Re-Opening Plan for Shepherd of the Hills UMC

Sun City West, AZ

Revised 9/4/2020

 

Context for our Plan:

  • We are a retirement community church where virtually every member or participant is in the vulnerable group of “older adults.” Many also have complicating health issues and a number are immune compromised because of treatments for health issues.
  • Large group gatherings like worship are particularly dangerous for us (although this seems not well understood by many in the congregation).
    • We do not anticipate holding worship anytime soon, even if it is allowed by the conference. 
    • The earliest would be “fall.” Perhaps mid –September.
    • This could change if effective treatments are found.
  • We are also a community that is for the most part not technologically savvy, and therefore at great danger for profound disconnect as worship continues suspended.
    • As we are beginning to gather for Zoom meetings some of our folks are becoming discouraged, discovering the limitations of their home computers / tablets
  • While we can and will explore further ways of connecting virtually, to include more and more people, we also NEED to provide small group gatherings in person as soon as possible; both just to connect AND to restart missional efforts like making sandwiches for Justa. This is especially important precisely BECAUSE our worship  in person will be delayed
  • Our plan may be a little upside down from others

 

Our Current Reality:

  • August Update: Worship services recorded Thursday mornings in sanctuary with  < 5 persons in the sanctuary at any time, in accordance with Bishop’s revised instructions).  Emailed out to congregation/posted on FB Saturday afternoon.
    • August Update: As of August 22 an abbreviated service is available through Sermonsbyphone.com
    • At least 36 of 242 survey responders (who are savvy enough to read email, click on survey, complete it, and submit) have not worshiped with us online even one time
  • We have begun ZOOM coffee hours and hope to start some classes or other gatherings
    • People are really struggling to participate.
    • They want to but their technical struggles are real and frustrating
  • Office staff are going in only for the most essential duties, taking great care when they must be there. As more time passes it becomes more and more necessary for one or the other to go in to catch up on essential duties that have been neglected for two months now.  Many things cannot be done from home

 

  • August update: While cases in Sun City West have increased to over 350, it is not possible to see trends for particular communities around us. Trends are measured only at the county level.  The trend in Maricopa County has been declining cases for a number of weeks with space available in hospitals and ICUs.
  • August Update: SCW Rec Centers have begun to open for outdoor sports, including swimming, pickle ball, and golf. Masks are required inside; some clubs have begun to meet inside with strict social distancing.
  • August Update: Some SCW churches have been open for a number of weeks.  Several more expect to open by September 15.
  • Task force has already been meeting for a number of weeks, working through many issues.
    • We have surveyed the congregation. More than 40% indicate they are 65 and over.  Less than 75% believe they are in a vulnerable or at risk group. 
    • Many indicate a desire to wait for a vaccine but some of those also would come as early as July if we offered worship then.
    • These responses indicate a fairly profound disconnect
  • August Update: Survey is being repeated and will close September 8 with a few additional questions.

 

 

OUR PROPOSED PHASE 1 (SHUMC)

  • Record services in sanctuary with < 10 people August update: air conditioning in sanctuary has been replaced successfully
  • Continue our efforts to reach more people virtually (worship available audio only; initiate several classes by ZOOM; have committees and teams begin to meet regularly by Zoom for check in and fellowship)
  • Office remains closed to public
  • Continue encouraging all staff to work from home as possible but also allow carefully scheduled and carefully staggered hours at the office, wearing masks in common areas, socially distancing, sanitizing all areas and equipment before and after use.  
    • This is vital because at least 50 of our members have no email and never hear from us except through snail mail and phone calls. 
    • Several accommodations have been made to ensure adequate protection of two key admin positions who work in the “open office.” Plexiglass screens have been hung to avoid anyone, including other staff, coming too close
    • Pastors’ offices and parish nurse office are well segregated
    • Constant sanitizing of all areas in use before/after per CDC guidelines.
  • Removal of upholstered furniture and chairs from meeting spaces, lobbies, prayer room, replacement with limited number of plastic chairs that can be easily sanitized (these are now complete)
  • August Update: Sanitizing equipment and chemicals are now on hand and  being used regularly in the office and each space used, immediately after use.  We have an electrostatic spray/sprayer that works quickly to eliminate virus. 
  • Bibles, hymnals, EVERYTHING from pew backs in all worship spaces are now boxed and stored
  • No memorial services of any size allowed (this is getting harder by the day)
  • Limited services allowed in Columbarium (less than 10 people, masks, social distancing)
  • Begin to allow sandwich making for Justa Center weekly with less than 10 people, social distancing, careful sanitizing, masks, gloves (currently members are doing this in their homes). Maintain lists of those in attendance on each date.
  • Facial coverings are required for all persons entering any building on the campus for any purpose whatsoever, through and including phase 3. Disposable masks will be provided at the entrance (s) and each entrance will display prominent signage indicating this requirement.
    • If someone refuses to wear a facial covering the person “in charge” will be expected to explain the requirement and politely refuse entry. (“Thank you for coming. It is so good to see you.  I am sorry that, for the protection of others, we are unable to allow anyone without a facial covering to participate.  Our insurance requires this and our conference require this.”)
      • If there is any pushback one of the pastors will be summoned in person or by phone to speak with the person to re-enforce the message.
      • If someone states that he/she has a health condition that makes it impossible to wear a facial covering, they are at special risk. Our response should be to gently say: “I am sorry. We look forward to the day when facial coverings are not required. For now, for your protection and the protection of others, we must require them.”
      • If this refusal occurs in a later phase for a worship gathering, one of the pastors will be summoned and will have available printed and laminated (for sanitizing) invitations to online worship, worship by phone, and our DVD mailing service.
    • All persons entering any building on campus will also be asked to sign a covenant or appropriate liability waiver. While we will not “enforce” this by having someone at each  door with a list, there will be prominent signage indicating that signed covenants/waivers are required for entry, and blank forms will be available, with instructions to sign and return to the office.
      • The covenant form will be mailed to all persons via USPS in September. It will also  be sent electronically by the leader/responsible party to any persons expected to gather for any purpose.
      • Appropriate liability waivers will be mailed to all “external” groups in advance of their first meeting on campus with a cover letter indicating the requirement that either the group leader will sign for the entire group or every individual must sign individually.
      • Appropriate liability waivers will be provided for all vendors / service persons. When an appointment is made the company will be informed that the person dispatched will have to sign (or the company needs to sign for all persons dispatched)

