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

  1. 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.

  2. We cannot promise to eliminate the risk that someone in our congregation could become infected while attending in-person worship.

  3. 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.

  4. 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?

Specific Recommendations

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

  • We recommend a “soft opening” on Sun, 7/12, and then open the in- person worship up to all interested members on 7/19.

  • The soft open will be used as a training opportunity for ushers who will be encouraged to invite family members so we can do a dry run

of our safety procedures.

  • All people attending worship age 2 and older will be required to wear masks.

b) Time of service

  • The member survey presented three Sunday service times: 8, 9 and 10 a.m. 9:00 was most popular with about 35.4% of responses. A single Sunday service is recommended for cleaning/disinfection purposes. The service may still need to occur at 8 a.m. to be recorded/edited in time for a 10 a.m. radio broadcast. It will also be streamed live by video over the Internet.

  • If the need for additional capacity requires adding a service, we recommend adding a Wednesday-evening service so we don’t need to worry about thorough disinfection of the entry and sanctuary spaces on a tight timeline.

  • Initial estimate of sanctuary capacity is 100 people, assuming a mix of singles, couples and families.

c) Communion

  • Consistent with current practice, continue to offer on first Sunday of the month.

  • Attending members will pick up prepackaged communion wafer/cups before entering the sanctuary.

  • After consecration, members will receive the elements in their pews or share with members of their household in their pews.

  • Those participating via live-stream or radio will partake at home in the same manner.

  • Will provide small plastic bags for cup disposal to prevent spills/litter in the pews.

  • Communion will be the only point in worship when those in attendance are able to unmask, briefly.




d) Singing

  • Information from the ELCA notes that singing together, even from a distance, is one of the riskiest behaviors due to the spread of aerosol and droplets that can carry the virus a significant distance and remain suspended in the air, and that a cloth mask is unlikely to offer sufficient protection.

  • Therefore, service music will not include sing-along elements, and members will be asked not to sing until further notice. An unmasked vocalist or pair of singers for a distanced duet at the back of the chancel would be allowed.

  • Pastors and musicians may be unmasked in the chancel but must maintain 6-foot distance.

  • The Health Committee will monitor evidence on the efficacy of masks in preventing the spread of the virus while singing.

e) Unison Prayer

  • ELCA guidance cautions against speaking as it does singing.

  • The Health Committee understands the distinction between softly spoken prayer and singing. Speaking produces less aerosolization.

  • Since members will be masked and socially distanced, we recommend that unison speaking can be included in services and

people be allowed to pray together.

  • The Health Committee will monitor evidence on masked speaking.

f) Pastor greeting of members before/after service

  • Pastors and staff will not greet members before or after the service in order to prevent exposure related to crowding and lines.

  • Pastors are only

unmasked while leading worship in the chancel.

g) Service time

  • Time of exposure is a factor in disease transmission.

  • Therefore, the Health Committee recommends trying to limit services to 45 minutes.

  • Recommend finding alternate means of communicating important announcements, such as: A) via a weekly email; B) pre-service slides; and C) appending a prerecorded set of announcements to the worship broadcast. Announcements take a lot of time.

h) Capacity/attendance control

  • Generally, anticipate we will learn and adjust as we gain experience.

  • Based on estimated capacity of 100 and intention of about 1/3 of members to attend services initially, we do not anticipate exceeding capacity during summer months.

  • Staff will implement a reservation system for in-person worship.

  • Communications will emphasize need to arrive early to prevent last- minute bottlenecks.

  • Ushers will be trained and will be equipped with an explanatory handout to assist in turning people away if needed.

  • Increase capacity by adding services over time as needed.

  • Those attending will be seated in alternating pews, at a distance, from front to back and dismissed from back to front by ushers. At no point will parishioners come forward (for

children’s messages, communion, etc.). There will be no fellowship time before or after





i) Baptisms, Weddings and Funerals

  • Apply same protocols/capacity as outlined in this document for onsite baptisms, weddings and funerals with the following exceptions:

  • Weddings – Bride/groom do not need to be masked, but others do. Pastor will stand behind the altar to maintain distance and wear N-95 mask.

  • Baptisms – Parents/sponsors do not need to be masked, but others do. Pastor will maintain distance as possible and wear N-95 mask.

    • Inform groups of capacity limits and protocols when planning events.

    • Be sure to plan for disinfection between these types of events and worship services as appropriate.

j) Internal/Committee meetings in building

  • Initially, ask committees and ministry groups to continue meeting virtually or to find outdoor spaces to meet in person.

  • Re-evaluate in second half August once we have more experience with worship service protocols and can apply lessons learned to

other facility uses.

  • The lead pastor and administrator may make exceptions based on specific situations.

k) Staff working in office vs. from home

  • Committee recommends allowing job demands to dictate the need for staff to report to work in the facility. People don’t need to be in the office if there is no need for them to be in the office.

  • Consider rotating staff between at-home and in-office duties.

  • Staff should follow prevention practices when in office (distancing, disinfection, mask-wearing).

  • Staff should definitely wear masks when dealing with members/visitors in person.

  • The lead pastor and administrator may make exceptions based on specific situations.

