Church Continuity Plan – May 2020
Since the middle of March (our last worship service in the building was March 8th), we have been monitoring and receiving a variety of information from federal/state/city governments, public health organizations, faith- based organizations, and our own people. In late April, the Governance Council asked a St. Peter’s member to pull together all the relevant and latest information and prepare a Church Continuity plan with the pros/cons of the many options. Preliminary discussions were held with Finance & Operations Council on May 5th and a summary and recommendation was presented to the Governance Council on May 12th.
A summary of key definitions and recommendations regarding any re-start of in-person worship services includes the following:
Definition of Vulnerable people for Community and Faith-Based Organizations (CFBOs)
Our initial analysis is that around 50% of St. Peter’s fits one or more of these definitions:
- 65 and over (there are some documents that state age 60)
- Moderate to severe Asthma
- Liver Disease
- Chronic lung disease
- Severe obesity (BMI of 40 or higher)
- Serious heart condition
- Chronic kidney disease treated with dialysis
Recommendations and Protocols, their Sources, and the Result or Impact
Some other key questions that helped drive our decision:
- How do we re-start worship physically together unless it is really all of us or a very high proportion of us?
- Is a service with social distancing limitations going to be satisfying? Would people continue after attending once or twice due to the difference between what they are used to and the new reality that will exist for the next months?
- Is a high-quality online worship service (small group or congregational) with all who want to attend a better representation of our Covenant of Welcome for St. Peter’s?
Governance Council said YES to question #3
Another way to frame these questions is as follows: “What are you looking forward to about returning to in-person worship?” When we asked people this question, the most popular answers included things that we cannot achieve safely. We cannot:
- Greet one another with hugs or any form of physical touch
- Participate in congregational singing
- Allow choir to rehearse indoors
- Offer communion with shared elements
- Enjoy beverages and snacks in Fellowship Hall
- Use bulletins, hymnals, or pew bibles
- Have the children “up on the steps” without social distancing
- Have preaching occur without masks
- fact, as we researched, we realized that a safe return to worship would require:
- Someone to monitor mask wearing
- Someone to turn away those who refuse to wear masks
- Someone to open the door so that only one person is in contact with that surface
- Multiple services, as our sanctuary only seats 30 if properly socially distanced.
- Someone to clean in between multiple services
- And the list goes on.
As a result, there is now a high priority on the Ministry Council, Staff, and Technology Team to rapidly develop a plan for the expanded St. Peter’s, online now and ultimately ending up in both online and physical at the end of this pandemic period.
Phased Plan Forward
Now – written worship materials and a weekly video from a pastor
Online worship – step changes/improvements will be made over time in this phase
Online worship materials (current mode)
Additional scenarios, increased interactivity and personal communication during service. This will be driven by the Worship Staff, Ministry Council, and Technology Team.
Eventually, High-quality streaming/video service
Resume in-person worship (along with continued online worship.)
Triggered when there is availability of effective alternative mitigation(s). This is not specifically defined, but we will update this as the public health professionals learn more over the next few months.
As stated previously, this will not be till at least September and may be later.
Full operation – to be defined, but when all limits are removed.
Very limited individual access for staff, team leaders, and members (i.e. mail, piano/organ use, copier use, collecting material to support virtual activities, cleaning) is being allowed to take place in our building on a requested basis. Contact Laurie H. if you have a request.
Note: small group meetings are not allowed at this time inside the building.
We welcome people to enjoy and use the outdoor spaces like the Native Habitat and Labyrinth. Social distancing and masks are still required if people from different households are present. The playground is off-limits.
Approved external and St. Peter’s small group meetings may occur outside, however, a designated host must take responsibility to:
a) Enforce the above rules
b) Ensure Vulnerable people do not participate
c) Document attendees in case of any future required contact tracing
d) Inform or Request approval from Laurie H. for any planned events
The building’s restrooms will not be available, nor will any other part of the building be open.
The below list is the Source information for the Recommendations:
Lori & Becca have been grateful for the positive response to the written worship materials and short videos that have been shared since March 15, when we couldn’t worship in person any longer. Recently, however, Lori and Becca have both felt called to shift our virtual worship experience. They have both attended a number of different webinars, connected with colleagues, and read many resources about how to do this well and effectively. They lovingly refer to this shift as St. Peter’s 2.0.
To help us in this shift to a more interactive virtual worship experience, our congregation has also applied for two different technology grants, one of which includes a consultant who will help train us and our staff to have a cohesive offering.
What we learned & our goals:
- Authentic worship, not perfect worship.
- Virtual worship is a different medium than in person worship. Think of adapting a book into a film. Similarly, this will look and feel different from “regular” worship, but with some familiar aspects.
- Offer a pre-recorded service about 30 minutes long with the ability to interact.
- We will “drop” or “make live” our YouTube link at 10:00am on Sundays starting on May 31st, Pentecost Sunday.
- It will include conversation, music, scripture, reflection & prayer
- Becca and/or Lori will be live in the YouTube chat in order to interact and engage in real time.
Our goal in moving forward with this next phase of worship is to offer something more engaging which allows for a level of interaction as participants are watching the video. Nothing will be able to replace in person worship that we experienced prior to March 15th. However, our goal is to offer something meaningful and authentic, grounded in our spirituality, our theology, and our community. We welcome your ideas!