A Message From the Healthy Church Team
From the Healthy Church Team of Sterling UMC
July 8, 2020
The Virginia Conference of the United Methodist Church has developed a Plan to Return to In-Person Worship and Gatherings. This plan contains requirements that each local church must follow to resume in-person worship and to have other in-person gatherings. Because we put a priority on the safety of every person present, and the community at large, there are a number of rules and protocols that are required by the Conference which we will follow. These are not recommendations and they are not optional.
Our comprehensive plan is based on loving our neighbors by first doing no harm and using the best information and wisdom available from medical, church, governmental, and legal sources. The plan emphasizes four practices that have proven successful in limiting the risk of virus spread: hygiene, physical distancing, face coverings, and screening. (Please see the definitions below for more information.)
The plan requires that each church form a Healthy Church Team (HCT). The Healthy Church Team’s mission is to develop rules for their specific church’s return to in-person events. This includes not only worship services, but all small group gatherings and any activity that occurs on church property. In order to worship or gather, each local church will need the approval of their specific plan by their District Superintendent. Sterling UMC has formed an HCT, headed by Debbie Myers the current Lay Leader, and is in the process of developing a plan.
Until our HCT finalizes the plan, and that plan is approved by the District Superintendent, there will be no in-person worship, events or gatherings of any kind inside any church building, in the parking lots or anywhere on church property. Some staff are working part-time in their church offices but safety measures have been established for them.
Whenever we do resume in-person events, there will be several safety provisions we will be required to follow. Some highlights are provided below.
- Sick people must stay home.
- Face coverings are required for in-person events, both indoor and outdoor. Face coverings must cover the nose and mouth. Everyone will be required to wear a face covering the entire time while inside the church and anywhere on church property. If you cannot wear a face covering or you refuse to wear a face covering, you cannot attend any in-person event.
- Strict physical distancing will be required.
- Choirs and in-person singing, including congregational singing, are prohibited.
- There will be limits and additional requirements for childcare.
- There will be no coffee or fellowship time.
- Restroom usage will be limited.
- Handshakes, hugging or any personal physical contact is strictly prohibited.
- There shall be no exchange of anything between participants and the clergy.
- Personal health self-checks and pre-registration will be required before attendance. Registration provides the church with a record that can be used for contact tracing if someone tests positive for COVID-19.
- These same rules shall apply for events outside the building as well, such as in the parking lot, outdoor worship area, and the garden.
Any individual or group desiring to hold an event on church grounds shall first contact the church office. They will be placed in contact with the HCT to review plans for the event and ensure compliance. The HCT will then forward the plan to the District Superintendent for approval. To gain approval, the participants will be required to comply with all the rules listed above.
Sterling UMC is bound by the rules established by the Conference for the safe return to in-person worship during the COVID 19 pandemic. The HCT asks for your understanding and compliance in order to keep all safe and healthy.
The Healthy Church Team
Debbie Myers, Chair
- Hygiene: the act of cleaning one’s hands with soap and water, or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer (at least 60% alcohol) if soap and water are not available, to remove viruses, bacteria, microorganisms, dirt, grease or other potentially harmful or unwanted substances from the hands. The CDC does not recommend that the general public wear gloves. Unless used properly, wearing gloves in public can be a source of transmission for viruses and other germs and using hand sanitizer on the outside of the glove degrades the glove rendering them ineffective. Gloves must be put on, taken off, and disposed of properly to facilitate protection.
- Physical Distancing: keeping space between yourself and anyone who does not live in your home. The required distance is 6 feet (or two arms’ length).
- Face Coverings: a piece of material that completely covers the mouth and nose or a surgical mask, N95 mask or any other mask used as PPE. The covering/mask must fit snugly, but comfortably on your face, be able to be secured on your face without your hands (i.e., ties or ear loops), made of more than one layer of fabric that you can still breathe through, and, if made of cloth be able to be washed and machine dried without damage or change to the shape.
- Screening: a brief questionnaire to determine if an individual currently has symptoms of COVID-19 or may have been exposed. Screening may also include temperature checks using a no-touch infrared thermometer.