As we continue to see lower risk for COVID-19 across the State of Illinois, the Illinois Great Rivers Conference is adjusting its safety recommendations to keep in pace with the recommendations from the Illinois Department of Public Health. You can read the entirety of the IDPH’s updated recommendations at www.dph.illinois.gov/covid19 and the full text of our IGRC recommendation document “Pressing On” located lower on this page.
In summary, the changes to Phase 4 allow for up to 50 people to gather in most of our churches. In churches with room capacity larger than 200 people, they may gather up to 25% of room capacity. This removes the previous upper limit of 100 people. Additionally, fully vaccinated people will not count against gathering size limits.
A person is fully vaccinated when it has been at least 14 days since they received the final dose of vaccination. Churches may gather vaccination information by allowing for participants to voluntarily disclose whether they are fully vaccinated on the church reservation or sign-up log being kept for contract tracing. At no time should church leaders demand information about vaccination status (or any other protected health information), request vaccination cards be shown on admittance, or pressure participants in any way to show proof of vaccination. When in doubt our churches should continue to plan their gatherings as if participants are unvaccinated. The IGRC continues to recommend that churches should avoid creating special events, gatherings, or worship experiences only available to those who are already fully vaccinated. Our ministries are meant for all, and we need to be diligent in ensuring that an individual’s access to vaccination does not become a barrier for people’s full participation in the life of our churches.
The IDPH has created a new “Bridge” Phase to help ease the transition from Phase 4 to Phase 5 and has added some updates to Phase 5 which are reflected in the summary chart below. Please continue to witness to the love of Christ by keeping your congregation and community as safe as possible during this pandemic. If you have questions, please visit this page, contact your District Superintendent, or reach out to our Director of Connectional Ministry Curtis Brown at email@example.com.
For the detailed metrics, visit: Restore Illinois Regional Dashboard
With the ongoing decrease in transmissions and cases of COVID-19, the Illinois Great Rivers Extended Cabinet has updated it safety guidance document “Pressing On” found on this page. Our United Methodist churches and pastors have been exemplary leaders and have directly contributed to keeping their congregations and communities safer during this pandemic. Their leadership has enable these changes.
When meeting indoors congregations and choirs may cautiously join in singing of hymns, praise songs, or other congregational music if they are wearing well-fitted and high-quality masks, keeping 10 feet between people from different households, taking good care to wash their hands, carefully keeping contact logs, and ensuring excellent fresh-air ventilation and air circulation throughout the room. Worship and music leaders may continue to provide sung music if they are located 25 feet or more from the congregation, are well-masked, and/or are located behind plexiglass or some other shield. Congregations should continue to take care as singing can have a high risk of spreading water droplets which can carry the virus a significant distance and can potentially keep the virus suspended in the air for quite a long time. An ill-fitted cloth mask may not be enough to protect you or your neighbor even as you practice appropriate physical distancing, so a well-fitted, medical quality (N95 or KN95) mask is preferable. Despite its dangers, some congregations may continue to practice group singing without appropriate precautions. If this occurs, church leaders should do whatever they can to make it as safe as possible, including wearing some kind of mask, further increasing distance between people, limiting the number and duration of songs, limiting the number of singers, placing songs near the end of worship, and explicitly warning high-risk people that they may have a higher risk of viral exposure during the congregation’s gatherings.
As an increasing number of people are receiving vaccinations against COVID-19, churches should continue to exercise diligence in helping to keep their congregations and communities as safe as possible. These principles may help local church health safety leaders in making decisions about how to safely conduct their ministries:
A fully vaccinated person is someone who is two weeks past receiving a full dose of vaccines (either both injections of the two-shot course of vaccination or the single-shot vaccination). Although fully vaccinated people have significantly lowered their risk of getting ill from COVID-19, there is still risk for unvaccinated people in group gatherings and activities such as church ministries. The Centers for Disease Control says that fully vaccinated people may safely:
However, people who are fully vaccinated still need to take precautions in group settings, such as many church gatherings. The guidelines say fully vaccinated people should:
In addition, fully vaccinated people should continue basic safety precautions, such as:
Starting March 29, all Illinois religious leaders, including all of our IGRC pastors and clergy, will be eligible to sign-up with their local public health departments to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
Illinois Great Rivers Conference of the United Methodist Church
The Restore Illinois plan provides for the State of Illinois to be divided into four public health regions, which will be assessed for risk of COVID-19 deaths based on five phases. This is a summary of the detailed guidance available for Illinois Great Rivers United Methodist Churches on applicable safety guidance for each phase.
Phase 1: RAPID SPREAD
Phase 2: FLATTENING
Phase 3: RECOVERY
Phase 4: REVITALIZATION
Phase 5: ILLINOIS RESTORED
To read the entire document, use the download link below or select the menu item to the right, "Coming Back to the Heart of Worship" and its secondary pages underneath it.
Bishop Frank J. Beard