Safely Reopening
our Doors
May 7, 2021

We have heard from many of our faith community partners who have asked for tips and ideas on how to safely reopen their houses of worship. We have compiled a variety of resources that we hope will be helpful as you plan to welcome congregants back and resume your faith community programming and activities.
CDC director: Masked, fully vaccinated people can safely attend worship indoors
Courtesy: Religion News Service

The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention loosened the agency’s social distancing recommendations on April 27, 2021, announcing that fully vaccinated people who wear masks can safely attend many indoor events such as worship services.

CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky made the announcement during a White House press briefing, where she outlined a number of indoor activities people who wear masks and have received vaccines against COVID-19 can participate in safely — including worship.

“As we gather more and more data on the real-world efficacy of vaccines, we know that masked, fully vaccinated people can safely attend worship services inside,” she said.
Walensky also said that masked, fully vaccinated people can safely go to an indoor restaurant or bar, and “even participate in an indoor exercise class.”

The CDC continues to recommend that fully vaccinated people use masks for indoor activities such as singing in an indoor chorus, going to a movie theater or eating indoors at a restaurant. As for outdoor activities, the CDC generally only recommends masks among fully vaccinated people if they plan on attending a crowded outdoor event such as a concert. 

According to the CDC, people are considered fully vaccinated two weeks after they receive the second dose of the Moderna or Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines. They are also considered fully vaccinated two weeks after receiving the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which only requires one dose.

When churches reopen, don’t sing or shake hands, do make sermons short, says new guide
Courtesy: Religion News Service

An ecumenical group of clergy, scientists and other experts has released a guide to help congregations consider best practices for reopening for worship.

Among their suggestions:

  • Refrain from congregational singing. Clap or stomp instead.
  • Preachers, shorten your sermon.
  • Congregants, mouth your response during Communion instead of speaking.
  • Pass the peace to other worshippers with a gentle nod or a reverent bow, but no physical contact.

The 36-page Resuming Care-Filled Worship and Sacramental Life document notes that church leaders will make different decisions depending on the recommendations of denominational and health officials.

Guide offers best practices for Jewish organizations on how to safely reopen
The Secure Community Network has released a 33-page guide for Jewish organizations on how to safely reopen and resume operations.

The document, Back to Business, was developed by The National Resumption of Operations & Organizational Reopening Working Group, a committee of experts that was convened by SCN to identify and recommend best practices to safely reopen Jewish organizations and facilities. SCN is the official safety and security organization of Jewish Federations of North America and the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.

According to the guide, "Along with considerations around safety, security, health and welfare, institutions should take into account our Jewish values:

Pikuah Nefesh (“Safeguarding Life”): Supersedes most other obligations or mitzvot. Facilities and organizations must balance any efforts to reopen or resume operations with the obligation to preserve life.

Sakanat Nefeshot (“Endangering Life”): No one should be placed in a position
where they may place their own lives or those of their families or loved ones
in danger.

She’at Hadehak (“Extraordinary Moment”): We must remain flexible and adaptive
to the times we find ourselves in; the Jewish people have shown amazing resiliency;
this will be required now to ensure continuity of Jewish life.

Kol Yisrael Areivim Zeh Bazeh (“We Are Responsible for One Another”): We have
an obligation to look out for one another, regardless of circumstance, status
or perception.

Hesed (“Profound Love and Kindness”): With many people feeling anxious, lonely,
distanced or at risk, we must be guided in our actions with these factors in mind."
Reminders, tips and checklist for mosques/Islamic centers
Courtesy: the National Muslim Task Force on COVID-19 and the National Black Muslim COVID Coalition, including Fiqh Council of North America, Assembly of Muslim Jurists of America, Chicagoland Ulema, and the Initative of Islam and Medicine.

Mosques (including Islamic centers, schools, etc.) play many important roles in religious and communal life. We know they have faced difficulties and challenges because of the pandemic. We recognize that each Mosque will have a different plan based on available human and financial resources and local/state guidance.

Reminders, tips and a checklist any mosque/Islamic center can use:

Before coming to the mosque

  • Individuals who are sick (have fever, cough, runny nose, diarrhea, etc.) should be counseled that the Friday prayer obligation is lifted from them and should avoid spreading any illness.
  • Wudu should be performed at home. Public Wudu areas should be kept closed due to the high risk of respiratory droplets. Individual restrooms can be kept open for dire needs and once used must be thoroughly cleaned.

