HOW WILL WE KNOW WHEN TO REOPEN?

No one should seek their own good, but the good of others. – 1 Corinthians 10:24
 
The decision on when to re-open for worship and other church activities is complicated.  Each congregation has its own context.  A church of under 50 has different circumstances that a congregation of 600 or more.  Our congregations spread across 39 counties in Southeast Texas.  Some counties have had more cases of COVID-19 diagnosed than others.  One pastor said, “When I can make visits in the hospital again, we will consider reopening.”  Another said, “With all of the precautions, and no singing, and no bulletins, while keeping our social distancing, it just isn’t worth it to gather at this time.”
 
Each Session will need to determine what it best for their church community as they consider the health and well-being of their congregants.  In light of the number of cases in Houston and the surrounding counties, many have chosen to stay closed through the month of May to take a “wait and see” attitude with regard to COVID-19.  READ ARTICLE
 
While we can’t tell you what to do, we can strongly urge you to make your decisions carefully, and to consider remaining closed for a few more weeks.  Let’s not add to the grief that people are already feeling by rushing back to church which could contribute to the spread of this deadly virus.
 

There are so many things to consider for the health and safety of our congregations.  Although it seems that Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has given the go ahead for churches to meet again, there are parameters which you can find here on pages 39-41

New guidelines from the Attorney General’s office are found here 

Another helpful article is found here   
Guidance from the Disciples of Christ suggests four phases:  Assessment, Decision, Communication and Implementation.  Here are more details for each phase: 
Assessment:  What are the groups that use your church facility?  Are you in a place with at least 14 days of declining cases of COVID-19?  Who are the people in your congregation and on your staff who might be vulnerable due to age or health conditions?   
Decision:  What are the local, state and federal guidelines advising?  From what county/zip codes does the staff and congregation travel from to get to the location?  What precautions will you need to take – face masks, gloves, hand sanitizer, disinfectants, taking temperatures, as well as social distancing?  What will you do if people won’t comply?  What are the usual practices of your congregation regarding physical contact – hugs, handshakes?  How will you sanitize the space after each use?  What steps will the congregation take to ensure staff safety, health and well-being, both physical and mental?  What expectations does the congregation have of the staff members?  What are the financial implications if you have to provide personal protective equipment?  Will you need name tags with congregants wearing masks? How will you accommodate those with hearing impairments that need to read lips? What will you do about children’s programming and keeping both students and teachers safe? 
Communication:  How will you communicate your plan to your congregation and your community?  How will you convey the decision making process, and the consequences of not complying?  How will you show care for those that are in the vulnerable population that should not attend in person?  How will this message be clear and concise? 
Implementation:  How will you enforce your decisions if people choose not to comply?  Who, what, when and how will you do cleaning and sanitizing that is effective?  How will you obtain the supplies?   
Here is guidance from the Wisconsin Council of Churches 
 
Know that God is glorified as we worship virtually, and will be pleased with how we cared for the flocks with whose care we have been entrusted!