At their meetings this past week, our Back Two Normal Committee and our Congregational Council have both recommended that we not begin in-person worship on September 5 – 6 (Labor Day Weekend) as we had hoped.
In-person worship will not start again until several criteria are met:
● A more adequate number of Worship Volunteers is available.
● A 4 month supply of cleaning supplies is consistently available.
● The statewide percentage of positive test results is at or below an average of 5% for two weeks.
● After achieving these start-up criteria, a date for starting in-person worship will be set by the Back to Normal. Committee which allows enough time for volunteer training, etc.
No one is very happy about this decision as we all want to return to in-person worship. The Back to Normal Committee spent many hours thinking through a safe, welcoming, and efficient plan for in-person worship. We studied and followed recommendations of members of the committee, the CDC, the ELCA, our insurance company, and the Wisconsin Council of Churches.
You can see the reasons for the decision in what needs to happen before we worship together again:
● We have many worship volunteers (ushers, altar guild, communion assistants, cleaners) for each service, but at this point, most teams would need to serve more than once a month. And many people are not ready to return to large group gatherings, because they are caring for at-risk people or are at-risk themselves. We simply need to find new worship volunteers and, frankly, we have needed to do so for a long time (see our specific needs below).
● We learned that an adequate supply of cleaning supplies is still not readily available. There are places in our country that are plagued with outbreaks of COVID-19 that are making it difficult to get cleaning supplies. Our needs and those of other local businesses are often on backorder.
● The volume of virus in our community is still high. People continue to gather in large groups with no concern for keeping the spread of the virus at a minimum. School and the flu season are about to begin. We don’t know how that will affect people and our health care professionals. We don’t want to find out how it affects large gatherings in our worship space.
Worshiping together again does depend on a responsible approach of people and businesses in our community to the effects of COVID-19. It depends on a high level of commitment of all the members of Grace to serve. The Back to Normal Committee will continue to meet to monitor the criteria set for worshiping together again and will set a date after those criteria are met.
We have heard several recent stories about how high-risk members of our congregation were exposed to COVID 19: they had been trying to stay clear of it but couldn’t. If they had caught COVID, it would have almost certainly been fatal. We don’t want those stories to start at Grace.
For similar reasons, members of the Board of Education met last week and decided to postpone the start of in-person Sunday School until the end of January 2021. Beginning on Tuesday, September 8, we plan to have Sunday School resources that follow our 3 year story curriculum available for every Sunday School student at Grace for “curbside pick-up.” Sunday School lessons will start on Sunday, September 13 and will include a recording of the story, a recording of a short message on the story from one of the pastors, and resources for all grade levels for reviewing the story (picked up at church). At some point we will also have Creation Station materials/instructions available for pick up as well … thanks to Jessi Zimmerman.
Yes, Sunday morning (or any time) will be family worship and learning time at home among the families of Grace Lutheran Church until the end of January. In trying communicate the faith to people whose faith consisted of Latin phrases they barely understood, Martin Luther encouraged pastors and parents to help children learn the faith in church and at home … a practice this pandemic is bringing back.
Not a bad thing: families spending time together around God’s Word, the Word that made all the wonders of Creation possible, the Word that makes love possible for those who so desperately need it around the world, the Word that even promises us life everlasting.
Remaining Worship Assistant Needs (based upon serving one time per month):
Saturday Evening Worship
· Ushers: 2 needed plus additional
· Lector/Communion Assistant: 1 needed
plus additional substitutes
● Cleaning Team* members: 14 needed
Sunday Morning Worship (8 am)
· Ushers: additional substitutes
· Lectors: 3 needed
· Communion Assistants: 1 needed
· Altar Guild Members: additional
Cleaning Team* members: 14 needed
Sunday Morning Worship (10:30 am)
· Ushers: 6 needed plus additional
· Lector/Communion Assistants:
additional substitutes needed
· Altar Guild members: substitutes
● Cleaning Team* members: 16 needed
*Cleaning Team Job Description
● We need teams of 4 people following every worship service
● To spray with disinfectant and wipe down the approximately 20 pews reserved for worship, the seating in the overflow area, and the high touch areas in the sanctuary and overflow areas
● With complete teams, cleaning will take less than ½ hour.