Before entering the mosque

  • Create signage and notices reminding individuals of the guidelines/restrictions near entrances and exits.
  • Employees and volunteers should also be screened for any cold-like symptoms before coming into the Mosque.
  • Monitor the number of individuals entering the Mosque, check temperature and implement screening protocols at the entrances.

Prepare your faith community for reopening
The Georgia Baptist Mission Board offers a Basic Guide for Returning to Your Church Building After COVID-19, which includes the following tips:

  1. Deep clean your entire church. Where will germs be transferred? Consider shampooing carpets, sanitizing pews, bathrooms, doorknobs, light switches, and microphones.
  2. Use chemicals and disinfectants as directed and allow for the proper dry times. Here is a list of approved disinfectants for COVID-19.
  3. Pay attention to the preschool and children’s areas. Consider removing everything nonessential from the room to limit surfaces for potential contamination and do a thorough cleaning in between uses. Please see the preschool/children section for more information to consider.
  4. Temporarily remove Bibles, hymnals, pens, information cards, etc., from the backs of chairs/pews.
  5. Post signs about not shaking hands and doing non-contact greetings. You can promote the hashtag #itsoktosmileandwave.
  6. Consider placing some kind of blocks in your sanctuary or classrooms to ensure social distancing. Tape, remove chairs, use cones, etc. to indicate the distance needed.
  7. Tell your congregation through flyers on the doors, email, and social media about how you’ve prepared the church for their arrival. Also say that if they are sick, then they should not be present and can join online instead.
Related Resource:

Offers information on when to clean and when to disinfect; routine cleaning, and how to clean and disinfect your facility when someone is sick.
Layering mitigations

The more of these options you are able to layer together, the better you will mitigate risks for your gathering.

For example:

Do you want to have a vocalist offer a solo or a cantor lead worship?
Meet outdoors and have them well-distanced from the congregation. Ideally, they will be a vaccinated individual. A microphone and sound system will be helpful.

Are you interested in having a small group sing together?
Meet outdoors, consider distancing them from one another and any audience by at least 6-10 feet, limit rehearsal length to less than 30 minutes, encourage them to agree to vaccination or self-quarantine, and place their piece late in the gathering time. Bonus: use a sound system and microphone!

Does your congregation long to sing a favorite hymn or spiritual song?
Meet outdoors, maintain a limited capacity, require the congregation to be masked and physically distanced, keep the gathering to 30 minutes or less and choose just 1 or 2 verses of one hymn or chorus rather than multiple hymns. Invite them to sing softly rather than in full voice.

Learn more by downloading Wisconsin Council of Church's Bearing With One Another in Love: A Supplement to Returning to Church 2.0.
Related Resources:

CDC offers suggestions for faith communities to consider as they prepare to reconvene for in-person gatherings while still working to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Church Mutual Insurance
Should I attend worship service at my faith community?
The Humanitarian Disaster Institute (HDI) offers this check list to help congregants decide whether or not to attend worship services. For additional information, download HDI's practical guide for church members, "Deciding When and How You Should Return to Church in Person."
Preparing to reconvene: safety tips for faith communities
Courtesy: CDC

For many faith traditions, gathering together for worship is at the heart of what it means to be a community of faith. But as Americans are now aware, gatherings present a risk for increasing spread of COVID-19 during this public health emergency.

CDC offers suggestions for faith communities to consider in the course of preparing to reconvene for in-person gatherings while still working to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Among CDC's suggestions:

  • Consider temporarily limiting the sharing of frequently touched objects, such as worship aids, prayer rugs, prayer books, hymnals, religious texts, and items passed or shared among congregants. Encourage congregants to bring their own such items, if possible, or photocopy or project prayers, songs, and texts using electronic means.

  • Modify the methods used to receive financial contributions. Consider a stationary collection box, the main, or electronic methods of collection regular financial contributions instead of shared collection trays or baskets.

  • Consider whether physical contact (e.g., shaking hands, hugging, or kissing) can be limited among members of the faith community.

  • If food is offered at any event, consider pre-packaged options, and avoid buffet or family-style meals if possible.

See CDC's Considerations for Communities of Faith for additional suggestions.
Additional reading
We hope you find this update helpful as you promote the health of your members and community. Please contact Cindy Novak if you have questions or topics you'd like us to address. Thank you!