 

  • If we are notified that someone who has been in attendance at any meeting or worship, in any phase, has been diagnosed with COVID 19 within 2 weeks of that attendance:
    • If we have a list of attendees (as for a class, or sandwich making), our parish nurse or one of the pastors will immediately reach out to contact all persons who were in attendance, to notify them of possible exposure and refer them to the CDC guidelines for appropriate action.
    • If we do not have a precise list of attendees, or fear there may be persons who did not sign in, we will publish via Constant Contact a notice that persons in attendance at x event on y date may have been exposed to COVID 19 and should follow CDC guidelines for possible exposure.  The notification will include an invitation to call our parish nurse for guidance. 
    • The area where the gathering occurred will be “off limits” until our trustees determine that adequate sanitizing has occurred. This may include additional sweeps with the electrostatic spray, additional wipe downs of all surfaces, or if it is deemed necessary, calling in a cleaning company for a deep clean.

 

 

OUR PHASE 2

  • Allow all staff to work in the office at least part time (perhaps initially staggered) with careful sanitizing, masks in common areas, for at least one week. Monitor compliance and results, increasingly allowing return to more normal but careful co-working.
  • After a few weeks when staff is all “on board” and present normal hours:
    • Open church office for 1-2 hours at least a few days a week.
    • Provide no spaces for “congregating.”
  • No meeting of pastors with the public in private office spaces; inner office doors remain closed and locked.
  • Any consultations/counseling with 1-5 people done in conference room, sacristy, other public spaces with masks and social distancing.  Sanitized before and after
  • Memorial services up to 50 people (or whatever the current limit is at that time) with recorded vocal music only; piano or organ allowed. Social distancing, hand sanitizing and facial coverings required. 
    • Use only the sanctuary as the chapel is too small to spread people out.
    • No food service.
    • No bulletins. (These are treasured mementos. August Update May provide just for family, producing with masks / gloves, storing in sterilized box, giving directly to family.  For the few who are technologically literate and have access to a printer and computer we could send PDF in advance and make available as a link in email for others.)
  • Community groups and renters not allowed yet (maybe not till year end. We have a one person custodial staff.)  August update:  we have informed all groups that our campus is unavailable until at least January 1, 2021.
  • Begin to allow limited numbers of in-person meetings of 10 or less persons with facial coverings and social distancing, sanitizing before and after. Monitor compliance and results. See notes above for notices about required waivers and information on how to handle those who might  refuse to wear facial coverings.
  • In house support groups or small groups/classes of 10 or less that cannot meet by Zoom (For instance:  Cancer Support)  and are willing to follow social distancing and wear facial coverings are allowed.  This will be carefully monitored.
  • Vital support groups, like NAMI, allowed on case by case basis if willing to follow guidelines, wear masks, and sign waivers. This will be allowed ONLY if we believe we can staff the required cleanings and sanitizing duties before/after.

 

PHASE THREE

  • This will be delayed for us  (which is why some of DSC phase 3 has moved up to our phase 2.)
  • Begin to offer worship “in person” with social distancing, no choral music or wind instruments (Perhaps mid-September).
    • Follow guidelines available at that time for total number of attendees
    • Greatly separate worship times to allow for complete air exchange, or worship alternately in sanctuary /fellowship hall.
      • If we are able to install live stream equipment in the sanctuary we MIGHT allow simultaneous worship in both spaces.
        • This would accommodate our total attendance most of the year at 25% “fill” of sanctuary and Fellowship Hall.
      • Add worship services if needed.
        • May need people to “sign up” for worship, or assign by first letter of last name, etc.
      • No worship in chapel until need for social distancing eases
      • No passing of offering plates
      • No hand shaking
      • No congregational singing; all choral music pre-recorded
      • Masks and sanitizers offered at every entrance, along with signage indicating the necessity of facial coverings. See information in “Phase 1” above for approach for those who refuse facial coverings.
      • No handouts including bulletins
      • Alternate form of registration (not yet known, we are limited in tech ability)
      • No communion until we have a method that seems safe enough
      • Planning for thorough sanitizing before/after each service following CDC guidelines
      • Following the “checklist” provided by conference
    • We have no nursery, children, Sunday School. At least that part is “easy”.
    • Begin to allow “renters” back into church as we are able to provide adequate support
      • Not until 2021 unless there is a significant change.