Trinity Lutheran Church of Waupaca
Health Committee Meetings to Develop Recommendations for In-Person Worship (Approved by Church Council 6/23/20)
Context of Our Decision and Overview of Our Recommended Approach
Insight from Our Member Survey
Over the past several weeks, members have informally expressed a range of views about whether, when and how Trinity should begin to offer in-person worship services again. To more accurately assess the situation, between 6/15 and 6/22 we invited members to complete a survey about in-person worship. The introduction to the survey explained that Trinity is considering resuming in-person services, and that – “to protect the health of our members, the worship
experience will be different than we’re used to,” potentially including social distancing, mask-wearing and not being able to sing together.
Asked if they intended to participate in in-person worship that would involve such keep-each-other-safe measures, members responded as follows:
Yes = 35%
No = 33%
Don’t Know = 32% (based on free-text comments, most “Don’t Know” responses seem to mean “Not yet,” meaning they have not ruled it out, but are in a wait-and-see mode).
For Council Consideration
With more than 1/3 of 364 surveyed members interested in safely gathering together for in-person worship and nearly another 1/3 unsure/in a wait-and-see mode, should Trinity strive to offer a safe in-person worship service?
Realities of COVID-19 Risk and Risk Mitigation
COVID-19 is likely to be with us for a while, and even after we have a vaccine, chances are the risk of illness and death will not go down to zero.
We cannot promise to eliminate the risk that someone in our congregation could become infected while attending in-person worship.
What we can promise is that we will follow recommended guidelines to reduce the risk, and that when members do their part to comply with measures we put in place, risk can be greatly reduced.
Members will continue to have the option to participate in worship online and via the radio.
The Goal - A Covenant with Our Members
We are recommending a covenant with Trinity members regarding offering in-person worship during this pandemic. We will do what we can to educate and protect their health, and in turn will ask them not to come if they are feeling ill, and if they do attend, to abide by the measures we’ve put in place. If we live up to this covenant, we are doing all we can within reason to protect everyone’s health.
For Council Consideration
Understanding that we cannot bring the risk of COVID-19 infection to zero, but that we can greatly reduce the risk that anyone will become sick if both church and members each do their part, do we want to approach the offering of in-person worship as a covenant with our members, implying mutual responsibility?
This section is divided into two parts. The first part focuses on key issues related to the commencement of in-person worship services and other building access questions. The second part features the Health Committee’s recommendations related to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidance for faith-based organizations.
Part 1 - Key Issues Related to Commencement of In-Person Worship and Other Building Access
For Council Consideration
The specific recommendations below reflect guidance of the U.S. CDC, the ELCA, and in some instances the judgment of the Health Committee. These recommendations are a starting point but may change with circumstances. The Health Committee is willing to assist with implementation of these recommendations as well as adjustments to plans/protocols as circumstances change. Does the Council accept the recommendations of the Health Committee?
a) Timeline for Opening
of our safety procedures.
b) Time of service
e) Unison Prayer
people be allowed to pray together.
f) Pastor greeting of members before/after service
unmasked while leading worship in the chancel.
g) Service time
h) Capacity/attendance control
children’s messages, communion, etc.). There will be no fellowship time before or after
i) Baptisms, Weddings and Funerals
j) Internal/Committee meetings in building
other facility uses.
k) Staff working in office vs. from home
Part 2 – Recommendations per CDC Guidance
The primary basis of our recommendations is the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance for Community and Faith-Based Organizations. In the table, CDC guidance is in the left-most column, recommendations for Trinity are in the center column, and the right-hand column is for questions and notes.
An implementation plan for in-person worship accompanies this document. The plan was developed by the Health Committee during a walk-through of the facility. It identifies specific actions to be taken to achieve the objectives outlined in these recommendations and will be used as a checklist to make sure we are prepared to safely welcome members and guests to in-person worship at Trinity. The checklist can be adapted for other in-person gatherings (e.g., baptisms, weddings and funerals).
For Council Consideration
The specific recommendations below reflect guidance of the U.S. CDC, the ELCA, and in some instances the judgment of the Health Committee. Does the Council accept the recommendations of the Health Committee?
1) Scaling Up Operations
a) Establish and maintain communication with local and state authorities to determine current mitigation levels in your
contact should questions or issues arise.
b) Provide protections for staff and congregants at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19. Offer options for staff
at higher risk for severe illness (including older adults and people of all ages with certain underlying medical conditions) that limit their exposure risk. Offer options for congregants at higher risk of severe illness that limit their exposure risk (e.g., remote participation in services).
c) Consistent with applicable federal and state laws and regulations, put in place policies that protect the privacy and confidentiality of people at higher risk for severe
illness regarding underlying medical conditions.
to decide if they will attend services.
d) Encourage any organizations that share or use the facilities to also follow these considerations as applicable.
e) If your community provides social services in the facility as
part of its mission, consult CDC’s information
2) Safety Actions
a) Promote healthy hygiene practices
i) Encourage staff and congregants to maintain good hand hygiene, washing hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
ii) Have adequate supplies to support healthy hygiene behaviors, including soap, hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol (for those who can safely use hand sanitizer), tissues, and no-touch trash cans.
change them out between services (if we have >1 service).
iii) Encourage staff and congregants to cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue or use the inside of their elbow. Used tissues should be thrown in the trash and hands washed.
iv) Whenever soap and water are not readily available, hand
sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol can be used.
vi) Encourage use of cloth face coverings among staff and congregants. Face coverings are most essential
when social distancing is difficult. Note: Cloth face coverings should not be placed on children younger than 2 years old, anyone who has trouble breathing or is unconscious, and anyone who is incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the cloth face covering without assistance. Cloth face coverings are meant to protect other people in case the wearer is unknowingly infected but does not have symptoms.
