How is your church adapting for COVID-19?

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Daniel Di Bartolo | Forum Activity | Posted: Fri, Mar 13 2020 10:35 AM

Hello!

I'm Daniel, and I'm the product manager for Logos mobile apps. Smile I'm up here in Faithlife's Bellingham, WA office. 

If you've been following the news, you might have seen Washington is experiencing interesting times (to say the least!). 

We have restrictions on gathers of more than 250 people. Schools are likely to close state-wide today. Many outbreaks in our elderly population. Over the coming weeks, churches across the US and worldwide will likely need to adapt to our temporary new normal. 

If you're a church leader, I'd love to hear about how you plan to manage church operations, teach the Bible, and keep your people safe. Our users represent a wide spectrum of church styles, sizes, and contexts-- I'm sure we can learn a ton and compare notes. 

I hope this thread becomes a place to generate ideas and learn from each other. Let's stay away from politics and accusations of both "you're over-reacting" and "you are crazy to not be more afraid".  :)

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Graham Criddle | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Mar 13 2020 10:44 AM

Hi Daniel - thanks for asking the question.

I'm in the UK and we are watching this closely.

Schools are currently being kept open and there are no restrictions on public gatherings - although a lot of major sporting events have been cancelled / postponed today. Some churches in the UK have decided to not meet this Sunday.

We are currently planning to meet (probably around 120 people) but taking a range of hygeine precuations.

We are also live streaming our service for the first time to try and include those who choose to stay away over health concerns.

Graham

Posts 1464
Ben | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Mar 13 2020 10:45 AM

I'm one of the longtime Logos "heretics," from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, i.e. a Mormon. 

Given our centralized structure and hierarchy, a lot of local things were happening slowly, until the last 48 hours. Official announcement out of Salt Lake, all Church meetings, groups, classes, etc. canceled for the indefinite future. The bi-annual worldwide conference which was scheduled for April 4-5 will now be online only. 

Fortunately, about a year ago, they revamped some things to encourage a lot more "home-based, Church-supported" spirituality and learning, so it's a big shift, but not as big as it might have been. 

You can read the text of that and related directives at the top, here. 
https://newsroom.churchofjesuschrist.org 

"The whole modern world has divided itself into Conservatives and Progressives. The business of Progressives is to go on making mistakes. The business of Conservatives is to prevent mistakes from being corrected."- G.K. Chesterton

Posts 1276
Paul Caneparo | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Mar 13 2020 10:53 AM

I'm in Spain and we've decided to suspend all on-site and off-site meetings. We're looking at live streaming sermon and worship, although not quite there yet, so my sermon will be recorded tomorrow and hopefully uploaded for viewing by the congregation for Sunday morning. 

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Denise | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Mar 13 2020 10:54 AM

Just from the pew-side, the 'distancing' strategy really recommends the strength of the Church ... increasing communicating. Especially for the older folks. We're making short 'hello' and chat phone calls ... keep everyone safe.

"I didn't know God made honky tonk angels."

Posts 226
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Daniel Di Bartolo | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Mar 13 2020 11:13 AM

Denise:
We're making short 'hello' and chat phone calls ... keep everyone safe.

I like that you've called this relational/mental health/pastoral care element out. I don't think text/social media, email will fulfill people's needs for relationship. 

Maybe talking on the phone will become popular again! :)

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NB.Mick | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Mar 13 2020 11:19 AM

I'm from Germany and today nearly all of our member states decided to close down universities, schools, public events and buildings such as theaters, libraries. Our politicians are actually late in taking these measures - most of continental Europe has done so already.

Regarding churches: the local diocese of the RCC decided to close down large church buildings and all events including Sunday services. The local mainstream protestant church decided to close down everything except Sunday service, but local pastors are free to decide locally. Probably they will change course soon and decide to close Sunday services as well (given that the elderly make up most of their congregations and are most at risk from COVID-19). All restrictions are planned to last until Easter - there's a three week school holiday around Easter anyway - and both large churches will monitor the situation and decide over Easter services in April. 

