May 20, 2020 / By UNY Communications

Editor’s Note: Though a firm timetable for when churches will be permitted to reopen is not currently available, recent statements by the New York Governor’s Office indicate churches fall in phase 4, the last category of institutions allowed to reopen. It remains the best practice for all churches to consult their local county department of health for specific guidelines. 

The Upper New York Conference Reopening Taskforce has compiled a comprehensive guide to help local churches understand when they can open and resume services and the best practices they must have in place once in order to keep everyone safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.

UNY’s church reopening guidelines seek to balance these two values – community and well-being – in ways that are faithful, reasonable and practical. They are offered to assist pastors and church leaders in their work of planning for the resumption of in-person gatherings for worship, education, fellowship, leadership, and community outreach.

Core principles are outlined in this document and these include the importance of moving cautiously, the fact that churches across different regions of New York State will be on different timelines as to when they can resume services, and that good communication is critical.

Core practices are included in this document as well and these include the idea that churches should consider establishing their own Reopening Taskforce and need to be prepared for reopening, gathering for worship, and holding a worship service.

In terms of preparing to reopen, requirements related to closing off unused areas of the church, deep-cleaning procedures, and communication about cleanliness are outlined.

Preparing to gather for worship includes recommendations about social distancing, the requirement to wear masks, and the importance of handwashing and sanitizing hands. It also advises high-risk individuals or individuals with household members who are high risk not to attend church services.

In order to hold a worship services, churches need to consider many factors from continuing online services, refraining members from singing, avoiding printed bulletins to refraining from using a common offering plate, and not holding a coffee hour. This section also includes advice on how to safely offer communion.

This document also includes many suggestions about other church work like Sunday school classes, youth group, UMM and UMW meetings, as well as other meetings. It also includes guidelines for pastoral care including funerals.

Additionally, this document points to several helpful resources. 

Click here to open the document.


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