Protocols For Public Worship During Covid-19
These protocols have been developed based on current guidance issued by the World Health Organization (WHO), the U.S. centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the MN Department of Health, and at the recommendation of the MN North District. The following precautionary measures will be put in place at Immanuel and St. Matthew Lutheran Church:
1. We will be operating at 50% total seating capacity. For Immanuel that is around 60 people in the sanctuary and up to 25 in the basement, While St. Matthew’s can hold around 90 in the sanctuary and about the same in the fellowship hall. If the first service has reached maximum capacity, we will ask for people to attend the second service at St. Matthew’s. If needed offering more services will be considered.
2. Pews will be roped off so that people cannot sit closer than 6 feet (unless they are members of the same household living together).
3. The sanctuary will be thoroughly sanitized before and after services. Hand sanitizer will be available in multiple places.
4. People will be ushered to their seats from the front of the sanctuary to the back and then released from back of the sanctuary to the front.
5. Windows will be opened. Doors will be propped open before and after service. An elder/usher will assist you when necessary to help maintain physical distancing.
6. Signs will be posted concerning social distancing and sanitation requirements and reminders will be offered.
7. Collection plates will not be passed person to person. They will be placed near the entrances to the sanctuary.
8. We encourage you to bring your own protective wear, including face masks if you so choose. We also have masks available to take with you.
9. There will be no physical greetings until we can safely do so again.
10. Signs and other instructions will be put up to encourage safe practices (e.g. cough or sneeze into a shirtsleeve, handkerchief, or tissue; avoid touching the eyes, nose, and mouth to help slow the spread of germs).
11. Congregants will be asked to take their bulletins home with them. Please do not leave in the pew or back of church.
12. There will be no fellowship time after services; no coffee, cookies, etc. We also ask that if you intend to visit before or after church please do so in the parking lot outside in order to keep people from being clustered too close together.
13. There will be no Sunday School or Bible Class during this phase. Although we hope to have both again in the Fall or provide some online alternatives for the time being.
14. An elder/usher will dismiss the congregation at the end of the service beginning at the back pew and moving towards the altar, so as to ensure 6 feet of distance between families.
15. If you are not comfortable attending in person, we will continue to provide online services. We also ask that if you are exhibiting any symptoms or are considered extremely high risk (breathing issues, underlying health conditions that are known to be higher risk, etc…) please consider worshiping from home and setting up a time to receive communion privately with pastor.
16. If we see an outbreak in our community we will re-evaluate whether we should continue meeting in-person, if pastor falls ill and is unable to conduct service due to Covid-19, in person worship will be suspended and people will be directed to a sister congregation’s online service for a short time.
17. As of July 26th per the executive order 20-81 We are now requiring masks to be worn inside the church building, with special considerations being given to those with breathing issues. For more information you can click the links below
Executive Order 20-81
Face Covering requirements and recommendation of Executive order 20-81
Frequently asked Questions regarding Executive order 20-81
Special Notes About Holy Communion:
The Lord’s Supper will be offered at both Sunday services. We will release people one pew at a time and serve whole households together. An elder/usher will assist in ushering communicants to the altar. Pastor will be continually sanitizing between distributing both elements. Communicants are asked to remain standing and make a bowl with their hands and Pastor will place the host and individual cup into the communicant’s hands. Communicants are asked not to touch any of the trays. All communion and handrails will be sanitized between each table served, so communicants will be asked to wait until they are ushered forward.
While I know these protocols appear very restrictive, we are complying with these suggestions in order to prevent any possible harm to our neighbors and loved ones. We do this not out of compulsion, but out of compassion for those who are vulnerable to such a virus. I pray that many of these protocols will no longer be necessary in the near future and that we will be able to greet each other with welcome arms soon. I appreciate your patience and understanding, this has been a difficult journey and I cannot begin to thank you for all the support and kindness you have shown to me. May the Lord bring a swift end to this virus and may He continue to protect and guide His church. We hope to see many of you on Sunday!
Rev. Justin Hesterman