Protocols for Beginning Public Worship Services during COVID-19 Crisis at St. Paul’s Melrose.
Recognizing the spiritual impact that this crisis is having on the people of Minnesota and the resulting psychological consequences, we believe that some limited religious services will be allowed at St. Paul’s beginning July 12th, 2020, provided that precautions are taken to ensure social distancing necessary to minimize the risk for the spread of the virus. These protocols have been developed based on current guidance issued by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the U.S. centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the MN Department of Health (MNDH).
These essential worship services would include regular religious services and other celebrations (e.g., baptisms, weddings, and funerals). This would not include social gatherings or public events, though small group studies and support meetings, appropriately distanced, could be allowed. The following precautionary measures will be put in place:
- Congregants are asked to wash hands before entering the sanctuary or make us of hand sanitizer.
- Pews will be roped off so that people cannot sit closer than 6 feet (unless they are members of the same household living together).
- The space will be thoroughly sanitized before and after each service, including all entryways and doors. Hand sanitizer will be available at all entryways.
- Doors will be propped open and one-way traffic patterns will be introduced to ensure social distancing. Ushers will assist when necessary to help maintain physical distancing.
- Signs will be posted concerning social distancing and sanitation requirements and reminders will be offered.
- Collection plates and other items will not be passed person to person. An offering plate will be placed in the back of the sanctuary.
- People will be encouraged to bring their own protective wear including facemasks. Anyone assisting with service such as greeters and elders is required to wear a mask.
- People will be instructed not to greet each other with touching.
- Choirs singing close together will not be allowed.
- Signs and other instructions will encourage normal safe practices necessary to stop the spread (e.g. cough or sneeze into a shirtsleeve, handkerchief, or tissue; avoid touching the eyes, nose, and mouth to help slow the spread of germs).
- Baptismal fonts will be empty and alternatives to hymnals, such as disposable paper worship aids will be provided when possible.
- Ventilation will be increased as much as possible, opening windows and doors, as weather permits.
- Facilities will develop a plan for restroom use to limit the number of people who enter a restroom at the same time, and place tape on the floor outside of the restroom to indicate where people should stand in line to wait for the restroom maintaining 6-foot distance from each other.
- Hymnals and Bibles will be removed from pews. We will use individual printed services folders. Congregants may bring their own Bibles or Hymnals provided they take them home each week. Hymnals may be borrowed from the church for the duration of these measures.
- Communion will be held every other week. One family will be ushered up at a time. Pastor and any assisting elders will observe proper hand washing and wear masks for the distribution.
- We will suspend our lay reader program until further notice
- We are suspending fellowship/coffee hour until further notice
- Bible Study will be held in the sanctuary, alternating Sundays with communion, maintaining the above social distance measures.
- We will gather in groups not to exceed 50% of the seating capacity of the worship space (no more than 150 people). We will offer more services if necessary.
- If someone starts showing symptoms during the service, they will be expected to immediately excuse themselves, return home, and follow MNDH protocols.
Through all of this, we will continue to remind people that no one is obliged to come if they do not feel safe. We will continue to live-stream our services and bible studies for those who stay home. Those over age 65, and others who are vulnerable or high risk, are encouraged not to attend, and we will continue to provide online services so that they can still participate.
In addition, anyone showing any symptoms of sickness, or anyone who has a household member who is sick or showing symptoms of sickness should not attend; this includes pastors who are sick or showing signs of sickness. If pastor is unable to lead the worship service, either an elder will lead the service following established protocols, or St. Paul’s will stream/share a service from a sister congregation. This decision will be made by the elders in consultation with pastor.
If leadership becomes aware of a clear, immediate, and imminent threat to the safety of the attendees or determines that the abovementioned protocols cannot be observed, the gathering will be cancelled until the protocols can be observed.
We invite civic officials to proactively engage our community if they fear our gathering and standards are unsafe. And we always welcome the opportunity to show others how we are part of the solution to the challenges our communities face due to COVID-19.