Healthy at Church, Healthy in Worship

Dean Phelps, Transitional Regional Minister

Healthy at Church, Guidelines for resuming gathered worship

In his daily Coronavirus briefing on April 29, Gov. Andy Beshear announced that houses of worship may begin the first phase of reopening worship services on May 20. I know this is welcome news to many of us, and several of you have already begun making plans. As we begin to shift from healthy at home to healthy at work, we also begin the conversation about being healthy at church, especially healthy in worship.

The governor’s announcement caught us unaware but not unprepared. Even before the announcement, we had planned to release guidelines for phased reopening of worship and church activities. I am grateful to the regional staff and to several pastors around the region who provided valuable feedback for these guidelines. They are available on the Region’s web site. A PDF version is also available.

Keep in mind that re-opening will be a phased process. At the time of the April 29 briefing, state guidance was not clear about how restrictions will be eased for congregations to begin coming back together for worship. Please check back regularly. At the time of writing, we based the phases on the CDC guidelines for reopening. As state guidelines become clear, we will update the page accordingly.

The decision for when and how to return to worship rests with the leadership of each congregation. The Region is offering these guidelines as a way to help pastors, elders, and church officers work prayerfully and collaboratively to reopen in a way that is safe and protects the most vulnerable in the congregation.

Regional staff will continue to restrict our travel, probably through the end of summer. It is one thing for people who live and work in the same community to gather in a worship service with proper protocols and protection. However, when a regional minister who lives in Woodford County and has an office in Fayette County, for example, drives around the state, moving from congregation to congregation, that’s a prime example of the Honeybee Effect in spreading the virus. I miss seeing you, but I love you enough to stay away when it will keep you safer.

The regional office on Red Mile Road in Lexington remains closed for the time being. We are following current state recommendations to continue teleworking.

Finally, I believe that the Spirit of God dwells among the people of God. None of us are alone on this journey. We are many different congregations, but we are one church. Let us draw on our shared wisdom as we each consider the path to being healthy at church.

I am proud of the ways Disciples in Kentucky have continued to worship, witness, and serve in these most unusual circumstaces. You give me confidence that we will get through this together.

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