Sunday School at 9:00 am
Sundays at 10:30 am
3rd & 5th Sundays are Contemporary Service
This sub-committee is tasked with developing a metric for how to best re-introduce worship safely in the building. The plan will be reviewed, revised, and approved by our church council before first in-person service. These plans will be drawn up in consultation with documents and resources provided by the Center for Disease Control (CDC), the Pennsylvania Department of Health, and the Lower Susquehanna Synod.
1. Pennsylvania Phase plan: https://www.pa.gov/guides/responding-to-covid-19/#WhatPhaseIsMyCountyin
2. ELCA General Church considerations for returning to In-person worship https://www.lss-elca.org/wp-content/uploads/Returning-to-In-person-Worship.pdf
3. Bishop Dunlop’s letter (June 11) https://www.lss-elca.org/wp-content/uploads/Pastoral-Message-COVID-19-and-Racism-06-11-2020.pdf
4. Ecumenical consultation for protocols https://www.lss-elca.org/wp-content/uploads/2006_Resuming-Care-filled-Worship-and-Sacramental-Life.pdf
5. Face covering recommendations: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/cloth-face-cover.html
The In-Person worship services will happen in the church sanctuary. Rather than have a parking lot service, we will be meeting inside of the church. We will plan to communicate this to property committee to make sure that plans are in place for air conditioning to be activated at the appropriate times. During the service, we ask that family units sit six (6) feet apart from one another. Families are strongly encouraged to sit together, as individual members of the family will not need to sit six feet apart. A floor plan will be drawn up for seating arrangements to ensure 6-feet distancing between sitting areas (main floor and balcony). Areas not designated for sitting will be sectioned off using decorative rope to avoid damage to pews as much as possible. Hand sanitizer and face masks will be available at the entrances by the office, the parking lot door to the inside stairwell, and by the elevator. Hand sanitizer will be provided in the pews/seating area. Rooms not in use where people do not need to be (Choir Room, movie room, nursery, Social hall and kitchen) will be closed off. The restroom facilities will be available for use.
2. Potentially two worship services.
To best allow persons and families to worship while social distancing, we will be starting with one service to ascertain how many people we will be having on Sundays. This service will be at 10:30AM on Sundays. If we find that there is an additional need for seating, we will have extra places to worship in the common room on the first floor. If it is believed that we will need additional seating for our worship services for an extended period of time, we will add a second worship service on Saturday night at 6:30PM. The reason for this time is to allow for the recommended six hours in between services, with the next service being Sunday morning, starting at 10:30AM. After each service, a cleaning of the most-touched surfaces will happen based on recommendations from our Sexton. It is strongly recommended that all non-essential person not be in the building during the in-between times. We will not be having children’s Sunday School, Confirmation classes, and Adult Education during their usual time. It is our hope that if we continue Social Distancing, we will be able to keep our church family and visitors safe. Also, after each worship services there will be cleaning of the sanctuary by wiping down pews and other contact surfaces. Our usher will have a checklist of names to mark which individuals are present. This will be helpful in maintaining a record of who was physically present in the event a positive case of COVID-19 is identified and assistance is needed with contact tracing. The number of people allowed at each service will be dependent on the opening phase of Pennsylvania (25 persons during Yellow phase, half capacity of building during Green phase)
3. Online worship
We will continue to offer online worship services even after we have reopened. One of the in-person worship services will be recorded and then posted to our church’s website, as well as to Facebook and YouTube. Recording will go up Sunday afternoon, as it takes some time to buffer when being posted to the internet.
4. Objects in the sanctuary
In order to best protect our members and visitors who worship at St. John’s, the worship service will be altered slightly. All mobile objects (hymnals, pencils, envelopes, busy bags for kids, etc.) will be removed from the sanctuary so that there are less things that can be touched; they are extra surfaces that can potentially spread the virus. A notice will be made that anyone who wishes for a specific piece of worship material (a designated bible or hymnal) to be removed from the sanctuary to their possession should have it removed by the Friday before the first in-person service. Bulletins will have to be taken out of the church after the worship service and not reused. We will potentially be using the projector to display the order of service and song lyrics onto the back wall of the sanctuary during worship. For a time, hopefully just the month of July, Holy Communion will be omitted from the service. Sharing the peace will be done in a manner that does not involve physical contact, such as waving or bowing. We will still strive to have instrumental music, possibly a soloist singing, the reading of Scripture, and having a sermon preached. Our offering plate will be left at entrance of sanctuary, as to avoid having multiple people touching it.
