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CDC LIGHTENS RESTRICTIONS AS OF MAY 13, 2021

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) announced that for persons who are fully vaccinated, it is no longer necessary to wear masks in many situations and that distancing is no longer necessary in certain situations. The new guidelines allow for this change due to the efficacy of the vaccines now available to the general public, including young people, age 12 years old and above. This new declaration offers hope for the church and the community that has been struggling for over a year now to keep active and vital.

With these changes come shifts in our approach to the decision-making process around protocols for our local churches. For many months the DSC COVID-19 response team has met and created conference-wide guidelines for all churches, giving basic general guidelines which could be adapted and modified for the local context of each congregation, informed by the CDC and local government agencies.

With the May 13th CDC announcement, the DSC COVID-19 response team shifts the authority and responsibility with local church leadership alongside the guidance of the appointed pastor.

Even as you modify some of your protocols for safety, please honor those in your congregation who are still vulnerable who may need added precautions for physical, mental, and spiritual reasons. Communicate a spirit of welcome to persons masked and unmasked and the importance of personal responsibility in mitigating the spread of the virus. Encourage kindness and thoughtful respect of one another’s distancing and touch needs. Many persons may still be uneasy about moving back to in-person worship and gatherings.

Our DSC Chancellor advises that changes of protocol should be reflected in each local church Comprehensive Re-opening Plan and approved by the church’s official body. Until this step is completed, the provisions of your older Plan still apply and you will be expected to observe the terms of your old Plan.

The District Superintendent continues to offer supportive guidance to the local church. On this website, there are resources available to assist local church leadership in following safe practices. Leadership may use the DSC Re-Open Phases Chart as a reference for safe practices.

COVID-19 Resources Archive

Re-Opening Documents

Find the re-opening guide; sample waivers, facility requests, signage, and documents to apply for an exception.

COVID-19 Information

Bishop Updates, CDC, Brotherhood Mutual, Church Mutual, the DSC FAQ, and COVID-19 Webinars.

Worship & Ministry

How-to guidance for online worship including copyright, grant application, webinar recordings, and shared resources and discounts.

COVID-19 Webinars

Access previously recorded webinars on the legal and financial impacts along with the supporting documents here.

Phase 1 Conditions

The Pastor consults with the local church’s COVID Response Team and the District Superintendent to confirm all conditions have been met.

  1. The 14-day downward trend of daily new cases per 100K population is reported in credibly sourced COVID-19 information sites such as covidactnow.org, and sources specific to your city/town.
  2. Hospitals are reporting ICU Headroom bed use below 60% (or 40% of beds are available).
  3. The Pastor and local church COVID Response Team have confidence that implementing Phase 1 is in the spiritual and physical well-being of the community.
  4. The church has completed its comprehensive Re-Opening Plan (with covenant and waiver options) and it has been approved by the District Superintendent and it has been accepted by the DSC COVID Response Team.

Worship Guidelines

In-person, indoor worship continues to be suspended. Primary method of worship is online/phone/at-home. Only those essential people needed for recording or live streaming the service may gather (no more than 10 people) while maintaining personal protective measures and staying at least 6 feet apart. No singing in-person at this time. Choirs and other musical groups should continue to meet virtually.

  • Outdoor worship of a maximum 50 persons (unless prohibited by local code), following all safety and sanitizing guidelines, may be considered through the District Superintendent.
  • Drive-In worship in which congregants remain in their vehicles may be considered as an exception to your re-opening plan through the District Superintendent.
  • Indoor weddings and memorial services should continue to be postponed or conducted virtually. Outdoor weddings or memorial services of 10 or less persons are allowed.

Church Office and Small Groups

May open for pastor(s) and staff, however, churches should encourage all staff and volunteers to continue to work from home. The safest practice is for pastors and personnel to meet only virtually or by phone. Limit time at church office by appointment.

