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Updated Thursday, May 15, with Zoom Best Practices

COVID-19 is spreading rapidly across Western Washington, particularly King County and the greater Seattle area. The following page contains requirements, recommendations, and resources for churches in the Diocese of Olympia put together by the Office of the Bishop as a response to the COVID-19 outbreak. We take these actions for the common good, to care for the most vulnerable members of our community.

As of Friday, May 1, all churches in the Diocese of Olympia are to remain closed through May 31, unless you have spoken with Bishop Rickel regarding any unique situations. The Office of the Bishop will remain closed to the public and staff will continue to work remotely through May 31. When buildings reopen, the following requirements and recommendations will remain in place until further notice.

Requirements

Requirements are those actions that the bishop is requiring churches to take in each of their congregations. These requirements have been made based on consultation with local health officials and representatives from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

  • Worship Services
    • Live-Streaming Parameters: Bishop Rickel has issued the following live-streaming parameters for churches to follow during this ongoing public health crisis. Read Bishop Rickel’s full set of parameters here.
      • The maximum number of individuals allowed to assist with live-streaming worship is eight.
      • The live-streaming worship team is still considered a small group under health official guidelines and all health department regulations must be followed. See the link above for more information.
      • Multi-clergy congregations should rotate celebrants and lecterns, or consider having different staff members cover different online offerings.
      • Even in live-streaming or virtual services, use of the common cup is to be suspended. Communion is to be offered in one kind, bread only. The celebrant should visibly wash and sanitize their hands before consecrating and distributing the bread.
      • Log everyone involved in the live-streaming service to ensure that, should anyone become ill, exposure can be tracked and quarantined.
    • Communion: Use of the common cup is to be suspended until this crisis has passed. Communion is to be offered in one kind, bread only, and should be administered by as few people as possible, preferably the priest. The priest should wash and sanitize their hands as often as possible while distributing the bread.
    • Baptismal Fonts: Wherever possible, all baptismal fonts are to be drained to discourage parishioners from dipping their hands in the water.
    • Baptisms: If conducting a baptism, make certain to use new water for each individual being baptized.
    • Greeters and Passing of the Peace: Physical contact must be discontinued and discouraged during this time. Greeters should not shake hands as parishioners arrive for services, and touching should be discouraged at the Passing of the Peace. Encourage bowing, making a prayerful sign to the other person, looking at one another lovingly and offering peace, then moving on without touching.
    • Offering: The offering plate should not be passed from hand to hand. Some alternatives include placing the plate in one spot and asking parishioners to come to the plate or having your parishioners signal to the ushers that they would like to place an offering in the plate, and having your ushers make their way to the parishioner.
    • Eucharistic Visitors: The practice of sending Eucharistic visitors should be ceased. Home visits should be restricted to ordained persons.
  • Cleaning
    • Sanitizer: Hand sanitizer should be plentifully available at all entrances. If hand sanitizer is not available, rubbing alcohol of 70% or more can be used instead.
    • Cleaning: Doorknobs, push bars, push plates, light switches, pew backs, armrests, and any other flat surfaces that are regularly touched need to be cleaned and sanitized before and after each service.
    • Cleaners: Cleaning needs to be done with powerful, anti-viral cleaners that contain either bleach or alcohol.
  • Food Service
    • Food Service: No home prepared meals or snacks should be provided, all potlucks should be canceled, rescheduled, or postponed. Any food served in churches should be prepared and purchased at a commercial food outlet, preferably prepackaged and/or individually wrapped.
    • Coffee Hour: Coffee hours should follow the above directive on the use of food. Platters and buffets should not be used at this time. Any plates, cups, and utensils used should be disposable and parishioners should be directed to dispose of their dishes and get new plates, cups, and utensils before getting more food or beverages.

Recommendations

Recommendations are actions that are being left to the discretion of each local congregation, based on their context.

  • Large Gatherings
    • Online Worship: As more restrictions are put in place on large gatherings, begin considering ways to shift Sunday worship services from physical gatherings to virtual, online gatherings. We will soon have resources below to help you make that transition during this time.
    • Limit Non-Essential Gatherings: Outside of worship services, consider canceling or postponing your non-essential gatherings, or making these gatherings virtual.
    • Hold Meetings Online: Consider holding meetings over Zoom or Skype.
    • Sick Parishioners: Urge anyone who is sick to stay home.
    • Vulnerable Populations: Encourage those who are at higher risk for coronavirus to not attend. People at higher risk are people over 60 years of age, those with underlying health conditions including heart disease, lung disease, or diabetes, those with weakened immune systems, and those who are pregnant.
  • Feeding Programs
    • Feeding Programs: Be certain that all food prepared meets Washington State Food Safety Standards and that individuals serving food have Food Handler’s Permits and follow safe food handling procedures at all times.
    • Sick Attendees: Any sick attendee at a feeding program should be segregated from healthy attendees. The sick attendee should be urged to seek shelter in one of the sites set up by city or local health officials.
    • Temperatures: Consider having someone onsite to take temperatures with a digital heat thermometer before attendees come into the space of your feeding program to help determine if anyone entering the space has a fever.

Resources

The following resources have gathered for use by churches across the diocese.

COVID-19: Requirements, Recommendations, and Resources

2 thoughts on “COVID-19: Requirements, Recommendations, and Resources

  • May 23, 2020 at 8:14 am
    Permalink

    This is not the current set of guidelines. Please update so that members of the congregation are not confused. Thanks!

    Reply
    • May 23, 2020 at 3:26 pm
      Permalink

      It is found under Important Diocesan Information – A Guide for Gathering in Person: The Diocese of Olympia’s Phased-In Plan for Resuming In-Person Worship and Activities

      Reply

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