Returning to In-Person Activities Phases-
Please note we are in Phase 3
Greetings in Christ,
We write to update you on Council conversations about “re-opening” our facility to in-person activities following our “shut down” in mid-March this year. Our Congregation Council continued its conversation at the Regular Meeting, June 21. At that time they agreed that as of June 29, we would be in Phase #3 for re-opening. A description of Phase #3 is below the content of this letter.
There are a few other things I would note for you.
Phase #3 provides for the option of an outdoor service. We did have this as an opportunity for June 14 and 21, but this will not continue for now.
Phase #3 still allows for “house churches” for which persons from one or more home might gather to watch the Online service together (up to 10 persons total). If you would offer to receive a person looking for a house church, please let me know this via email or phone. If you would like to be part of this, but do not have a “group” to join, please contact me, and I will seek to refer you to one.
In addition, Phase #3 does allow for in-person worship with restrictions. Accordingly, we are planning for this option to begin July 5. A separate document below this letter (and the general description of Phase #3) outlines “What to Expect” as we return with restrictions. Please review that document carefully. It is separate from the general Phase #3 description and has more details.
Much of the conversations of our Council have been guided by resources from the Centers for Disease Control, our insurance carrier, the State of Iowa (which you can also access at https://coronavirus.iowa.gov/ , primarily the link to “current cases” and then to “case counts”), and guidance from denominational resources/leaders in our area, state and nation.
Our Council meets again July 19. They will determine at that time if we could be at Phase #4, which would include the possibility of in-person activities without some restrictions; or if we need to remain at Phase #3 (or return to Phase #2). If they do agree that we can be at Phase #4, you will receive a letter/email from me again describing that phase.
I remain convinced that your Council is neither “rushing ahead” nor “dragging their feet.” Though to some it may seem one way or the other.
Our Congregation Council asks that parishioners of American Lutheran please remain patient throughout the re-opening process. It is asked that all persons remember that this is a plan which is subject to change in relation to the conditions that are being experienced. As the people of American Lutheran, we must be prepared to take a few steps forwards and possibly many steps backwards at any point in time. The Council is committed to regularly reviewing the re-opening process and making scientific fact-based decisions in conjunction with thorough moral deliberation that benefits the well-being of all the people of American Lutheran and the greater Grundy Center community.
Thank you for your attention to the content of this letter.
Grace and Peace in Christ,
Luther Thoresen, Pastor and
Jason Jirovsky, President
Phase #3 (overall description)
American Lutheran may:
Continue to hold worship electronically.
Begin (or continue) in-person outdoor worship if public gatherings greater than ten persons are permitted by law.
The American Lutheran Council may elect to begin holding in-person worship in the American Lutheran sanctuary if public gatherings greater than ten persons are permitted by law observing the following conditions
Persons over the age of 65 and persons with underlying health conditions will be strongly encouraged to ponder their safety in relation to attending worship in person and are encouraged to remain at home and worship via electronic means; and
If permitted by law, 65 persons may be permitted to worship together in the sanctuary and 35 persons in the parish hall.
Observing proper social distancing practices (i.e. maintain a 6’ distance between persons of different households).
Wearing a mask is strongly encouraged.
Observing proper hand hygiene upon entering the building (soap and water or 60%+ alcohol hand sanitizer); and
Parishioners will be seated and dismissed by ushers to help in maintaining social distancing.
There will be no sharing of the peace or passing of an offering plate.
There will be no social/coffee hour following worship.
All worship materials will be provided electronically and made available upon the projection screen (hymnals, bibles, and other items in pews will be removed; parishioners are encouraged to bring their own hymnal if they so desire; parishioners will have an opportunity to “check out” a hymnal). Toys will be removed from the sanctuary, but families may bring their own.
A reservation system will be devised to facilitate in-person worship capacity, if that seems necessary.
The same guidelines as above would be in place for any kind of worship, including but not limited to a funeral or wedding (post-funeral luncheons will not be permitted).
The parish office will be open (the building will remain open, but with no in person activities sponsored by the congregation).
Groups of American Lutheran (committees, etc.) will continue to be encouraged to meet via electronic means.
What to expect as we begin to return to “in person” worship
with restrictions related to Covid-19
Length of service – Reduce worship time given lack of singing
Ushers – Help with seating/spacing people. Usher people out from the back first.
Remove reusable paper items - All worship resources will be on screen (no paper bulletins).
Sitting in pews – To ensure 6 ft apart we will mark off some pews. Ushers will assist in seating before worship.
Communion – Pre-packaged will be provided in the pews (sanctuary) and on the tables (fellowship hall) ahead of time. It is not required to take communion during this time. People can take it home if they wish so that masks can remain on. It should be noted that masks may be briefly moved while communion is taken so those attending are not surprised.
Singing – Solo, instrumental, 1-2 videos per service. Congregation is asked not to sing. Kids can bring their own instruments but cannot use the shared ones up front.
Offering – Buckets/plates in the back of the sanctuary
Children’s time – Kids stay in their seats with parents
Church provides cloth masks – Masks are available at American, but we prefer that people bring their own.
Masks required – if worshiping in the sanctuary. This follows CDC guidelines that encourage people to wear masks
Masks not required – if worshiping in Fellowship Hall. A visual and audio live feed will be provided downstairs
Fellowship; Greeters; and Valet – None
Elevator – self serve only, mask required in the elevator, hand sanitizer before and after use.
Sanitize before/after worship – Will be done weekly
Hearing assistance devices – Will be place on table in the back with name of user on it.
Pastor enter and leave the sanctuary from sacristy. That is, he will not process in or out. He will be available for conversation outside at a social distance.
Block off the following areas – Bathrooms, classrooms, water fountain, quilting space
Fellowship hall – Open for those that want to attend without masks. To promote social distancing, there will be fewer tables and chairs. No food/drinks to be served.
Video – We will continue recording on Saturday and post on Sunday’s. The Saturday service may be more interesting for those watching online given the modified version we’ll have on Sunday.
Entry doors will be propped open doors to avoid touching
Hymnals and other items will be removed from back of pews
Toys will be removed from back of sanctuary (families may bring their own as needed)
Sharing peace/shaking hands will not be done
Hand sanitizer is available in the main entry; and everyone is expected sanitize when entering, and exiting.
Air Conditioning and fans will be turned off during service (but the room will be cooled before people arrive.
Exit – People without masks exit by the East door. People with masks exit by the main doors.