Message from the Interim General Presbyter
November 19, 2020
Grace to you and peace in the name of Jesus Christ!
Many of you are asking what churches should do in the face of this new surge in the coronavirus. The Communications and Coordination Team and I have this guidance to share. Once again, I am not a bishop and I cannot tell you what you must do. But this information is shared following Governor Northam’s most recent executive order.
One source summarized seven requirements for churches (see below) that should be implemented immediately. If churches can’t comply with these requirements, Gov. Northam’s order says they may not be held in person. The new COVID-19 restrictions limit gatherings to just 25 people. Though that number does not apply to churches in the POJ holding “religious services” (e.g., gatherings for worship), there cannot be gatherings of more than 25 people for any other church activities (e.g., Bible studies, meals, etc.).
According to most recent Virginia’s Phase Three Executive Order (PDF), people may attend in-person church services of more than 25 people with the following requirements:
- Those in attendance must be at least six feet apart when seated and must practice proper physical distancing at all times. However, family members can be seated together.
- Churches must mark seating and common areas where attendees can congregate in six-foot increments to follow physical distancing guidelines between those who aren’t family members.
- Items that are used to distribute food or beverages must be disposable, used only once and discarded after.
- Routine cleaning and disinfection of high-contact surfaces must be done before and after any religious service.
- Church workers need to post signage at the entrance that states that those with a fever or any symptoms of COVID-19 can’t participate during in-person religious service.
- Churches need to post signage to provide public health reminders regarding physical distancing, gatherings, options for high-risk individuals and staying home if sick.
- Cloth face coverings must be worn during religious services.
The Sessions of our churches make the decisions together with the pastors and other staff. Many of you are already practicing these requirements. Thank you all for implementing these prior to this weekend and, if you are unable to gather for worship safely, please gather virtually until safety requirements can be followed.
May God bless you all! Please stay safe!
In Christ’s Service,
Fred A. Holbrook
Interim General Presbyter and Stated Clerk
Safer at Home: Virginia's Phase Three Guidelines for Religious Services
On November 13, Virginia updated its Phase 3 guidelines for reducing the spread of COVID-19. A section of the updated guidelines outlines specific requirements and best practices to keep church attendees, worship leaders, and staff safe. Review the guidance for religious services on pages 34-37. (The link will open a PDF at the appropriate location.) You also may wish to review the general information beginning at page 1.
Faith community leaders can receive a signage tool-kit and register to receive updated information from the Governor’s Office of Diversity and Partners in Prayer and Prevention from the Virginia Department of Health by contacting OHE@vdh.virginia.gov.
Presbyterian Foundation Offers Resources Specific to COVID-19 Crisis
The Presbyterian Foundation has a collection of resources and information with faith communities in mind during the COVID-19 crisis.
- Worship materials
- Ministry ideas during a pandemic
- Licensing guidance for streaming worship services
- Online giving services
- Stewardship suggestions