The evangelical church I attend decided today to close our children, teen and young adult programs completely - tomorrow the leaders will decide whether to hold Sundays' service (usual attendance around 200-250) or not. I expect them to cancel it. Official restrictions currently are in place only for gatherings over 1000 people, I think, but of course we're concerned for the safety of the congregation - lots of small children who are most likely to carry viruses around, but also elderly people most at risk catching it and becoming severely ill or die. Last week I wondered, since handshakes and hugs were discouraged via signs, but for coffee the lots of people stood closely around small tables. Nobody would wear masks - they are sold out since January in Germany anyways. 

We will lifestream a youth service tonight, using the private youtube channel of our youth pastor (teens are not happy about that - that service happens only once a quarter and draws teens from around the region). If we don't have Sunday service, it will most probably be streamed live on our church website, as it is every week anyway. 

  

Running Logos 8 latest beta version on Win 10

Posts 4
Martijn | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Mar 13 2020 12:49 PM

I’m from the Netherlands and our national government announced yesterday (12 march) that all gatherings above 100 persons are suspended until the end of march. Most of the national churches advised their local congregations to follow the official guidelines and ban all church services until the end of march. My local church accepted this guideline and suspended all services until the end of march. Until then their will be a live stream/recording each Sunday morning and evening with some music by the organ, prayer and a sermon. Also, all universities suspended classes, so until the end of march there will also be no lectures for theology students.

Posts 153
Tony Walker | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Mar 13 2020 1:03 PM

I think that this whole thing is part of the new world order, created by reptilians that live on Mars, and is going to reduce the world population so that the global elites can have their Bilderberg meetings in public instead of the forest. I suspect that we will all very soon be boxed up, have a chip implanted into us, and then the greys will arrive in UFOs and tell us that it is all Trump's fault...

I'm joking. Forgive me. I couldn't help myself.
Seriously, I live in SC. I'm on staff at a rural country church. About 350 or so? on Sunday mornings. Older congregation. Sadly, I do not know what to expect this weekend. There's been nothing said officially from the pastor. There was an email sent out yesterday to those on the email list that pretty much said (without mentioning the virus) we are having church Sunday, it is going to be an exciting message, and make sure you invite a friend to bring with you. I don't know, but I suspect that it was sent (emails like that don't go out often) in anticipation of an attendance hit this coming Sunday. Our church has always been reluctant to change a service for any reason. We don't get snow or ice often, but even when we do it is made clear, we will have church like usual, get here if you can.
Being a traditional church, we still have a stand and greet time. It would make sense to me not to do that this week, but I guess we'll see what happens. I'm the youth pastor, and I usually find out things after the fact, and as you can imagine, I typically don't speak up I go along with what I am told to do.
I know that my words don't add a whole lot to the thread, but I suspect that churches like the one I am currently at will do or change nothing. I hope it ends up passing, and nothing too major happens. But it would also be sad to see something sad at churches like mine, and then the Sr leadership looks back with regret at not taking it seriously. (FYI, I am at a very conservative, doesn't change, puts a high value on being at church Sunday morning night and Wed night type church).
I look fwd to other people's responses. It would be suitable for someone like me (MDiv student, on a 'lower level' position at a church) to keep this event in mind, and if/when the day comes that I am at a church as a pastor or leader to be able to look back on this time and what did or didn't work.

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Posts 92
Rick Carmickle | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Mar 13 2020 1:17 PM

I just got back from Rome 6 days ago, (and it was magnificent because no one was there--so I had an hour alone with 5 Japanese Christians in the Sistine Chapel last Thursday, but I digress), but in response, we are cancelling live services and streaming it instead. 

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Mark Smith | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Mar 13 2020 1:44 PM

I am in Connecticut, USA. We have 6 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and all are in the southwest portion of the state, close to New York. This is where I am located. Our church runs about 120 in attendance.

