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COVID-19 Virus Update

September 8: COVID-19 Updated Guidance from the Florida Conference

Guidelines for In-Person Worship & Ministry during COVID-19

 


Florida Conference Churches Offering Online Worship

This page lists churches around the Conference who are making their worship services available via live streaming or recording. 

To add your church to this list or update your listing, please use this form.
    

 

 

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Practice frequent washing of hands.
  • Wear a mask whenever you encounter others in public.
  • Monitor your own symptoms related to health. If you don’t feel well, please stay home.
  • Keep a six-foot distance from others.
  • Maintain civil and open conversation with others.

According to the CDC and state guidelines for similar venues, staff and volunteers are required to wear face masks or cloth face coverings. In an effort to protect everyone and love our neighbors, we ask everyone in attendance to wear face masks  or cloth face coverings. Churches should have a plan in place to address those who are unwilling to wear masks. Clergy and others on the platform can remove masks during preaching and worship leadership if they have more than six feet distance with other persons on the platform and more than twelve feet distance from the first row of occupied chairs.

Based on the science available to us, we recommend no congregational singing. Churches who choose to have limited congregational singing should make people aware of the risks involved while requiring increased social distancing (beyond six feet) and the wearing of masks. Choirs and other large ensembles singing in close proximity are prohibited. Soloists and small vocal ensembles can lead singing and music from the platform if they have more than six feet distance with other persons on the platform and more than twelve feet distance from the first row of occupied chairs.

The Florida Conference and The United Methodist Church has a commitment to serve our deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals  As churches navigate virtual worship, we encourage churches to provide sign-language interpretation or closed captioning services as they are able.  As churches return to in-person worship, we realize that special considerations will have to be made for interpreters and deaf individuals. Churches who have interpreters should include them in their task force for reopening. This will allow the interpreter to give the specific needs for those in their congregations who are deaf. Worship leaders who lead worship with a mask or face covering should consider see-through face masks or face shields to help those who are deaf and depend on lip-reading. We realize interpreters cannot wear a mask while interpreting the service because so much of the language takes place in the nuances on the face. When the interpreter is finished with their interpretation, they should wear a mask. The interpreter should be situated near the front and maintain six feet distance from presenters and those in the congregation. Keep in mind that those with low vision or mobility issues may need one-on-one assistance. The task force will need to consult with the interpreter to determine the best plan to minister to these individuals. We ask everyone to follow the CDC guidelines and FLUMC returning to in person worship guidelines as a minimum, which includes encouraging persons in vulnerable populations or with pre-existing medical conditions to remain at home.
Additional resources: 
https://umcdmc.org/ministries/deaf-hard-of-hearing/
https://um-insight.net/in-the-world/global-health/online-and-virtual-gatherings-inclusion-for-deaf-and-hard-of/
 

All schools, pre-schools, day care and aftercare programs must follow all CDC, state, and local guidelines relative to operating within the COVID-19 environment. We understand that many of our schools, pre-schools, daycare and aftercare programs around the state follow the guidance and schedule of their local school districts.  Our church educational programs can continue monitoring and following the local school district guidance, while recognizing that many local school districts in Florida are offering multiple options for students including in-person instruction and virtual learning.

Links:
CDC Guidelines for Child Care Programs (July 23, 2020)
Schools and Child Care Supplemental Guidance (August 21, 2020)
Child Care Reopening Operational Checklist
Parental Acknowledgement & Disclosure
Employee Acknowledgment & Disclosure
 

We encourage you to listen to the concerns of your leaders. Attempt to understand what may be behind their concerns or what may be their unstated concerns. Help leaders and attendees visualize what church will look like if they return with social distancing, masks, no singing, etc. Create a video to help people visualize. Reframe questions and frequently check for understanding.

It is recommended that you discuss with facility staff and trustees how to increase ventilation and the flow of outside air to ensure proper air circulation when persons occupy buildings.

For more information follow the links below.
https://www.epa.gov/coronavirus/where-can-professionals-who-manage-school-office-and-commercial-buildings-get
https://www.ashrae.org/technical-resources/resources

Pastors in the vulnerable population should discuss how to cover worship leadership until they feel comfortable in returning to worship. Staff Parish committees should discuss with all clergy their comfort level in returning to worship. Confidentiality regarding a pastor’s health should be maintained.

Standard recommended screening questions have been created around symptoms and contact with persons who may have symptoms or have tested positive to COVID-19. 
Links: Team Member Screening Questions | Employee Acknowledgement & Disclosure

Churches should have a plan in place on how to respond if someone does not follow the guidance. It would be best if the pastor reminded everyone gathered of the covenant they have entered into together by agreeing to follow the protocols. Posting signage at the entrance of the church with a simple statement of the covenant around masks and distancing can help prepare people. Pastors can approach persons unwilling to follow the protocol or train a few key leaders to assist with this work. Approaching someone unwilling to follow the guidance should be done with care and love.

Dear Clergy, 

We are praying for you during this season of the COVID-19 pandemic. It is clear that the number of cases continue to rise and the risks associated with the spread of this virus remain very real. We encourage you to continue to monitor the situation in your local context and throughout our state and adjust your plans for ministry accordingly. The Conference Office and your District Superintendent are here to support and resource you as needed.

Some of you have asked what you should do if a staff member, volunteer, or church member tests positive for COVID-19. Our Office of Ministry Protection has prepared this easy resource for you to follow with links to additional documents and guidance. Your District Superintendent can support you in following these protocols. Always remember to carefully protect the identities of infected persons to ensure that health privacy guidelines are maintained. The CDC and your local health department has helpful guidance around isolation and quarantine. OSHA has helpful guidelines around when it involves an employee. All of this and more is linked in this one PDF. 

In the last week, we have had a number of churches report cases connected to their preschools, members, staff, and volunteers. We hope this resource helps guide you in your response. 

Thank you.

Click here to download the coronavirusdiagnosisinchurch.pdf 

We would encourage a team-based approach. Consider virtual listening sessions or surveys. Read together  “Why Reopening a Church is Different.” It should not be simply based on what other churches are doing. Many in our state and church communities are part of the most vulnerable populations. Pay attention to your local COVID-19 rates and reach out to health experts. Be prepared to modify plans if cases in your community rise. Acknowledge the diversity of feelings and responses within your community. Continue to allow for online options and conference calls.