Michigan Conference leaders offer additional resources for making important decisions around reopening. These include discerning the comfort level of your congregation and ways to share sacraments.
This week the State of Michigan continues phased reopening as the number of new COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths slow and testing availability continues to increase.
Many businesses across the state are opening their doors and increasing services with limited capacity and other health and safety measures in place. This week brought the return of hair, nail, and massage business and the opening of can and bottle returns.
Even as restrictions ease, all of the precautionary measures are still recommended. These include social distancing, the wearing of masks, and limited capacity for both indoor and outdoor gatherings. State health officials still recommend all churches refrain from in-person gatherings and the use of church buildings.
Because different parts of the state are reopening in different ways, Bishop Bard is recommending that as restrictions are lifted, churches carefully consult local and state health departments to determine when it is safe to hold in-person worship services. All church leaders must understand that for high-risk persons, there is no safe time until a vaccine and effective treatments are developed.
The bishop has released a document with specific guidelines for safely reopening, UMC Principles and Directions.
The Conference Staff now offers these additional resources that complement that document and further assist congregations in discerning and developing their reopening plans.
- Reopening Checklist. This Reopening Checklist will aid you as you work through the steps suggested in the UMC Principles and Directions document.
- Reopening Survey. Some local church leaders across the Conference found it helpful to survey their members as they develop their reopening plans. It allows local church leaders to get “a read” on the comfort levels of members. This Reopening Survey Template and “Google Form” Template may serve as a starting point for churches to develop their own surveys. Thanks to Northville: First UMC for providing their survey as a model. If local churches decide to undertake a church-wide survey, it is recommended that they clearly communicate it is a survey meant to provide information to local church leadership as they make decisions, NOT a poll or official vote on whether the church will or will not open.
- Worship, Sacraments, and Special Services. This 36-page booklet, Resuming Care-filled Worship and Sacramental Life During a Pandemic provides recommendations from an ecumenical group of theologians, denominational leaders, and health care professionals, organized by faculty and staff at Candler School of Theology. Local church leaders are encouraged to utilize the document as they develop their reopening plans.
The “Resuming Care-filled Worship” booklet states, “We hear you saying that you want worship to be as rich and fulfilling as possible for those who can gather in the face of or despite the limitations needed so that all can worship safely in this pandemic. Our consultation has developed this resource to help your congregations engage their own care-filled work to resume worship gatherings in the weeks or months ahead.”
Leaders of The Michigan Conference will continue to provide resources as you go about this important ministry of reopening and engagement. Watch for updates on the Health Crisis Resources webpage.