for Worship and Other Meetings
Beginning with 10:15am Sunday worship on May 2, our church is resuming worship and other gatherings inside the church building again!
With increased vaccinations, low infection rates, and in response to inquiries, our church council accepted the recommendations of a congregational planning team during its recent meeting on April 13. Previously, most members had expressed the preference to worship online or in cars, and leaders had deemed that opening attendance to all safely would have been difficult during the height of the pandemic.
Guidelines from government and church officials will be followed for preventing spread and contraction of the harmful and deadly Covid-19 virus. Requirements include the following and other precautions taken:
Capacity limit is set at 50 by IDPH. Any persons who are fully vaccinated are not counted in calculation of the capacity limit.
Everyone over the age of 2 must wear face masks covering both mouth and nose snugly. Extra masks are available to those who arrive without their own. Only worship leaders who are fully vaccinated or maintain safe distance may remove face coverings.
Physical distancing of 6 feet between persons, except members of the same household, when interacting, waiting in line, or seated.
Self-monitor for symptoms, stay home, and seek medical care if you have medical issues, feel sick, or show signs of the virus.
Out of mutual love and to be a welcoming church, we want to make sure that everyone can feel comfortable with the option to attend, regardless of their vaccination status, health vulnerability, or personal level of concern.
Services will continue to be also live-streamed on YouTube. Homebound and special care persons will still receive mailings with worship texts and sermons.
Christian Education for youth and adults resumes in church at 8:45am on May 2. Children’s Sunday School will return in the fall. Beginning May 3, Monday Bible Study will be available both in-person and on Zoom. Other groups who would like to meet in the building again are asked to please check dates and times with our Administrative Assistant Marina Mondragon: email@example.com.
Schedules for when the pastor and other staff will be working at the church with regular office hours has yet to be determined based on safety and practicality. If you need assistance please contact them directly for the time being and in the future.
Below is a detailed description of our tentative transition plan, and answers to frequently asked questions.
We thank everyone for your patience, support and understanding during this last year, and ask for your compliance that allows our congregation to transition back to normal. We will announce changes as they become either necessary for restricting gatherings or possible for removing precautions.
Thanks be to God for the renewal of fellowship for worship, learning, and service at St. Paul’s this Easter season!
Plan for Resuming In-Church Gatherings
Since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, St. Paul’s has followed government, science and church guidance, and adapted our congregation’s ministries of worship, learning and service faithfully, caringly and creatively. With increased vaccinations, our church council accepted the following plan for resuming gatherings at church:
St. Paul’s is planning to resume gatherings inside church on Sunday, May 2. This will give us time to share announcements and make preparations.
Based on official mitigation guidelines from CDC, IDPH, and ELCA we will require the following restrictions:
-- Capacity limit is set at 50. Any persons who are fully vaccinated do not need to be counted as part of this limit.
-- All must wear face masks covering both mouth and nose snugly at all times. Extra masks are available to those who arrive without their own. Only worship leaders who are fully vaccinated or maintain safe distance may remove face coverings.
-- Physical distancing of 6 feet between persons, except members of the same household, when interacting, waiting in line, or seated.
We will ask everyone to self-monitor for symptoms, stay home, and seek medical care if you have medical issues, feel sick, or show signs of the virus:
-- Fever or chills, Cough, Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, Fatigue, Muscle or body aches, Headache, Loss of taste or smell, Sore throat, Congestion or runny nose, Nausea or vomiting, Diarrhea.
-- Contact tracing is done through the local health department.
If persons voluntarily show their full vaccination with the date of administration to the church office we are able to increase attendance limits.
For services of worship we will take the following procedures to limit possible spread of the virus:
-- We will strive to accommodate everyone at one service time, Sundays 10:15am (9:30am, Jun-Aug). Some members are willing to give up their seats if the limit is exceeded. Speakers in the nursery and downstairs kitchen enable hearing the service.
-- A greeter will welcome everyone at the west outside door by the education/office wing entry to provide instructions and masks if needed.
-- Markings will be on the floor to indicate safe spacing if there is a line for waiting to be seated.
-- Bulletins and prepackaged Communion elements will be on a table in the back of the sanctuary for each worshiper to pick up. Hymnals and other items will be removed to avoid contamination.
-- Offerings may be deposited in a stationary plate upon arriving or leaving.
-- Seating will be spaced for distancing by direction of ushers. If stretching out arms to each other they should not touch.
-- The services will be shortened.
-- Communal speaking or singing is highly discouraged because it greatly increases transmission. Pastor or others will sing, read, and speak for the congregation.
-- Based on family preference, children may come forward and sit in the front pew during their time with the pastor.
-- Communion will be taken at one’s seat, and at least during the Easter season offered every week. A waste bin for empty cups will be at the exit.
-- Doors will be kept open for extra ventilation.
