask wearing. Social distancing and mask wearing is required at all locations.
  • When weddings or funerals must take place in the Sanctuary, they are limited to 25 or fewer people, including all people present in the Sanctuary. Use of the building can be revoked at any time if the COVID-19 situation changes and/or policies are not followed.
  • No non-member weddings or funerals will take place in the building during COVID-19.
  • All policy requirements for indoor worship, including wearing masks, must be followed. Worship leaders do not need to wear masks when leading worship/public speaking as long as they are at least 12 feet away from all others, and will be worn when that person(s) is not actively leading worship/public speaking. All members of the wedding party, including the bride(s) and groom(s), must wear masks unless they are speaking (and for the kiss in the ceremony).
  • We encourage and urge no vocal singing, even soloists. If there is a need for a soloist, the wedding/funeral family will meet with the Director of Music, to put a safety plan in place, which will include social distancing and a singing mask provided by the family.
  • Pictures before/after the service are to be taken outdoors. Pictures can be taken indoors during the service.
  • There will be no receiving line in the building. Following the service, everyone will be encouraged to leave the building and commence their fellowship time outdoors following social distancing.
  • Entry to the building will not take place until 15 minutes prior to the service.
  • Only the bride (and one person helping her) may dress in the building.
  • Congregational singing will not take place. Instead we will hum with, or listen to, song leaders.
  • There will be no food or drink served in the building.