Recomended Guidelines from Texas Bishops

Coming Back Together for Worship Resources From the three Texas-Louisiana ELCA Synods

  1. will be great excitement when we are able to come together for worship again. Because we are months away from an effective regimen of treatment, and a year from a vaccine, we will still need to practice excessive hygiene and social disabling. Here are some recommendations. 
  2. Decide as a Congregation Council when you begin worship again. Just because you can does not mean you should. Consider the age and make-up of your congregation to decide when it is right for you to begin in-person worship again. 
  3. Publish your service times and let people know what new practices of physical distancing and hygiene to expect when they return. 
  4. Insist that people stay at home if they’re immunocompromised. Many of our seniors are lonely, bored, and yearning for community in this crisis. They will probably not listen to you. 
  5. Disinfect the public spaces before people arrive, and between each service/gathering. 
  6. Train ushers/greeter to not shake hands or pass out bulletins. If you project, don’t use bulletins at all. If bulletins are necessary, place them, spaced out every-other-pew by Tuesday or Wednesday, as viruses don’t live on the paper for more than 4-5 days. Some live only minutes on paper. We aren’t sure about COVID-19 yet. 
  7. Offering plates are placed on a table as people enter and exit. Greeters stand behind the table warmly welcoming worshippers from a distance. 
  8. Prop open inside and outside doors (and if possible, bathroom doors), so no one touches a doorknob or handle.  Pass the peace with a simple bow to those on your right and left. 
  9. During announcements thank people for coming, and politely remind them not to shake hands or hug yet.  See communion instructions below. 
  10. Offering at the doors as people enter and exit as mentioned above. Use the offering time to talk about the church’s vital ongoing ministries. Let people write checks. What’s still happening? Why does it matter? How are lives being impacted? How is your church serving people during this crisis physically and spiritually? 
  11. Offering counters should use the same protocols as bank tellers, sanitizing frequently, and sitting at a distance.  Greeters stand at the tables as people leave to thank them for coming and answer questions. Encourage greeters to check in with people, listening for needs. 
  12. Continue to adopt/encourage electronic giving. Preparing for Communion

 

 Altar Guild and Communion Assistants must think of their work in terms of food service preparation, like going through a drive-through restaurant. Does anyone in your congregation work in the restaurant industry? Have any had food handing training? They could be a helpful resource. 

We do not recommend parking lot communion until your community has had 14 days of declining cases, and at that point, worship will resume. 

Communion preparers wash hands thoroughly for at least 20 seconds prior to preparing communion. Washing is twice as effective as hand sanitizer.

 Gloves may be used to prepare, but can be deceiving. If a glove touches a contaminated space and then then a plate or tray, it still passes the contamination on. It is best to wash hands thoroughly and frequently. 

Common cup is usually the most sanitary means of communion since most germs are on the hands. This virus, however, is passed on by airborne droplets, and so we recommend not using either common cup or intinction until Phase 3. Plastic and glass individual cups are both equally clean. Glass and reusable plastic cups should be soaked for a minute in soapy water after the service. Consider using a diluted chlorine soak after washing. 

Those preparing communion wash their hands, then place glasses in trays sufficiently spaced so that communicants can take their cup without touching the others. After filling the cups with wine the trays are placed on the altar.  Plastic-wrapped wafers can be emptied onto patens without touching them. There should be separate patens for each communion assistant distributing bread. 

The wafer is safer: We do not recommend using bread for a while, whether home made or from the store. Bread requires more handling than wafers. 

Pastor and communion assistants should wash hands during the offering. Washing is significantly more effective than hand sanitizer. (You’ve touched stuff during the service.) 

The pastor should consecrate the elements without touching them. The fraction and elevation are optional and should be omitted for the time being. 

Those distributing wafers should try to avoid touching communicants’ hands as much as possible. 

Those distributing wine only touch the trays, holding them out for communicants to take a cup. 

It is best, for a number of reasons, for communion assistants to commune last. This keeps them attentive to hygiene during distribution, and also makes the congregation aware that communion assistants are confident. 

Communing in one kind is acceptable and appropriate. The crucified and risen Christ is fully present for them in, with, and under one element. (UMG 44D)

 

Worship Resources Worship resources are available on the synod webpage and also on the ELCA website: https://www.elca.org/publichealth. Below are a litany of return, prayers and so forth you may use or adapt.

 

 
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