Coronavirus: Recommendations for Churches

by | Mar 13, 2020

Provided by Dr. Paul Halverson, Founding Dean of the Richard M. Fairbanks School of Public Health at IUPUI.

UPDATE: This post was written prior to COVID related closures and stay-at-home orders. However, as churches begin to reopen for worship, the advice given here might still be very helpful.

While many churches have made the difficult decision to suspend in-person gatherings, including worship services, in light of the coronavirus epidemic, many continue to meet.

Whether you are still meeting, or are unsure how to handle things like communion, cleaning, or offering when you resume worship, we wanted to provide some guidance.

It’s important to hear from our public health experts at times like these to be sure we’re keeping our congregations safe and healthy. So, we reached out to Dr. Paul Halverson, Founding Dean of the Richard M. Fairbanks School of Public Health at IUPUI, to provide the following guidelines for churches.

  1. Pursuant to Governor Holcomb’s order, all non-essential public gatherings should be limited to less than 250 people.
  2. Make hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol available at all entrances to the church and create the expectation that everyone should use upon entering by posting a volunteer at the entrance to direct everyone to use the sanitizer.
  3. Don’t shake hands or hug. Use alternative methods of greeting such as the elbow bump, foot bump, or covering your heart with a hand and bowing.
  4. Consider using tongs to break and serve bread at communion, and place bread in hand without touching the recipient directly with the serving utensil. Avoid putting bread/host directly into people’s mouths. Use single use cups for communion wine/juice – ensure those serving use hand sanitizer and that individuals only touch their own elements.
  5. Don’t pass offering plates. Consider placing buckets or pans that are stationary at entrances or exits for people to deposit their offering. Place envelopes in pews for people to mail in their offerings.
  6. Ask people who are sick and/or coughing or sneezing to not attend service in person. Create online attendance options.
  7. Educate people over 60 and those with underlying medical conditions about the increased risk to them should they develop a novel coronavirus 19 infection and offer online services for those who prefer not to attend in person. Provide at least 6 feet of distance between people especially those in vulnerable groups.
  8. Disinfect every area that is likely touched: doorknobs and pulls, pew tops, etc. – clean between services. According to the CDC, diluted household bleach solutions, alcohol solutions with at least 70% alcohol, and most common EPA-registered household disinfectants should be effective. For more information, click here.
  9. Don’t pass books or pens.
  10. If you can, remove hymnals and use projectors or individual copies of music and liturgy. Remind those attending the service to avoid touching their eyes, nose, mouth, and face, and to wash their hands with soap and warm water after leaving the service. Hand sanitizer is also an option if soap and water are not available.

Whether you are meeting for worship this weekend or trying to come up with a plan for when you resume meeting, we hope this will provide some guidance for you.

One thing we can do to calm the nerves of our congregations and neighbors is to show we have a clear plan for how we will gather safely when we do gather.

Thank you, Dr. Halverson, for providing some guidance for our churches as we continue to minister to our congregations and community.

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