  • Small-Groups such as for study, fellowship, and other ministries may gather in groups of no more than 10 people for no longer than 1-hour. Safety and sanitizing practices must be practiced along with distancing and wearing face masks.
  • If personnel or volunteers must do in-person work or ministry, no more than 10 people may gather at a time, follow all personal protection guidelines, keep six feet apart, and all surfaces touched must be sanitized.
  • No Food Fellowship Gatherings

Third-Party Facility Use

Church buildings and common areas should remain closed with the exception of permitted groups and other renters that have a contract with the church and where appropriate, have signed a waiver.

  • Church Childcare Services and Schools should continue to follow CDC, state and local guidance regarding operation and if open must follow health department guidelines.
  • In addition, the church buildings may be open as polling site, COVID testing site, blood donation services, and other organizations with contract agreement and following accepted protocol.

Community Outreach

Critical services only for outdoor distribution for walk/drive up. Personnel must follow protocol and have signed a waiver.

  • Food Pantries, church-based health clinics, shelters, or other essential services provided by the church should continue to follow CDC, state and local guidance regarding operation and guidelines

Spiritual Care

Mainly online/phone. Home visits not recommended. If urgent, consider meeting outdoors.

Preparation for Phase 2

Church leaders should start:

  • Review your comprehensive Re-Opening Plan.
  • Gather, train, and organized needed teams for cleaning, preparing spaces, and monitoring use of all areas to be used.
  • Continue to enhance and design services for persons who choose not to attend in-person gatherings.

Phase 2 Conditions

The Pastor consults with the local church’s COVID Response Team and the District Superintendent to confirm all conditions have been met.

  1. All conditions of Phase 1 continue to hold true.
  2. There is no evidence of rebounding COVID-19 case numbers in your local area and a 28-day downward trend in credibly sourced COVID-19 statistics is reported.
  3. Hospitals are reporting ICU Headroom bed use below 50% (or 50% of beds are available).
  4. Pastors and the local church’s COVID Response Team have confidence that implementing Phase 2 is in the spiritual and physical well-being of the community.

Worship Guidelines

Following your approved re-opening plan which includes but is not limited to masks and 6’ social-distancing;

  • In-person indoor worship may be conducted for groups up to 25% occupancy (unless prohibited by government COVID restrictions).
  • Outdoor worship may be conducted for groups in accordance with your comprehensive re-opening plan and government COVID restrictions.
  • Weddings and memorial services may be conducted for groups of less than 25% occupancy (unless prohibited by local code), following the guidelines for sanitizing and avoid food service.

    Church Office and Small Groups

    If possible, churches should continue to encourage all staff and volunteers to continue to work from home. Pastors and personnel should continue to meet virtually or by phone whenever possible.

    If opened, offices must implement sanitation practices for all surfaces and ensure regular and consistent cleaning.

    • Small groups such as for study, fellowship, and other ministries may gather in groups of 25 people or 25% occupancy (whichever is less) for no longer than 1 hour. Safety and sanitizing practices must be practiced along with distancing and wearing face masks.
    • No Food Fellowship Gatherings.

      Third-Party Facility Use

      Church buildings and common areas that reopen must implement sanitizing and social distancing guidelines. Community groups, support groups, and other renters that meet must operate under safety protocols.

      • Daycares and church schools should continue to follow state and local guidance regarding operation and if open must follow health department guidelines. In addition, the church buildings may be open as polling site, COVID testing site, blood donation services, and other organizations with contract agreement and following accepted protocol.

      Community Outreach

      Critical services only for outdoor distribution for walk/drive up. Personnel must follow protocol and have signed a waiver.

      • Food Pantries, church-based health clinics, shelters, or other essential services provided by the church should continue to follow CDC, state and local guidance regarding operation and guidelines.

      Spiritual Care

      Mainly online/phone. Home visits not recommended but if needed, keep brief and meet outdoors if possible.