We will also continue to accept offering sent in by mail, the church address is:
St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran, 11 N. Queen Street, PO Box 96 Maytown, PA, 17550.
5. Face masks
Our congregants will need to be responsible. This will mean that all persons attending worship will need to wear face masks that cover both the mouth and nose while in the building. Masks will be provided at the door if the person has not brought one (currently being sold at Giant for around 5 masks for $3) This will also mean not attending worship if you are not feeling well, or displaying flu-like symptoms (coughing, sneezing, fever over 100 degrees Fahrenheit, vomiting or diarrhea). Our greatest concern is taking care of our members, our visitors, and our neighbors. I would like to stress that if this isn’t possible, then it is not yet time to worship in person. Persons unable to comply with this will be politely asked to leave.
For person’s performing worship (pastor and Lay leader) a face shield mask will be worn while in the pulpit and lectern to allow speaking parts be done without masks on. This will allow for both visibility and comprehension that would normally be blocked by a facial mask. After performing worship, but before moving off of the stage, the individual will need to re-affix their mask to cover both nose and mouth. These face shield masks will need to be cleaned after each service.
6. Choir and music
Due to the nature of how COVID-19 passes from person to person, mainly through droplets released from mouth and nose, our choir will be not be meeting, practicing, or performing, until such time as we are able to come to worship without face masks. Pre-recorded music may be used during a service, played over the sound system. Due to the overwhelming evidence of danger from collective vocal music, we will not be singing as a group during the in-person worship for a time. Praying will not be done as a group. What would normally be collective speaking (Creed and Lord’s prayer) will be “prayed in your hearts” (without being spoken aloud) or whispered.
7. Special events:
While there is not an immediate need for baptisms, weddings, or funerals, special care will be taken in such cases as an event mentioned above is scheduled. Considerations for these events will be made using the same guidelines used above.
The order of service:
Procession: Nothing overly fancy, Pastor and Lay Leader will walk down the aisle (Masks on), reverence the altar (bow) and sit in their chairs. Masks may be removed by Pastor and Lay Leader at this point. Pastor moves to Pulpit for next part of service:
Confession and forgiveness
Prayer of the day (Pastor sit)
First reading (Lay Leader reads from lectern) (Lay leader sits)
Psalm (Pastor reads from Pulpit) (Pastor Sits)
Second reading (Lay Leader reads from lectern) (Lay leader sits)
Short interlude played for Gospel, Pastor invites congregation to stand, Pastor reads Gospel from Pulpit, Pastor invites congregation to sit
Sermon (Pastor preaches from Pulpit) (Pastor sits when finished)
Reflection (music played/soloist)
Creed and Prayers (Pastor prays from Pulpit) Apostle’s creed, Prayer of the people, and Lord’s prayer
Blessing (Pastor does Blessing from the Pulpit)
Dismissal (Congregation is invited to safely leave church building. Cleaning committee to happen once congregation has left the sanctuary) (Keith may play one or more songs while this exit is happening) (Pastor and Lay Leader will re-affix masks to face before leaving)
8. In case of outbreak:
In the unlikely, but still possible even that there should be an outbreak of COVID-19 at St. John’s Lutheran church, and a member is found to have been to present at an in-person worship service, record of this person’s attendance will be noted, and the other members who attended the same service will be notified, using the records taken by our ushers. We will attempt to keep medical confidentiality (HIPAA practices) and personal privacy by not identifying the infected person(s) when notifying other congregational members. If such an outbreak occurs, we will conform to social distancing-practices and move away from in-person church worship for a two-week minimum while we have the church cleaned and sanitized.
Suggested Start date: Sunday, July 5th, 2020
This gives us almost two weeks to get the plan approved by council before our next meeting (July 6, 2020), handle and integrate any changes to the plan needed, communicate plan to the whole congregation, plan worship, and prepare for that Sunday. A follow-up discussion regarding the worship service will happen the nest night at council meeting.