Our governor yesterday mandated all gatherings of over 250 people to be cancelled. The public schools in our region have all closed as of yesterday (Thursday) or today (Friday). Likewise the universities have all closed and gone to online classes (unfortunately creating great confusion for our many international students in the region).

We are taking matters a day at a time. We do plan to meet on our regular Sunday morning schedule this week. We have implemented cleaning protocols, have removed hymnals and Bibles from the pew racks (we project our music so this isn't critical), will not pass offering plates but have ushers hold them near the doors at the close of the service, and are discouraging physical contact. We did cancel an after-worship luncheon for tomorrow. We have some folks who we know will be absent until the danger passes. We've counseled everyone to make wise decisions based on their own situations and concerns. We do live stream over Facebook so people can view the service if they remain home.

A number of churches in our area have cancelled services for the near-term.

Pastor, North Park Baptist Church

Bridgeport, CT USA

Posts 797
JRS | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Mar 13 2020 2:04 PM

Here are a few things that might help:

1)  We'll be handing out E-collars to all worshipers ...

    (unfortunately, communion becomes problematic)  Wink

2)  Worldly advice:  When in trouble, when in doubt, run in circles, scream and shout.  Wink

3)  Biblical advice:  “Though He slay me, I will hope in Him."   Job 13:15a  and, “And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life?"  Mt 6:27 Big Smile

How blessed is the one whom Thou dost choose, and bring near to Thee(Psa 65:4a)

Posts 3225
Whyndell Grizzard | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Mar 13 2020 2:16 PM

Canceling services- they are going to FB the Pastors message- in order to limit any chance for our seniors. Our service averages 4,000.

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MJ. Smith | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Mar 13 2020 2:16 PM

In King County (i.e Seattle), churches open for private prayer, services and large activities cancelled, a single service streamed online - archdiocese also streaming a service. Daughter-in-law pastor in Texas adopted a 3 phase plan starting with small changes to services up to cancelling everything - the plan developed with the help of an army specialist in infectious diseases. https://www.ntnl.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/COVID-19-ILC-Plan-Immanuel-Killeen.pdf She also has a bulletin insert.

Orthodox Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev: "To be a theologian means to have experience of a personal encounter with God through prayer and worship."

Posts 1070
William Gabriel | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Mar 13 2020 2:46 PM

IL is using the same guidelines as WA.

We're going to have our service on Sunday (only ~150 average attendance), but we're asking anyone with symptoms of illness to stay home, asking anyone in high risk categories to think twice about coming, working really hard to disinfect our building, and starting a live stream option. We will stay up to date on developments and go live-stream only if necessary. We've also postponed or canceled secondary activities.

Posts 1082
EastTN | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Mar 13 2020 4:33 PM

Our congregation is very small.  We had intended to hold services as usual this coming Sunday, and simply ask anyone who had been exposed to the virus to stay home.  However, late this afternoon we learned of a member who is exhibiting symptoms consistent with the coronavirus, and who tested negative for the flu.  He has been tested for COVID-19 but the results are not expected back until early next week.  In response, we've cancelled Sunday's service and are replacing it with a devotional by conference call.  We'll reevaluate what to do going forward next week.

Posts 662
Steve Maling | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Mar 13 2020 9:19 PM

M.J., many thanks for the link to Immanuel Lutheran. What a wonderfully well-done list! (I’m an octogenarian retired Presbyterian pastor in Portland, OR who is delighted not to have to make plans for the safety of others.) Our Presbyteries‘ Sunday services have been cancelled and replaced by streaming for those congregations able to do so.

Posts 176
Martin Hall | Forum Activity | Replied: Sat, Mar 14 2020 2:29 AM

The church that I worship at is so far still planning to continue with our multiple services, however, our online service is being heavily encouraged. Communication has been increased via email. We already do not "pass the bucket" so the options of tithing is really not a big deal. My pastor did originally consider having a service on Monday morning for the elderly, but this has changed to encourage them to watch online. We are also increasing the sanitizing of the church building & creating sanitizing stations throughout the heavily trafficked areas. Our kids' area got a very healthy dose of Lysol very recently.   