      Preparation for Phase 3

      Church leaders should evaluate and continue:

      • Cleaning teams, policies, and practices are implemented for all areas being used as churches resume in person work.
      • Keep worship space marked off to ensure people are seated six feet from one another.
      • Continue to pay attention to local guidance regarding case numbers and community spread.

      Phase 2.1 Conditions

      The Pastor consults with the local church’s COVID Response Team and the District Superintendent to confirm all conditions have been met.

      1. No evidence of COVID-19 rebound following the sustained downward trend of daily new cases. The percentage of the population immunized is increasing toward “herd immunity.”
      2. Pastors and the local church’s COVID Response Team have confidence that implementing Phase 2.1 is in the spiritual and physical well-being of the community.
      3. Pastor files a revised copy of their reopening plan with their District Superintendent.

      Worship Guidelines

      Following your approved re-opening plan which includes but is not limited to masks and 6’ social-distancing;

      • Indoor worship/weddings/funerals max occupancy and distancing following state & local guidelines.
      • Mask wearing is necessary even if fully vaccinated.
      • Liturgy and singing, if practiced, are to be minimized (few times and few verses) and at low volume.
      • If gathering in-person for fellowship, limit food to prepackaged and beverage with no self-serve.
      • Outdoor worship is a safer option.
      • Continue online worship option.
      • Continue to limit the duration of meeting time to reduce exposure.

        Church Office and Small Groups

        If opened, office personnel must wear masks, practice distancing, and sanitizing per state/local guidelines; informed by CDC.

        • Continue to limit the duration of small groups meeting time to reduce exposure.
        • Children & youth – wear masks and strongly recommend small number in classes; low-key activity; practice distancing, handwashing, and thorough sanitizing. Outdoor gatherings can be less restrictive.
        • Limit food to prepackaged and beverage with no self-serve.

          Third-Party Facility Use

          Operating only within the third party facility use agreement with COVID addendum, keeping within conditions given by CDC and local authorities.

          Community Outreach

          Operating within church re-open guidelines and conditions given by CDC and local authorities.

          Spiritual Care

          • Keep visits brief and meet outdoors if possible.
          • Wear mask.
          • Make online/phone visit possible as requested

          Preparation for Phase 3

          Church leaders should evaluate and continue:

          • Cleaning teams, policies, and practices are implemented for all areas being used as churches resume in-person work.
          • Continue to pay attention to local guidance regarding case numbers and community spread.

          Phase 3 Conditions

          The Pastor consults with church leadership and the District Superintendent to confirm all conditions have been met.

          1. CDC, State, or Local authorities indicate that restrictions of gatherings, face masks, and distancing are lifted.
          2. No evidence of rebounding case numbers in the local area.
          3. Pastors and church leaders have confidence that implementing Phase 3 is in the spiritual and physical well-being of the community.

          Worship Guidelines

          Worship may resume without restrictions. Congregational and choral singing and liturgy may resume. Continue online worship. Sanitation practices must remain in place.

          Church Office and Small Groups

            Regular church office work may resume, including in-person meetings. Food fellowship events may resume. Sanitation practices must remain in place.

            Third-Party Facility Use

            Church buildings and common areas may resume normal regular practices with good sanitation and cleaning being maintained. Community groups, support groups, and other renters may resume regular meetings and events. Weddings and memorial services may resume.

            Community Outreach

            Food Pantries, church-based health clinics, shelters, or other essential services provided by the church may resume and should continue to follow CDC, state and local guidance regarding operation and guidelines.

            Spiritual Care

            Spiritual care of the congregation may resume without restriction. Continue offering online groups. Continue sanitizing practices.

            Ongoing Work

            Church leaders should continue:

            • Cleaning teams, policies, and practices are implemented for all areas are being used as churches resume regular activities.
            • Churches should take time to review COVID-19 crisis response and evaluate what worked, what didn’t, what can be learned, and practiced should another pandemic occur.
            • Churches should develop a financial backup plan should another crisis occur.
            • Continue to pay attention to local guidance regarding community health and outbreaks.

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