Building Reopening Plan
On May 18, 2020, the State of Delaware announced that it would allow expanded church worship services beginning Wednesday, May 20, 2020, and provided written “Guidance for Communities of Worship” setting out the restrictions under which services may be held. In response, this TPC Building Reopening Plan was prepared, taking into account the State of Delaware Guidance, as well as the CDC Guidelines for Communities of Faith, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) recommendations, and a review of current guidance developed by other churches around the United States.
Reopening the building will be an evolving process, and the reopening plan likewise will evolve, as we receive new guidance from the State, the CDC and the larger church.
This initial plan contemplates only limited and highly controlled use of those parts of the building necessary for Sunday worship services. The Pastor, in consultation with the Session, will have discretion periodically to make reasonable modifications to this Plan to facilitate use of the building for worship, within State, CDC and PCUSA Guidelines.
This document is intended to offer neither medical nor legal advice. We cannot guarantee that following this plan will prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the course of worship services. Our understanding of this disease is dynamic. The current scientific data are but clues in a gradually unraveling mystery. Thus, members of the congregation must prayerfully make decisions about when to enter the building and when to allow their minor children to do so.
Our goal in creating and implementing this plan is to open the church while doing what we can to apply currently accepted best practices to prevent the transmission of COVID-19 in the church environment. The success of this plan depends in large measure on the willingness of everyone who enters the building to do their part to comply with these rules and procedures, for their own safety and for the safety of everyone they come in contact with. Opening the building is not a sign that gathering together in large groups is now without risk. COVID-19 continues to make inside gatherings a concern. The only way a church reopening works is if we all use the methods for self-protection that have been in practice -- wearing face masks, maintaining social distancing, and washing hands.
General Guidelines for Worship Services
Sunday Worship Services will continue to be broadcast for those who cannot attend an in-person service. Those at a higher risk for severe-illness from COVID-19 should remain safe at home. Current guidance suggests that those over 65, in addition to those with certain chronic health problems, are more at risk for serious complications from COVID-19. Those over 65, even if in good health, should consult their doctor before deciding whether to attend in person services.
The Congregation will maintain the following practices:
Face coverings must be worn by those over the age of 12 and will be optional for those ages 2 and 12. An exception will be made for those who have medical conditions that prohibit the wearing of a face covering.
A 6-foot distance must be maintained at all times between those who do not live together, including staff, volunteers, members, the people served, visitors inside and outside, while seated and standing. No handshaking, hugging or kissing is permitted. Children must remain with their parent/guardian at all times.
Initially services shall be restricted in size to accommodate CDC social distancing requirements.
Building Safety Protocols
Surfaces in public spaces touched by people during the service shall be disinfected, according to CDC standards, between each service/gathering. Cleaning requirements of public spaces, including products used, surfaces to be cleaned, and length of time needed to clean, shall follow CDC guidelines.
Surfaces touched in non-public spaces (offices, hallways and stairwells not used by members served or visitors), such as desks, phones, light switches, and faucets will be cleaned and disinfected at least daily during use.
If necessary, service times will be staggered to permit cleaning the public spaces before the next service begins according to CDC guidelines.
The names of those in attendance will be recorded so contact tracing can be completed by public health officials if someone becomes ill with COVID-19. Hand sanitizing stations will be provided at all entrances including those used exclusively by staff.
Signs will be posted at each public entrance stating the following:
Please do not enter if: you are at high-risk for contracting COVID-19; have a cough, fever, shortness of breath; or have been exposed to anyone who has tested positive with COVID-19 in the past 14 days;
Individuals age 13 and up are required to wear a cloth face covering to enter and remain inside (cloth face covering is recommended but not required for children ages 2-12);
Social distancing of 6 feet or more is required to remain inside – no handshaking, hugging, or kissing is allowed (however, families and members of the same household may remain together).
Signage or physical indicators shall be used to ensure social distancing rules are followed in 6 foot increments.
Lobby, Bathrooms and Coatroom
The water fountain will be unplugged and marked unavailable for use.
No refreshments including beverages will be served after worship.
Bathroom use will be limited to one family at a time (post signs or provide a monitor).
The coat room will not be open for use.
Darley Wing/Classrooms/Naaman’s Wing/Fellowship Hall
No Nursery Care, Children’s Worship, Children’s Church, Cherub Choir, Children’s Choir, Youth Choir or Summer Church School will be held. The Darley Wing and Naamans Wing along with the Fellowship Hall will be generally off limits before, during and after the service. Signs will be posted and doors will be closed.
The Fellowship Hall will remain closed until further notice except as needed by staff.
Much of the necessary information for the service will be displayed on the screen so that bulletins will not be necessary.
Seating will be restricted to comply with 6-foot distancing.
Exiting the sanctuary after worship will be coordinated to avoid crowding. You are asked to go outside upon leaving the service to avoid gatherings in the Narthex and lobby.
Those leading worship may remove their face covering to address the congregation from the pulpit or altar but must remain at least 10 feet from all others. The speaker must put the face covering back on and use hand sanitizer immediately after speaking if he or she touched the pulpit or other surfaces while speaking. Worship leaders who remain 10 feet from all others at all times during the service are not required to wear a face covering.
Microphones will be in stands and will not be handheld. Lavalier microphones will be available and will be sanitized after each use.
There will be no choir and no congregational singing. Musicians may participate and may remove their face covering while maintaining 10 foot distance from all others. Instrumentalists may participate.
The length of the service will be limited to 1 hour per state mandate. Exit from the sanctuary will be staggered to avoid crowding.
Offering plates will be placed at the rear of the sanctuary. The service will include a call for offering, but no passing of the plates.
There will be no communion celebrated for the time being, although we will continue to explore and discuss potential procedures to celebrate communion in a safe manner.
Baptisms, initiations, weddings and funerals will be permitted if the services can be performed following the guidelines above. The officiant shall use hand sanitizer before beginning the baptism, and before and after anointing the candidate for baptism, and the officiant shall not hold a candidate for baptism. The officiant must wear a mask while within 6 feet of any other individuals during the ceremony.
While wedding ceremonies are permissible, wedding receptions are not permissible unless they follow guidelines for other social gatherings provided during the State of Emergency. The officiant must wear a mask while within 6 feet of any other individuals during the ceremony.
For questions about guidance from the State of Delaware, contact the Division of Public Health at 1-866-408-1899 or email DPHCall@ delaware.gov
1. High COVID-19 Attack Rate Among Attendees at Events at a Church — Arkansas, March 2020 https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/69/wr/mm6920e2.htm?s_cid=mm6920e2_w&referringSource=article Share
2. State of Delaware Phase One Information
3.Wisconsin Council of Churches Guidelines https://www.wichurches.org/2020/04/23/returning-to-church/
4.Germany discusses banning singing in houses of worship
5.Group singing (anywhere) https://www.middleclassartist.com/post/nats-panel-of-experts-lays-out-sobering-future-for-singers-no-vac cine-no-safe-public-singing
6. Washington Choir https://www.latimes.com/world-nation/story/2020-03-29/coronavirus-choir-outbreak
7. Unitarian Universalists (May 21 to gather) https://www.uua.org/safe/pandemics/gathering-guidance
8. Charlotte NC UMC/PCUSA pastors (just because we can, doesn’t mean we should) https://www.charlotteobserver.com/news/coronavirus/article242797901.html
9.PCUSA Guidelines https://www.pcusa.org/covid19/
10. COVID risks https://erinbromage.wixsite.com/covid19/post/the-risks-know-them-avoid-them