Calvary Lutheran Church
Plan of Return from the COVID-19 Pandemic Introduction:
The purpose of this document is to record in writing a plan of return to in-person worship for Calvary Lutheran Church, Northwood Ohio. This document has been prepared by the Church Council of Calvary Lutheran Church. Consideration to the health and protection of all attendees of Calvary were considered in the creation of this document. After much prayerful deliberation, the leadership of Calvary Lutheran thought it best to follow CDC and State of Ohio Guidelines in the formation of this plan of return.
No one wanted to endure this long a time of separation. The situation however has dictated that for the well-being and safety of attendees this separation has been necessary. Many have wondered where God has been in all of this. Many have felt that the government and the church are overreaching in preventing people from attending worship. Others have felt that the government and the church have not gone far enough in protecting all citizens. The leadership of Calvary has attempted to create this document with all these concerns in mind. We as leaders realize that we cannot make everyone happy. Some will be upset by the measures being imposed. Yet it is in the love of our neighbors, their care and protection, that are the motivating factors for this plan of return.
Jesus the founder of our Faith has taught us not to be afraid. The actions being taken in this plan are not born out of fear. Jesus also teaches us to be practical. In the Gospels when Jesus heals people, he tells them to follow the prescribed agreed upon measures for returning to community. Jesus instructs those who are healed to first present themselves to the Rabbis before re-entering community. That presentation of self to the authorities was the rule of the day. Should not we also follow this example of practicality and submit ourselves to the experts of the day?
The leadership of Calvary Lutheran Church recognizes that God has gifted us with His Son Jesus. God also has gifted us with medicine and science. Through these gifts God’s grace shines and we are truly made whole. Humans are also gifted with faith from God. We must trust and believe that WHAT we are being taught from doctors and nurses is a revelation from God. Not to follow the advice of trained medical officials is akin to turning our back on God. We as Christian leaders of this community of faith refuse to do this.
Following the analogy of Doctor Amy Acton, former Director of the Ohio Department of Health this return is like turning on of a dimmer light switch. We cannot simply flip the light switch back “on”; accordingly, these measures are slow, steady, and intentional as we return to life together in worship.
HOW we as a people of God turn up the dimmer switch (doing away with restrictions) will be by consensus of Church Council in coordination with recommendations of Calvary’s Parish Nurse Jackie Langlois, RN.
At the writing of this document a date of return has not been determined. It is important for all attendees to be informed of this plan. The date of return will be announced as soon as leadership is comfortable with the physical cleanliness and safety of our church building. Completion of enhancements to our on-line equipment will also be necessary as this ensures those who will remain home will be able to fully enjoy community activities on-line.
Finally, the leadership recognizes that going forward after the return is completed, and all restrictions lifted, the attendees of Calvary need a plan outlined for what life in community will look like post COVID-19. Included in this plan of return is an outline for new policies and procedures developed during this time of pandemic. This new way of life will continue, as the people of Calvary Lutheran Church, follow the mission that God has called them to in this place and time.
Enforcement: This is a serious virus. This is a virus that does not discriminate. The goal of the COVID-19 virus is to attack and kill humans of all shapes, sizes, creeds, colors, and economic status. All are susceptible to the dangers of COVID-19. What makes this virus so insidious is that without meaning to we can transmit this virus to others without being sick ourselves. The reality of COVID-19 makes the decisions made by leadership in HOW to return especially important. Clear, concise communication between the leadership and the congregation will be important. Letters will be sent out. Each member will receive a copy of this plan. Emails will be sent, Facebook posts will all include the details of this plan along with the expectation that this plan will be followed by ALL attendees of Calvary Lutheran Church. Leadership will do this as gently as possible with the feelings of all taken into consideration. However, should an attendee refuse to comply with these directives they will be encouraged to watch the on-line version of the service, until such time as the congregation’s standards for in-person worship meet those of the member in question. We do not take this decision lightly but feel for the good of all in attendance that these steps are necessary.
