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REQUIRED Church Opening PROCESs

Every church is required to present a plan to the District Superintendent and receive approval for any in-person activity. Scroll down to review the three Phases for Re-Opening to understand the process.  The Bishop will announce advancement into each Phase.

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, and shared resources and discounts.

Phases for Re-Opening

Isaiah 43:1-2: But now thus says the Lord, …:  Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.

These days of enduring change in our lives because of the COVID-19 pandemic have taxed us and caused anxiety about the future. But the church endures through all the challenges we are facing. We lean upon God to help us get through this pandemic, and it is because we know and trust that God is with us, that God knows us in our struggles, and that God redeems us by the love of Jesus, that we know we will find our way through this trying time.

As we move cautiously toward re-opening, the churches of the Desert Southwest Conference continue in covenant to follow the guidelines of the re-opening document, “Ministry in the Season of COVID-19 & Beyond.” As we do so, let us always keep our laity and our clergy, our churches and our communities in prayer.

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 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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