Pastor’s Page

Pastor Gregg Kohlhepp — cell 814-404-0701– ph 814- 857-2987 — gkohlhepp@susumc.org

Below are the Susquehanna Conference guidelines for reopening, issued Feb. 2nd:

CHURCH BUILDING REOPENING GUIDELINES DURING THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC
To help churches decide when to open their buildings for in-person worship, the Susquehanna
Conference offers the following recommendations. They are based on current medical research
and best practices. Because churches vary in congregation size, financial resources, and building size, location, and condition, these guidelines may be adapted to each church’s context.
Our Christian Commitment
As Christians we are committed to Jesus’s teaching to love God and our neighbors. As United
Methodists, we observe John Wesley’s admonishment to do no harm. During the pandemic,
this means that we do all we can to avoid spreading the virus.
Key Facts
• COVID is spread primarily via airborne particles. It can stay suspended in the air for 13
hours. Thorough air exchange is essential.
• Variants of COVID have come to the United States and are expected to spread to
Pennsylvania in March if not before. These variants are very contagious.
• Vaccination and rigorous mask-wearing are the best ways to protect yourself and others
from the virus.
When Can We Start Worshiping Indoors?
The Cabinet recommends that churches may consider offering in-person worship when the rate
of positive tests for COVID in their county has a seven-day rolling average of less than 10
percent over seven consecutive days. Combined with excellent air exchange, mask-wearing,
social distancing, and vaccination, observing this threshold will increase the likelihood that a
church can safely offer in-person worship.
Positivity rates will vary over time, so check your county’s positivity rate at least weekly. If
rates rise to 10 percent or more, your church should strongly consider pausing in-person worship services.

SAFETY FOR IN-PERSON WORSHIP
Even if your county’s seven-day average positivity rate has fallen below 10 percent for seven
days, your worshipers could still catch the virus or pass it to others. Churches that open for in-person worship should continue to take the following steps.
1. Maximize air exchange.
Conduct worship in the room with the best air exchange. Keeping windows and doors
open (even in cold weather) is a good way to enhance this.
If possible, install ionization systems for your building’s air handlers (HVAC units).
Worship is held more safely outdoors (while still requiring face coverings and social
distancing) than indoors.
2. Disinfect the building’s indoor surfaces before and after each worship service.
3. Require worshipers to wear face coverings at all times. If a medical condition precludes
some from wearing a face covering, encourage those people, for their own wellbeing,
not attend in-person worship at this time.
4. Require social distancing and minimize the amount of time people will be sitting or
standing near each other. Roping off pews and/or otherwise indicating six-foot
distances between household groups may be helpful. Forego pre- or post-worship social
hours or in-person Sunday school for the time being.
5. Discourage congregational or choir singing. Some congregations are humming (while
wearing masks) instead of singing.
6. Churches that expect significant numbers of people at in-person worship may consider
holding more than one service.
7. Keep hand sanitizer easily available to worshipers. The conference has a large stock of
sanitizer and masks available. Contact Doug Hoy at drc@susumc.org for information.
8. Limit the number of bathrooms available for use.
9. Limit the number of doorways that worshipers can use to enter and exit the building.
10. Encourage your worshipers to receive the vaccine.
11. Consider requiring those who have leadership roles in worship or church ministries to
obtain the vaccine as soon as it is available.
12. Consider requiring ministry volunteers who interact with the public (such as providing
meals or other services) to obtain the vaccination as soon as it is available.
13. Take attendance, or require online sign-up, so that contact tracing can be conducted in
the event of an exposure.

RESOURCES
• Pennsylvania COVID Dashboard (reports positivity rates by county):
health.pa.gov/topics/disease/coronavirus/Pages/Monitoring-Dashboard.aspx
• Pennsylvania COVID Dashboard with data by Zip Code:
health.pa.gov/topics/disease/coronavirus/Pages/Cases.aspx
• Vaccination Rollout Plan (when, where, and how to get vaccinated):
health.pa.gov/topics/disease/coronavirus/Vaccine/Pages/Vaccine.aspx
• Susquehanna Conference COVID resources: susumc.org/covid-19/