-- Worshipers will be dismissed by ushers to avoid congestion when leaving the building at the end of the service. Gatherings in unrelated groups are discouraged, but may take place in a safe manner outdoors.
-- Restrooms are available. Hands must be washed. Use paper towels to wipe surfaces and touch door handles or light switches.
-- The services will continue to be live-streamed online each week.
Church and community groups may resume meeting if they follow capacity and mitigation guidelines. Scheduling is requested through the church office.
-- Adult Sunday School will resume 8:45am on May 2. Children’s Sunday School will wait until the fall.
-- The nursery will be available but not be supervised. All health precautions are required, and personal disinfecting or hand washing is strongly encouraged.
-- Monday Bible Study classes will resume May 3 and still be streamed and recorded on Zoom during the current series at least.
Schedules for office hours of the pastor and other staff at church have yet to be discussed and determined based on safety and practicality factors.
Cleaning of high-touch areas will be done regularly by our custodian throughout the week. Hand sanitizers are available throughout the building.
While these procedures will not feel normal they are a bridge to allow for safe gathering of those who wish to attend in person at this time. Additional measures may be implemented, and our church council will announce changes as restricting gatherings becomes necessary again or the removal of precautions is finally possible.
Answers to FAQ
What is Covid-19?
The novel Coronavirus of 2019 is an infectious disease for which humans have no natural immunity. Thankfully, vaccines have been developed in record time to provide protection and diminish prevalence.
Why is this virus so dangerous?
This virus leads to severe health issues, particularly affecting breathing, long-term problems even after recovery, and has caused many deaths worldwide. Symptoms only show days after getting infected, and some persons remain asymptomatic, so that many others can be infected without awareness.
How is it transmitted?
Covid is spread mostly through tiny droplets from breathing. It is either inhaled or gets into the body through touch, especially mouth, nose, and even eyes.
How can we protect each other?
The best ways to prevent spread to others and getting infected yourself is staying away from others who may be carriers, keeping a safe distance of at least 6 feet, wearing face coverings over nose and mouth, disinfecting surfaces, and washing hands.
Why has there been no worship in church?
With the declaration of pandemic, government officials ordered an initial lockdown for everyone to stay away from group gatherings. Since then, our congregational leaders deemed it difficult to keep everyone safe inside the sanctuary, and most members expressed their preference to watch worship online or attend drive-in services. While we miss the personal fellowship with each other, we have also enjoyed some new creative experiences.
Why return now?
With increased vaccinations among members, based on low infection rates in the area, and in response to inquiries, the time had come to make plans for resuming in-person gatherings if it could be safely and practically done at St. Paul’s.
A representative group met to discuss requirements and possibilities and made recommendations to the church council which accepted the plan at its April 13 meeting.
The resumption of worship and other meetings by May 2 makes it possible to share announcements and complete preparations.
Why do we need to observe restrictions?
Until enough people in the general population are fully vaccinated the virus is still a potent threat, will continue to spread, cause severe illnesses and fatalities, and prevent businesses from operating, leisure activities, or gatherings like worship.
Based on scientific recommendations, guidelines are provided by the CDC and Illinois Department of Health. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America has provided ecumenically developed instructions that adapt them for congregations to make decisions about when and how to hold services of worship.
Until vaccination levels are high and infection rates low enough, it is not safe to gather without certain restrictions that protect everyone. St. Paul’s wants to be welcoming to anyone regardless of whether they are vaccinated or not, and so out of love for each other we ensure that everyone feels safe by wearing masks, physically distancing and other measures.
When will we return to normal?
According to the Restore Illinois plan, which is using recommendations by health experts, Phase 5 will remove capacity limits when 50% of residents 16 and older have been vaccinated and stable or declining case metrics are recorded during a 28-day period.
Once government officials like our county health department announce that conditions are right, St. Paul’s church council will review information and decide for our congregation. A true return to normal is only possible when so-called herd immunity is created through vaccinations.
Will services still be available online?
Yes, we plan to live-stream worship permanently for those who are not ready yet to return, prefer worshiping at home, or are not able to join us, like homebound for example. Online worship is also available on demand, and a means to reach out to non-members.
What about church and community groups?
Christian Education on Sundays, Bible Study, and other meetings by church members or community groups may resume if those who attend follow mitigation guidelines. Children’s Sunday School is waiting until the fall. All others are asked to please clear dates and times with the church office to avoid scheduling conflicts.
Is all this an arbitrary decision by the pastor?
No, Pastor Stefan Munker has been concerned about the well-being of all inside and outside of our church, but decisions for St. Paul’s have been made prayerfully and collaboratively with church council leaders by following official recommendations and taking feedback from our members into consideration.
"Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
and his courts with praise.
Give thanks to him, bless his name."
(Psalm 100:4, NRSV)