Plan for May - June 2020, New Life Lutheran
Pastor Carmen Retzlaff, April 27, 2020 ~ approved by Leadership Team
This is a preliminary plan, based on the April 16, 2020 “White House Guidelines for Opening Up America Again” , which outlines three phases of re-opening, based on local public health markers of declining number of identified COVID-19 cases, and the April 22 “Coming Back Together As a Congregation Guidelines” issued by the bishops of the three Texas synods of the ELCA, and the April 27 guidance from “The Governor’s Report to Open Texas.” This plan will need to be flexible and updated regularly, as new data is available, and local, state and national guidelines are issued. (May 5 note: new guidelines are coming out about singing, which will be addressed; to date, cases continue to decline since peak April 28 in Hays County - we continue to monitor.)
The White House phased opening guidelines are based on a marker of downward trajectory of documented cases within a 14-day period in your area. As of today (April 27), cases in Hays County are still increasing: see that data here. This means that we are at least two weeks away from the recommended time to gather again, according to Texas bishops.
Interpretation of the White House phases for congregations from the ELCA bishops of the North Texas-Northern Louisiana, Texas-Louisiana Gulf Coast, and Southwestern Texas Synods, according to April 22 “Coming Back Together As a Congregation Guidelines”:
Phase 1: Once your region has had 14 days of declining cases, you may resume in-person worship, weddings and funerals with strict social distancing protocols (sitting every-other pew, six feet apart, no hand shake, passing of the peace, etc.). Continue to strongly discourage vulnerable individuals from attending. No visits to hospitals or senior care facilities. No schools, daycare or youth activities. Encourage church staff to work from home as much as possible. Fellowship activities are suspended still. Stay in phone contact with seniors and homebound members of your congregation and community.
Phase 2: Once your region has had 28 days of declining cases without resurgence, you may resume in-person worship, weddings and funerals with moderate social distancing protocols. Strongly discourage vulnerable individuals from attending. No visits to hospitals or senior care facilities. Schools, daycare, camps and organized youth activities may resume. facilities. Continue to encourage church staff to work from home when possible. Fellowship hour and activities may resume with maximum social distancing. Stay in phone contact with seniors and homebound members of your congregation and community.
Phase 3: Once your region has had 42 days of declining cases without resurgence, you may resume in-person worship, weddings and funerals with limited social distancing protocols. Strongly discourage vulnerable individuals from attending. Visits to hospitals and senior care facilities may resume with great care. No schools, daycare or youth activities. Church staff may work without restrictions. Fellowship may resume with limited social distancing. Resume homebound communion.
If cases peak in Hays County as early as the start of May, this would put us at the recommendations at mid-May, at Phase 2 at the start of June, and Phase 3 around mid-June. This would be the earliest scenario.
Proposal for Earliest Scenario for worship on the land at New Life.
The plan below aims to be very conservative to protect the health of those most vulnerable among us, and still offer ways to begin to gather safely. Phase 1 is designed so that our primary worship is still online - prayers are offered on the land as a supplement. Phase 2 moves primary worship back to the land, where we will record the message to post later that evening (by 7 PM). Phase 3 resumes elements of worship including communion and light snacks - with appropriate food handling measures, and children’s message.
This plan also allows and encourages us to keep Damian employed as our pianist. This is a hard time for musicians, and Damian has been very faithful to New Life. Lately this has included lots of recording for online services. He has said he is ready to come back in May, if able. Having a paid musician always makes it easier for worship planning, since volunteers sometimes are unavailable. This may be especially true in coming months.
Phase 1 - Worship Online & Prayers on the Land - 9:00 AM Sundays - earliest date Sunday May 17-May 31.
We continue worship online at 9:00 AM Sundays as primary worship service through May. For those who wish, there will be a prayer service on the land at 9:00 AM. This will not include the sermon or Gospel reading (recorded previously and available online), but will include other readings, prayers, songs.
No communion, no food, no Bible studies. Bible studies continue on Zoom Sundays through May 17, then break for summer. Peace is done without touching. No children’s circle and message.
Setup: Fifty chairs set up in tent/ten at oak tree chapel (we have enough room for 20-30 to sit on tables & benches, spaced widely apart - chairs to be left for those who are not comfortable on benches/tables). Chairs spaced 6 feet apart (families may choose to cluster theirs or sit at one picnic table). No hymnals or bulletins (songs taught/repeated or printed on chalkboard)(to be updated with current guidance - possibly no singing). Offering at table at entrance, along with hand sanitizer, gloves: no other tables set up. Minimal sound setup: only one person does this. A second hand washing station will be set up in the tent, and a third at the oaks (in addition to the one at the bathroom).
If you are sick (including and especially cough and/or fever), you may not participate. If you are immunocompromised or at-risk in any way, you are urged not to participate. Wear a mask.
Phase 2 - Modified Worship on the Land & Message Posted Sunday Evening Online 9:00 AM, 7:00 PM Sundays - earliest dates first half of June.
Shift back to primary worship on the land at normal time. More minimal online offering (recording of message during worship) available at 7:00 PM.
No communion, no food, no Bible studies. Peace is done without touching. No children’s message.
Setup: same as above.
If you are sick (including and especially cough and/or fever), you may not participate. If you are immunocompromised or at-risk in any way, you are urged not to participate.
Phase 3 - Full Worship on the Land & Message Posted Sunday Evening Online 9:00 AM, 7:00 PM Sundays - earliest dates last half of June.
Communion resumes, children’s message may resume, as may light snacks. Peace continues without touching.
Setup: Number of chairs and distance between to be determined by guidelines at that time. No hymnals or bulletins (songs taught/repeated or printed on chalkboard. Offering at table at entrance, no other tables set up.
Summer (July-August) will continue as normal: we do not usually have Bible study and other social activities in the summer. Gathering for fireworks watching the Fourth of July may be possible, will be determined closer to that date.
Supplies for additional hand washing stations are ordered - those will be set up when those arrive.
Pentecost - graduation and confirmation celebrations being moved - confirmation on June 7; graduattion/sendoff August 9 (updated as of May 6). No congregational mid-year meeting (to be rescheduled, possibly as part of Fall kick-off activities).
Community service Sunday to work on the land was planned for March, pushed to April, then May. Now scheduled for May 24. Possibly this will be a day to come and work on the land, maintaining distance. Also this will be the day to turn in dog & cat toys made for our May community service project for PAWS Shelter, and for LIRS school kits Highway cleanup will be rescheduled for sometime in the summer (unless Leadership decides to discontinue this sponsorship).
Gardening Camp is scheduled for August 10-13. Whether that happens as planned will need to be decided based on meeting guidelines as they develop, and volunteer availability.