Posts 2079
Joseph Turner | Forum Activity | Replied: Sat, Mar 14 2020 7:37 AM

I am just north of Birmingham, AL.  Our governor just declared a state of emergency closing down all schools starting this coming Thursday until April 6th.  The state guideline is no gatherings over 500 people.  Our church runs about 600 on Sunday, split between 9:00 Worship/Sunday School and 10:30 Worship/Sunday School.  We have a large student ministry and several children in child care.

This Sunday, we will run three worship services only at 8:00 am, 10:30 am, and 6:00 pm, with the 10:30 service being streamed via Facebook Live.  We will clean the sanctuary after each service.  There will be no Sunday School or childcare.  We are having worship services only.  We will also not be passing offering plates.  We will set up drops at the doors instead.  

Disclaimer:  I hate using messaging, texting, and email for real communication.  If anything that I type to you seems like anything other than humble and respectful, then I have not done a good job typing my thoughts.

Posts 2903
Doc B | Forum Activity | Replied: Sat, Mar 14 2020 9:57 AM

Daniel Di Bartolo:
I'd love to hear about how you plan to manage church operations, teach the Bible, and keep your people safe.

I am part of the group tasked with making these guidelines at our church in the Texas panhandle (where we have no confirmed cases yet). We meet tomorrow to set the formal guidelines. While not officially approved yet, these are some of the things we are recommending (not exhaustive list yet):

1. Cancel all non-Sunday worship activities (AWANAs, choir, Wednesday night events, etc.), effective immediately.

2. Cancel Sunday School, effective immediately.

3. Cancel Sunday night activities, effective immediately.

4. Continue Sunday morning worship with modifications.

              a. discontinue meet-and-greet or modify it to waving at others

              b. discontinue passing the collection plates (have ushers hold them at doors)

              c. remove pew bibles and hymnals along with any other paper materials for the time being

              d. announce ‘social distance’ guidelines at beginning of service (spread out, no touching, etc.)

              e. provide hand sanitizer (if it is available!) at each entrance and encourage its use

5. Make sure the janitorial staff has CDC-recommended cleaning procedures and follows them using recommended products. This would especially include disinfecting surfaces such as doors, pew arms and pew backs, light switches, water fountains, bathroom surfaces, and so on.

6. Consider a tight restriction of the CLC patrons to a particular area of the building and close off this space on Sundays.

7. Remind everyone each meeting to please stay home if you are ill, if you have been exposed to someone known to be ill, or have traveled outside the area recently.

8. Remind members that if they are not comfortable with the public gathering they can remain at home and can access the sermons on the church’s website. Ask church members who plan not to attend to please let the church office know.

9. Instruct (and train) the security committee to discourage members or visitors from entering the building if they are obviously ill. They should be stationed at each entrance before each service.

10. Ask the deacons to consider contacting church members who are self-isolating to see about spiritual and physical needs.

11. Ask the church to pray for their community and those affected by the pandemic.

12. Small groups may meet at their discretion, but are not meeting as a formal part of the church program. (In other words, we can’t and shouldn’t try to prevent members from meeting privately but should state that this is not a part of the church’s operations at this time.)

13. Begin to prepare a response protocol in the case the virus becomes a local epidemic and there are numerous serious illnesses or deaths within the membership or the local community, including assisting other denominations/churches in the area.

14. Stay in active contact with the local health department and monitor CDC releases as well as state-of-emergency instructions and orders.

If governmental authorities move to restrict public gatherings, the church should comply within reason.

The pastor should talk about the church’s historical response to events like this and how we can be a proactive part of loving our neighbor by participating in protective measures along with staying in contact so we can assist those with needs.

My thanks to the various MVPs. Without them Logos would have died early. They were the only real help available.

Faithlife Corp. owes the MVPs free resources for life.

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