Re-Opening Plan for Shepherd of the Hills UMC

Sun City West, AZ

Revised 5/20/2021


Context for our Initial Plan (Now Abbreviated):

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 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.


Our Current Reality:

Updated April 2021

Air scrubbers have been installed in office areas, sanctuary, fellowship hall and chapel.  These use an ionizing process to eliminate viruses.  Over 90% eliminated within 3 hours.

Cases per 100,000 in SCW and surrounding communities have diminished greatly after an intense spike early in the year.  They are under 20 per 100,000 in all surrounding zipcodes

Positivity rate in SCW is well under 5%

Vaccination rate in SCW for fully vaccinated adults is >80%, 84% for 1st dose

Vaccination rates in surrounding zipcodes are in 52-66 % range

Vaccines are widely and easily accessible to all persons over age 12.  We have no children or youth in our congregation

Governor Ducey has removed all mask, distancing, and large group gathering restrictions

SCW has adopted the state standards.  Rec centers allow all groups to meet with no masks.  Groups are not allowed to adopt standards that require masks


New CDC guidance released May 13, 2021 states that:

Fully vaccinated persons are safe in most settings without masks or distancing, including full capacity worship and singing in an indoor chorus

Persons who are not vaccinated should continue to wear masks and distance.  They should also be careful about large group gatherings.

A new CDC chart indicated “most safe” and “least safe” activities for vaccinated and unvaccinated persons has been published.


Our Current Plan as of May 14, 2021

As a result of the changed CDC recommendations and the high vaccination rate in our community  our task force believes that for vaccinated persons our community and church have moved into the Phase 3 for reopening. We note that vaccination is now clearly a choice of the individual for almost all persons.

We have removed all masking and distancing requirements for worship, classes, meetings, and events, including restrictions on food service.

We have removed masking and distancing requirements for staff

We continue to provide masks for anyone who wishes to wear one and support individual decisions about masking and distancing

Because singing in an indoor chorus is deemed safe without masking or distancing for vaccinated persons, we are allowing singing without masks, rehearsals for our choir, and choir ministry to the congregation without masks

At every meeting we will post the new CDC recommendations for both vaccinated and unvaccinated persons on large signs at entrances.  The CDC “Safe/Not Safe” chart is posted in all entrances and available in print.

All publicity for worship and events will include a short summary of the CDC recommendations for both vaccinated and unvaccinated persons

We are replacing upholstered furniture and replacing Bibles and hymnals into pews

We will continue to refrain from placing pens or pencils in pews but will provide “disposable” pencils for use on attendance cards

We are not taking an offering but providing baskets for offerings and attendance cards

Communion will continue to be served in individual plastic bags with individual chalices and a napkin for the summer

Outside groups will be allowed to return without limitations but with advisement of current CDC recommendations for persons who are vaccinated/unvaccinated.

We will actively monitor ongoing guidance from the CDC and infection rates and positivity rates in our area, and as necessary will modify our “permissions” to enhance safety.