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?

CDC Guidance



1) Scaling Up Operations

a) Establish and maintain communication with local and state authorities to determine current mitigation levels in your


  • Connect with Jed Wohlt, Waupaca County Health Officer, so we have a point of

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).

  • Educate members about who is at risk and provide clear guidance on personal actions they can take. Specific communication actions identified below (3.c.v, 3.d), and give members explicit permission to not attend.

  • If at some point we offer more than one service, encourage people at risk to attend the first service when touched surfaces are most likely to be fully free of virus.

  • Ultimately, members will make a personal choice to attend or not.

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.

  • We will not be dealing with person-level health information related to health risks. We will educate the congregation about at- risk populations and leave it to individuals

to decide if they will attend services.

d) Encourage any organizations that share or use the facilities to also follow these considerations as applicable.

  • Do not allow other organizations besides the county senior nutrition program to use our facilities at this time. The lead pastor and administrator may make exceptions based on specific situations. Revisit when conditions change substantially.

  • Waupaca County’s senior nutrition site has continued meal preparation at Trinity in recent months. This is an essential service to seniors, now in multiple


e) If your community provides social services in the facility as

part of its mission, consult CDC’s information

for schools and businesses and workplaces, as relevant, for helpful information.

  • Communicate with heads of county senior nutrition site in this regard. Do not allow other organizations to use our facilities at this time. Revisit when conditions change


CDC Guidance



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.

  • Make nursery sink a hand-washing station (in addition to bathrooms)

  • Post CDC flyers in hand-washing areas and have on screen before services.

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.

  • Hand sanitizer stations in numerous locations.

  • Small hand sanitizer bottles in every pew.

  • Have enough bottles in pews to simply

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.

  • Post CDC flyers in visible places and have on screen before services.

  • Encourage people to leave the sanctuary quickly if they begin to cough or sneeze for any reason.

iv) Whenever soap and water are not readily available, hand

sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol can be used.

  • See above (2.a.ii).

v) Consider posting signs on how to stop the spread of COVID-19 and how to promote everyday protective

measures, such as washing hands, covering coughs and sneezes, and properly wearing a face covering.

  • See section 3.d.

  • Staff has already posted many of these signs.

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.

  • Require face coverings for all people age 2 and older attending services. Communications should emphasize the purpose of masks is to protect others.

  • Recommend people bring their own, but provide masks to anyone who does not bring one.

  • Educate people with signs on proper wearing and removal of masks (CDC flyers)

  • Purchase a small supply of surgical masks for people who may have trouble breathing through a cloth mask.

  • People may keep homemade masks they are given.

  • The exception for children younger than 2 in the requirement for face coverings does not suggest that parents should bring young children to worship.

CDC Guidance



b) Intensify cleaning, disinfection, and ventilation

i) Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces at least

daily and shared objects in between uses.

  • Building & Properties Supervisor Mike Steuerwald to develop and review with the Health Committee a checklist for disinfection after services.

  • Remove all items from pew pockets and make sure pockets are checked/cleared after services.

  • Be sure Mike has all supplies needed for efficient and effective disinfection.

  • Restrict access only to parts of the building needed to attend in-person worship in the sanctuary. Use signs and physical barriers to block access to other parts of the building (making sure not to block emergency egress).

  • Main concern is disinfection between services (if >1 service). Virus will not last from week to week on touched surfaces.

  • Initially, we do not anticipate needing a second service. See 2.c.i.

ii) Develop a schedule of increased, routine cleaning and


iii) Avoid use of items that are not easily cleaned, sanitized,

or disinfected.

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.

  • To the extent possible, Mike to develop and implement HVAC guidance per the Federation of European HVAC Associations (or similar U.S. guidance).

  • The Koinonia Room’s rooftop ventilator was repaired and issues with air handlers were

addressed 6/15.

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.

  • If more than one service is offered, assure sufficient time between multiple services for disinfection.

  • Ask Mike to develop and implement procedures to make sure water systems are not out of use for a prolonged period.

  • Turn off/block access to water fountains.

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.

  • The size of gatherings at Trinity will reflect county guidance but in no instance will exceed a number who can gather while maintaining a safe (6-foot) distance.

  • Limit number of people who can be on the elevator to two people, maximally

distanced, or to a family unit of more than two.

  • Initial estimate of sanctuary capacity is 100 people, assuming a mix of singles, couples and families.

  • Can adjust expectations with experience.

CDC Guidance



  • Elevator buttons to be sanitized between uses.

  • Encourage people to arrive 15 minutes before the service to prevent crowding at the entrance shortly before the service begins.


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.

  • Ushers will guide people into the sanctuary and will assure social distancing as people enter and are seated.

  • Household units (people living in the same household) will be allowed to sit together.

  • A distance of at least 6 feet will be maintained between separate individuals and family units.

  • Pastors and other worship team members will maintain at least 6 feet separation from each other and at least 15 feet separation from the congregation (since they will not be masked).

  • Communications about restarting in-person worship will set an expectation that people

will be seated (and that they will not be able to sit in their usual spots).

  • “Household unit” refers to people living under the same roof.