Fellowship: All fellowship activities will be suspended. There will be no breakfast before worship and no coffee hour after. We will gather for worship and go home immediately afterward. We will not shake hands or hug. All attendees will wear a mask while in the church building. Stationed at the entrance of the building will be our parish nurse and a person to sign in members (to avoid using paper attendance slips). Masks will be available for those who do not have one. Also, at the door the parish nurse will use a touchless thermometer to check everyone for a fever before entering the building. Hopefully, these restrictions ease with the diminishing of COVID-19 cases in the State of Ohio.
Worship: We will maintain social distancing in the sanctuary. Spouses and families may sit together, but we will maintain six feet between families in the pews. We will not pass the peace in our normal manner. We also will maintain every other pew for seating. This means that the pew in front of and the pew behind will be empty. Hymnals will be removed from the pews to provide for a touchless worship. We will initially not sing upon returning. We will have hymns, but the Director of Music or her designee will sing them alone. No bulletins will be produced. Scrolling information on the media screens will provide needed information, and we will expand our use of email to disseminate information to the congregation. Of course, this means no choir or praise team for the immediate future. Preaching will take place in the pulpit behind a plexiglass screen. Plexiglass will also be placed in front of the keyboard to protect people from potentially harmful aerosol created by singing.
Holy Communion: Communion will take place monthly. Every effort will be made to make sure that the communion is touchless. Wearing gloves Altar care will set up the trays of wine with a space between each cup. We will use wafers poured from the plastic wrappings onto the paten (plate) and covered by the appropriate communion linens. Wearing a mask and gloves the presider and assistant will bring the communion to the pews and moving in between in the empty pews commune each parishioner at their seat. Offerings: Many members have taken advantage of automated giving. We as leaders will continue to encourage all attendees to afford themselves of this convenience. Attendees choosing not to use this option will leave their envelopes in the offering plate at the door when they enter. All offerings will be handled using the requisite PPE.
Holy Baptism: Unless an emergency occurs, we will suspend baptisms for the time being.
Pastoral Visitation: We will continue our current practice of CALLING our homebound members and those who are hospitalized for the foreseeable future.
Cleaning of Sanctuary: The sanctuary and restrooms will be thoroughly cleaned after each worship service. Custodial staff will wear appropriate PPE to protect themselves from infection. These cleanings will be in addition to regular weekly cleaning of the church property.
COVID-19 Exposure: Should an exposure to the virus occur to an attendee who has been in worship, Calvary Lutheran Church will once again suspend in-person worship for at least two weeks to determine if any other attendees contracted the virus. Determination of a positive exposure will also suspend cleaning of the church property by custodial staff, and a professional cleaning company will be retained to clean the church property.
Going Forward: The blessing of this time of separation has allowed the leadership of Calvary Lutheran to reflect on the great gift that is at our disposal, modern technology. Live streaming, recorded messages all have an impact of the lives of the people of this parish. We have discovered that our parish is much larger than we thought. Every week we reach out with the Good News of Jesus to an ever-increasing audience. We are looking to continue to increase our online footprint. Weekly/Dailey online devotions. Weekly Zoom Bible Study. Virtual Sunday school are all currently being developed. God wants us to share the Good News of His Son and we are humbled by the opportunity to serve this special mission, and we are excited to share by utilizing the gifts of technology.
Additionally, leadership is prepared to assist and instruct those members who have little or no experience using technology. We are working on developing a program where every member will able to view online the activities of Calvary Lutheran Church.
We dedicate and commend this work to God our Creator, Jesus Christ our Redeemer, and the Holy Spirit our guide. In the name of Jesus, AMEN.
Unanimously approved by the Church Council of Calvary Lutheran Church, Northwood Ohio. May 29, 2020
Thomas A. Susor Sr., President
Reverend Robert S. Noble, Pastor