ABCRM Staff Letter about Reopening Churches
American Baptist Churches
of the Rocky Mountains
9085 E. Mineral Cir., Suite 170
Centennial, CO 80112
Wednesday, April 29, 2020
To: ABCRM Pastors and Church Leaders
From: Steve Van Ostran and ABCRM Staff
Plans and Preparations for the Reopening of Your Church for Congregational Meetings
As state and local governments are beginning to loosen their shelter-in-place and stay-at-home orders, many of you are wondering when you might be able to reopen your buildings for public worship and other congregational programs. We are writing today to urge patience and the utilization of a process that keeps the safety and security of your congregation and community foremost in your minds.
We remind you that we (in church leadership) are called by Christ to be “shepherds” not only of our flock, but of the extended flock within the community whom Christ hopes to call to Him. Shepherds are charged with leading their sheep to good pasture AND to protect the flock from predators and other dangerous conditions that might harm them. For this reason, shepherds proceed with caution, they do not lead their flocks into areas where danger exists but instead into places where their flock can graze and rest “beside the still waters” not the rushing and dangerous waters.
To that end, as you and your leadership team consider reopening your building, you must be sure that you have taken into account the safety of your congregants before you open the building. We would encourage you to have deep conversations with your leadership team. This is a decision that is best made together. With some on your leadership team, you will need to calm their anxiousness to open, for others you might need to calm their fears.
You will want to do appropriate cleaning and sanitizing of the facility. In addition, you will need to make arrangements for ongoing cleaning and sanitation. Some churches are hiring professional cleaning services in order to ensure that proper practices and procedures are being followed.
You also need to take care to abide by “social distancing” requirements that remain in place. For example, you need to require that masks be worn by all and that hand sanitizer is readily available. You need to be sure that you have reviewed your worship service and made accommodations for those traditional parts of the service that might unintentionally spread the virus like the passing out of bulletins, the offering plate and the use of hymnals and pew bibles that are hard to sanitize. If you do a fellowship or a “passing of the peace”, how will you do that?
You will need to have a plan for visitors and for the care of nursery aged children.
Keep in mind that just because the economy opens up does not mean that the church should open if you are not able to do it safely. Frankly, we feel that in most cases, it is too soon to consider opening your building for regular worship services and encourage you to proceed cautiously, prayerfully and faithfully in this matter. Trust the Spirit to guide you to the appropriate time for your community, balancing their safety and security needs with their needs for spiritual care and community connection.
We encourage you to review the recommendations from ABC-USA found on our website and at: abcrm.org/coronavirus and your state’s Executive orders: covid19.colorado.gov and covid19.wyo.gov. The ABC-USA resource is currently being updated with some additional ideas and suggestions to be released later this week. We will repost the updated resource as soon as it is available.
Please know that your Region staff continues to pray for you and to seek to walk alongside you during this time. If you have questions about how to proceed, call me or your Ministry and Mission Coach or join the COVID-19 Conversation on Tuesdays at 11:00 a.m. where we discuss these issues.
Steve Van O and the entire ABCRM Staff
Look for our weekly e-mail news updates for Coronavirus information and resources, and routinely check our ABCRM Coronavirus Web page.
Colorado has transitioned to a "Safer-at-Home" phase as the state begins to reopen.
Wyoming has extended its public health orders to May 15, which limits most gatherings of 10 or more individuals. This currently applies to churches. Click for more information.