  • Consider exception for other groups (e.g., older members who may carpool together)

  • Koinonia Room, if needed for overflow, can be set up with chairs 6 feet apart. Will not offer during start-up phase.

iii) Consider holding services and gatherings in a large, well- ventilated area or outdoors, as circumstances and faith

traditions allow.

  • Services to be held in the sanctuary with HVAC system set to maximize clean air flow


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.

  • Apply same protocols as outlined in this document for onsite baptisms, weddings and funerals with the following exceptions:

  • Weddings – Bride/groom do not need to be masked, but others do. Pastor will stand behind the altar to maintain distance and wear N-95 mask.

  • Baptisms – Parents/sponsors do not need to be masked, but others do. Pastor will maintain distance as possible and wear N-95 mask.

    • Inform groups of capacity limits and protocols when planning events.

  • Recommend pastor wear an N-95 mask for personal protection for weddings, baptisms, and (when not in front leading) funerals. Will need to procure N-95 masks.

CDC Guidance



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).

  • Use floor markings to help people maintain separation.

  • Use floor markings and signs to route foot traffic.

  • At beginning of service, ushers guide people to designated pews from front to back to maintain social distancing.

  • At conclusion of services, ushers dismiss people from the back of the sanctuary forward.

  • Instruct people keep masks on until they are outside and physically separated.

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.

  • Per recommendation in 2.b.i-v, remove all items from pew pockets and make sure pockets are checked/cleared after services.

  • Use screens to guide worship – no bulletins.

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


  • Provide collection boxes in the Koinonia Room to receive offerings.

  • Continue to encourage online giving or mailing of contributions.

iii) Consider whether physical contact (e.g., shaking hands, hugging, or kissing) can be limited among members of the faith community.

  • Suspend the sharing of the peace until further notice.

  • People will be asked to refrain from

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.

  • No food-based events until further notice.

  • Post-service fellowship with coffee/snacks suspended until further notice.

e) Nursery/Childcare

i) If a nursery or childcare will be provided during services

and events, refer to CDC’s information on preventing the

  • Suspend nursery and childcare during

worship services until further notice.

CDC Guidance



spread of COVID-19 in childcare settings and adapt as needed for your setting.

  • Make sure members are informed that nursery and childcare will not be provided

so they can plan accordingly.


ii) If holding summer day camps, refer to CDC’s information

on youth and summer camps and adapt as needed.

  • Suspend camps until further notice.

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.

  • Clergy, staff, worship team members, Council members and volunteers (e.g., elders/ushers/greeters) all to be trained in procedures.

  • Recruit ushers/greeters who are not high risk for serious complications from COVID-


  • Determine number of elders/ushers/greeters needed.

  • Greeters will not greet in traditional fashion but assist people in entering.

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.

  • Staff and members will be educated about symptoms and close contact and asked not to attend services if they are experiencing symptoms or have been in close contact with anyone who has been diagnosed with COVID-19 or is suspected to have COVID-19.

  • Signs will be prominently displayed outside

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.

  • An area to take anyone exhibiting symptoms will be identified – Youth Room likely best place for flow and ventilation.

  • Elders/ushers/greeters will be trained in how to supervise and assist people

exhibiting symptoms.

ii) Establish procedures for safely transporting anyone who becomes sick at the facility to their home or a healthcare facility.

  • Elders/ushers/greeters will be trained in procedures to make sure such persons

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

  • Being tested will be the responsibility of the person exhibiting symptoms.

CDC Guidance



maintaining confidentiality as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) or other applicable laws and in accordance with religious practices.

  • Trinity will not be responsible for following up with health department officials; that will be the responsibility of the patient’s

health care provider.


iv) Advise those with exposure to a person diagnosed with COVID-19 to stay home and self-monitor for symptoms, and follow CDC guidance if symptoms develop.

  • Ushers/greeters will be trained in providing this advice and will have a handout (per CDC) that instructs the person to self-

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.

  • Establish a procedure to notify Mike of any incident of a person exhibiting symptoms with details of where they were seated, whether they were taken to the holding area and whether they were in other parts of the facility (e.g., restrooms).

  • Mike to follow up with intensive disinfection

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

discontinue home isolation.

  • Instructions about self-quarantine will be included in handout identified in 3.b.iv.

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

religious practices.

  • Out of scope for this committee.

ii) Monitor absenteeism and create a roster of trained back-

up staff.

  • Out of scope for this committee.

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.

  • Designate a single point of contact (pastor or staff) to confidentially handle these issues. Recommend Church Administrator Alicia Dorsett as the single point of contact.

  • Identify the point of contact in relevant communications.

CDC Guidance



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.

  • Addressed above (2.f.i).

v) Communicate clearly with staff and congregants about actions being taken to protect their health.

  • Communications about the availability of in- person worship will include a general description of measures being taken and a link to the detailed policy/procedure


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

  • Educational signs (from CDC) will be posted in appropriate areas for visibility and repetition.

  • Information will also be projected on video screens before services.

  • Staff has already posted many such signs.

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).

  • Extension of above.

iii) Find freely available CDC print and digital resources on

CDC’s communications resources main page.


  • Noted – will use handouts as needed.