b) Intensify cleaning, disinfection, and ventilation
i) Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces at least
daily and shared objects in between uses.
ii) Develop a schedule of increased, routine cleaning and
iii) Avoid use of items that are not easily cleaned, sanitized,
iv) Ensure safe and correct application of disinfectants and
keep them away from children.
v) Cleaning products should not be used near children, and staff should ensure that there is adequate ventilation when using these products to prevent children or themselves from inhaling toxic fumes.
vi) Ensure that ventilation systems operate properly and increase circulation of outdoor air as much as possible by opening windows and doors, using fans, etc. Do not open windows and doors if they pose a safety risk to children
using the facility.
vii) If your faith community offers multiple services, consider scheduling services far enough apart to allow time for cleaning and disinfecting high-touch surfaces between services. Take steps to ensure that all water systems and features (for example, drinking fountains, decorative fountains) are safe to use after a prolonged facility shutdown to minimize the risk of Legionnaires’
disease and other diseases associated with water.
c) Promote social distancing
i) Take steps to limit the size of gatherings in accordance with the guidance and directives of state and local authorities and subject to the protections of the First Amendment and any other applicable federal law.
distanced, or to a family unit of more than two.
ii) Promote social distancing at services and other gatherings, ensuring that clergy, staff, choir, volunteers and attendees at the services follow social distancing, as circumstances and faith traditions allow, to lessen their risk.
will be seated (and that they will not be able to sit in their usual spots).
iii) Consider holding services and gatherings in a large, well- ventilated area or outdoors, as circumstances and faith
iv) Consider appropriate mitigation measures, including taking steps to limit the size of gatherings maintaining social distancing, at other gatherings such as funerals, weddings, religious education classes, youth events, support groups and any other programming, where consistent with the faith tradition.
v) Provide physical guides, such as tape on floors or walkways and signs on walls, to ensure that staff and children remain at least 6 feet apart in lines and at other times (e.g. guides for creating “one-way routes” in hallways).
d) Take steps to minimize community sharing of worship materials and other items
i) Consistent with the community’s faith tradition, consider temporarily limiting the sharing of frequently touched objects, such as worship aids, prayer rugs, prayer books, hymnals, religious texts and other bulletins, books, or other items passed or shared among congregants, and encouraging congregants to bring their own such items, if possible, or photocopying or projecting prayers, songs,
and texts using electronic means.
ii) Modify the methods used to receive financial contributions. Consider a stationary collection box, the main, or electronic methods of collection regular financial contributions instead of shared collection trays or
iii) Consider whether physical contact (e.g., shaking hands, hugging, or kissing) can be limited among members of the faith community.
breaking social distancing for greeting. No hugging or handshakes, etc.
iv) If food is offered at any event, consider prepackaged options, and avoid buffet or family-style meals if possible.
i) If a nursery or childcare will be provided during services
worship services until further notice.
spread of COVID-19 in childcare settings and adapt as needed for your setting.
so they can plan accordingly.
ii) If holding summer day camps, refer to CDC’s information
f) Staff Training
i) Train all clergy and staff in the above safety actions. Consider conducting the training virtually, or, if in-person, ensure that social distancing is maintained.
3) Monitoring and Preparing
a) Check for signs and symptoms
i) Encourage staff or congregants who are sick or who have had close contact with a person with COVID-19 to stay home. Share CDC’s criteria for staying home with staff and congregants so that they know how to care for themselves and others. Consider posting signs at entrances with this information.
the entrance and before people enter the sanctuary.
b) Plan for when a staff member or congregant becomes sick
i) Identify an area to separate anyone who exhibits symptoms of COVID-19 during hours of
operation, and ensure that children are not left without adult supervision.
ii) Establish procedures for safely transporting anyone who becomes sick at the facility to their home or a healthcare facility.
exhibiting symptoms are transported home or to a healthcare facility.
iii) Notify local health officials if a person diagnosed with COVID-19 has been in the facility and communicate with
staff and congregants about potential exposure while
health care provider.
quarantine and get tested.
v) Close off areas used by the sick person and do not use the area until after cleaning and disinfection. Ensure safe and correct application of disinfectants and keep disinfectant products away from children.
of all areas identified.
vi) Advise staff and congregants with symptoms of COVID-19 or who have tested positive for COVID-19 not to return to the facility until they have met CDC’s criteria to
c) Maintain Healthy Operations
i) Implement flexible sick leave and related flexible policies and practices for staff (e.g., allow work from home, if feasible), and provide requested reasonable accommodation absent undue hardship to individuals with disabilities under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) or other applicable laws and in accordance with
ii) Monitor absenteeism and create a roster of trained back-
iii) Designate a staff person to be responsible for responding to COVID-19 concerns. Staff, clergy, volunteers, and congregants should know who this person is and how to contact them if they become sick or are around others diagnosed with COVID-19. This person should also be aware of state or local regulatory agency policies related
to group gatherings.
iv) As volunteers often perform important duties (e.g., greeters, ushers, childcare), consider similar monitoring, planning, and training for them. Consider that volunteer and staffing may need to increase to implement cleaning and safety protocols and to accommodate additional
services with reduced attendance.
v) Communicate clearly with staff and congregants about actions being taken to protect their health.
d) Signs and Messages
i) Post signs in highly visible locations
(e.g., entrances, restrooms, gathering halls/community rooms/gyms) that promote everyday protective measures and describe how to stop the spread of germs (such as by properly washing hands and properly wearing a cloth face covering
ii) Include messages (for example, videos) about behaviors that prevent the spread of COVID-19
when communicating with staff and congregants (such as in emails and on community websites and social media accounts).
iii) Find freely available CDC print and digital resources on
CDC’s communications resources main page.