Phase 3: Recovery

General Guidance from Restore Illinois Plan:

  • Face coverings in public continue to be required
  • All gatherings of 10 people or fewer are allowed with this limit subject to change based on latest data and guidance
  • Travel should follow state and federal public health approved guidance
  • Schools in remote learning
  • Limited child care and summer programs open with Department of Public Health approved safety guidance
  • Employees of “non-essential” businesses are allowed to return to work with Department of Public Health approved safety guidance depending upon risk level, tele-work strongly encouraged wherever possible
  • Employers are encouraged to provide accommodations for COVID-19-vulnerable employees.

Illinois Great Rivers Conference Guidance:

  1. Churches should follow Phase 2 Illinois Great Rivers Conference Guidance except as changed in this list.
  2. Churches may begin meeting in groups of 10 people or fewer for worship, leadership meetings, discipleship formation, and missional service. Some churches may determine that they will continue to meet for public worship exclusively online in order to avoid excluding congregants who may not yet feel safe attending in person gatherings. Most churches will want to continue to offer their online or broadcast worship experience in addition to any small group in person gatherings.
  3. Churches may begin meeting outdoors. Where weather and facilities permit, it is much safer for worship and other activities to occur outdoors rather than indoors. At an outdoor gathering, people should sit with those from their household and maintain at least six feet apart from other people and household groups. Even when meeting outdoors, the church will need to follow appropriate social distancing, mask wearing, logging of participants, and other safety precautions. If continuing with singing and group recitation, increase social distance to at least 10 feet between groups and ensure face coverings are worn.
  4. Churches will need to build a system to ensure that groups will be 10 people or fewer. This can be done through a system of pre-registration (online or via phone reservation), tickets, or preparations to limit the number of people who can enter the building.
  5. Gatherings are any distinct group of people who do not interact with anyone else. Multiple gatherings can occur simultaneously in the same facility if they had staggered start times so people weren't in the parking lot at the same time., had separate bathroom facilities, had separate entrances, had doors closed between the two groups, had separate HVAC air handling equipment that didn't circulate between the two areas, and had no people (including clergy) moving between the groups. If a person who was at any gathering tested positive for Covid-19, everyone in the facility would need to be notified and recommended that they be tested and self-quarantine for the recommended amount of time.
  6. Churches should keep a log of participants to any size gathering or who enter the church building. This can be used to notify participants should someone also present at that gather later test positive for COVID-19. The log should include Name, Address, Phone, and Other Contact information.
  7. All people, including worship leaders, musicians, pastors, and congregants should wear a face covering. Small children and others specifically exempted by public health guidelines may be present without masks. Masks are only effective if they are used correctly and used by everyone present.
  8. Consider installing plexiglass to provide a physical barrier between the pastor and other worship leaders and the congregation.
  9. All people, including worship leaders, musicians, pastors and congregants should remain at least 6 feet from other people. People who live in the same household may be within 6 feet of each other.
  10. Have a plan in place to provide adequate time and supplies for assigned people to clean and sanitized exposed surfaces (including pew backs, door handles, bathrooms, and other high traffic areas between services).
  11. Holy Communion presents a unique safety challenge, as it typically involves close physical contact, eating, and drinking. Touching a face mask to remove or shift it to take the elements will contaminate the mask and increases the risk of viral exposure. Those serving communion share the same risk as those receiving, so any communion practice must be strictly non-contact. This may mean some congregations will choose to further postpone offering in-person communion. Others may find ways to pre-distribute sanitarily prepared and packaged communion elements that can be accessed while maintaining a 6-foot social distance.
  12. Baptisms should limit close personal contact and no skin-to-skin contact is recommended during baptisms. If necessary, it is recommended that parents hold babies and small children as the pastor performs the rite.
  13. When meeting indoors congregations, worship leaders, and choirs should not join in singing of hymns, praise songs or other congregational music while the congregation is present. Singing has a high risk of spreading water droplets which can carry the virus a significant distance and can potentially remain suspended in the air. A cloth mask is unlikely to be enough to protect you or your neighbor even as you practice appropriate physical distancing.
