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Dear Friends in Christ,
As things around us begin to open up again, the Congregation Council has been discussing how it is that we might begin to gather together for worship and other gatherings in person again. The Council appointed a subcommittee to look at recommendations for the Center for Disease Control, the Iowa Department of Public Health, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and numerous epidemiologists and researchers who have looked into all things worship as they have sought to put forth recommendations that keep the health and safety of our congregation at the forefront as we consider the steps forward. The COVID-19 Subcommittee gave its recommendations to the Congregation Council, and on May 27, the Council approved the guidelines that the Subcommittee set forth.
Our plan for coming together again for in-person gatherings has four phases. There are criteria that must be met before transitioning from one phase to the next, and the timing of meeting the criteria is unknown to us. When the criteria are met, the COVID-19 Subcommittee will make a recommendation to the Congregation Council to begin the process of moving from one phase to the next, and at that point, plans for when to begin the next phase will be made. One thing that must be clear is that it is possible that, depending on the circumstances, we might not only move forward by phases, but should there be an outbreak or a resurgence of the virus, we could also move back to a previous phase.
We have the good fortune of having an outdoor chapel which might afford us the opportunity to gather for in-person worship outside sooner than we would be comfortable gathering for worship within the church building. This will be our first phase. The criteria for beginning outdoor worship includes 14 days with a rolling average of no more than two new cases per day in Scott County and Clinton County, and the hospitals in the Quad Cities must be able to treat all patients without crisis care.
In this phase, the building will remain closed for worship and we will also continue online worship. The following health and safety precautions will be put in place:
Changes to the liturgy will include:
During this phase, all small group classes and gatherings will be continue to be online only. And, the church building will be open only to those on staff and those who need to access the building for essential services as is the case today following existing measures and precautions.
While we have detailed plans for Phases 2 and 3, we are only highlighting the main points here as this will not be an immediate reality for us.
Phase 2 will allow us to begin worship indoors and small groups will be able to meet outside on the church property. We will consider this phase once we have had 14 days of declining cases in Scott and Clinton counties and the Quad City hospitals must be able to treat all patients without crisis care. In this phase, there will continue to be strict health and safety precautions observed, and RSVPs for worship will be vital as the number of worshipers allowed for any service will be limited to allow for adequate physical distancing. Online worship and gatherings will continue to be available for those who need or choose to remain at home.
Phase 3 will allow us to begin thinking about reducing some of the restrictions on worship, and small groups will be allowed to gather inside of the building. We will consider this phase once we have had 14 more days of declining cases in Scott and Clinton counties, and the Quad City hospitals must be able to treat all patients without crisis care. In this phase, we will reconsider restrictions and our ability to celebrate the sacraments, we will continue RSVPs, if necessary. Small groups will be able to make reservations for space in the church so that we can adequately clean before the next group uses the space. Online worship and gatherings will continue for those who need or choose to remain at home.
Our final phase would be Phase 4, which would be resuming all of the former functions of the congregation in our “new normal.” The requirements and the impact on ministry for this phase will be reviewed by the COVID-19 Subcommittee and the Congregation Council once we enter Phase 3.
We strongly encourage you to take the time to review the full Guidelines for Returning to In-Person Gatherings as this document also contains answers to Frequently Asked Questions and provides links to the resources that were used to develop these guidelines. The full guidelines can be found on our website (www.faithlutheraneldridge.com), in the boxes on the bench outside of the church, or can be mailed to you at your request.
While we are putting all of the precautions into place in order to reduce the risk of being exposed to COVID-19 with in-person gatherings, please know that we cannot reduce the risk to zero, so you are assuming some amount of risk if you gather in person. Therefore, we strongly encourage you to do what is right for yourself and your household. We strongly encourage you to stay home if you are in the vulnerable population as defined by the CDC until we are at our last phase – our ‘new normal’. To protect one another, we also ask that you stay home if you or anyone in your household are ill.
One last note: if there is anything that we have learned in the midst of this is that things can change at any time along the way. Therefore, there might be changes to how we reopen, including going back to a previous phase if cases spike, closing the building if a person with COVID-19 enters the building, or reassessing our guidelines based on new guidelines set forth by other authorities. Please be patient with us as we work to provide safe and healthy worship for those who gather as Faith Evangelical Lutheran Church.
We know that you may have questions as you digest this information and look at the Guidelines document. Please do not hesitate to reach out to the pastors or members of the Congregation Council.
In the midst of all of this, we remember that we are all one in Christ Jesus, and we continue to lift praise to God however it is that we are gathering in Christ’s name.
To read the complete guidelines, with FAQs and links to resources, click here.