  14. Use no-touch alternatives for passing the peace, collecting offering, and liturgical resources. Consider removing pew Bibles, hymnals and friendship pads especially if you will have multiple services. Use single-use bulletins or screens as alternatives. If you keep these resources in the pews provide for wipe down after each service.  
  15. For children’s time, do not have children come forward. Instead, create from you-to-the-pew story moments engaging children from safe distancing.
  16. Distancing: Have people spread out in the sanctuary space. Allow only one household unit per pew or seating area with measured markers indicating proper physical distance in approved and marked seating areas. Explore meeting in a fellowship hall or outdoors if your space is small. Post signs to remind people that they should use face coverings and practice social distancing. Frequently remind people of these practices during every gathering.
  17. Avoid greeting lines at the beginning or ending of the gathering. Help people to leave in a staggered fashion in order to avoid groups bunching up in hallways, doorways, or parking areas. 
  18. Do not offer fellowship meals, snacks, donuts, or coffee hour. Continue encouraging people to leave the building rather than mingling.
  19. Children’s Ministries – Although children may meet in groups of less than 10, they are unlikely to follow appropriate health safety and social distancing guidelines. Therefore, we recommend that you do not resume in person children’s ministry programs, nursery, or Sunday School. Children are safest and make the congregation safest if they remain with their household groups while they are in the building. Remote learning, online, and at-home children’s ministries are encouraged and may require significant innovation and investment in order to be effective.
  20. Day Camps, After School Programs and Youth Sports Programming -- Day camps, after school programs, and youth sports programming may be held. They must comply with all of the detailed and specific requirements provided by the Illinois Department of Commerce and any additional requirements of local public health officials. IDC requirements can be found at: https://www2.illinois.gov/dceo/Pages/RestoreILP3.aspx.
  21. Discipleship Formation – People may gather in groups of less than 10, wearing masks, and practicing appropriate social distancing. Some participants will not yet feel safe or comfortable being in public, and any small group experience should provide an easy and accessible means for them to participate either online or over the telephone. This may mean that it is more comfortable and effective for many discipleship-formation groups to continue to meet primarily online or over the telephone.
  22. Missional Service – People may gather in groups of less than 10, wearing masks, and practicing appropriate social distancing. Mission trips outside of the local area should not be held. This is an ideal time for mission in the local area. Are there food pantries or other community services in need of volunteers? Practice the art of mission in place. Keep your groups small so as not to overwhelm the ministries you serve.
  23. Leadership Meetings – People may gather in groups of less than 10, wearing masks, and practicing appropriate social distancing. Larger meetings such as Administrative Councils should remain online or over the telephone, and Charge Conferences should seek guidance from their District Superintendent on how to legally and safely conduct their business.
  24. Church Staff – Church staff, pastors, and other workers using the church facility are allowed to return to work in the church building but working conditions must follow Department of Public Health approved safety guidance depending upon risk level. Remote, at-home, and virtual office work is strongly encouraged wherever possible. Continue to attend to cleaning and sanitizing the office. Pay particular attention to high-touch surfaces and cleaning hands after dealing with the offering.
  25. Post signs throughout the building indicating symptoms and urging people to stay home and seek medical attention if they have symptoms.
  26. Maintain a good stock of tissue, soap, hand sanitizer and disposable paper towels for drying hands.
  27. Clean the building regularly and between user groups, paying extra attention to high-touch surfaces.

People over 65 years old, those with compromised immunity, those with respiratory illness or injury, others who are at a higher risk of dying from COVID-19, those who have tested positive for COVID-19, and those who have been exposed to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 in the last 14 days should continue to remain isolated and avoid gatherings of any size until they are given the all-clear. This includes church staff, volunteers, parishioners, visitors, renters, facility users, and guests. Church staff and clergy who are at high risk should have a conversation with their supervisor, Pastor-Parish Relations Committee, or District Superintendent to seek appropriate accommodation.