We must rely on our people—both those in our congregation and also members of the larger body of Christ—to plan for how to protect our churches. Fortunately, we are up to the task. As Paul says in Ephesians, when Jesus ascended on high, he “gave gifts to his people” (4:8). We can trust that the Lord has gifted his people with the wisdom and skills necessary to prepare for what comes next.
The Story: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has compiled new “Interim Guidance for Communities of Faith” that outlines precautions churches may need to take when states lift their coronavirus restrictions.
The Background: The CDC’s document—which is not legally binding and has not been officially released yet—notes that the “guidance is not intended to infringe on First Amendment rights as provided in the US Constitution.” Neither the CDC nor any other federal government agency can prescribe standards for interactions of faith communities that are “more stringent than the mitigation strategies asked of similarly situated entities or activities in accordance with the Religious Freedom and Restoration Act (RFRA).”
The CDC offers the following suggestions for consideration “to the extent consistent with each community’s faith tradition”:
Hygienic and cleaning practices
- Encourage use of flexible or virtual options whenever possible for all non-worship activities (e.g., counseling, volunteer meetings).
- Follow specific CDC guidance for childcare or educational programming for children and youth.
- Encourage use of a cloth face covering at all gatherings and when in the building by everyone except children aged less than 2 years old. (Not using a cloth face covering may also be appropriate at times for some individuals who have trouble breathing or need assistance to remove their mask.)
- Have adequate hygiene supplies, such as soap, tissues, no-touch trash cans, hand sanitizer (with at least 60 percent alcohol).
- Consider posting signs on how to stop the spread of COVID-19 and promote everyday protective measures.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces at least daily and shared objects between use. Avoid use of items that are not easily cleaned, sanitized, or disinfected. Ensure safe and correct application of disinfectants and keep them away from children.
- Ensure that ventilation systems operate properly and increase circulation of outdoor air as much as possible by opening windows and doors, using fans, and so on. Do not open windows and doors if they pose a safety risk to children using the facility.
- Take steps to ensure that all water systems and features (for example, drinking fountains, decorative fountains) are safe to use after a prolonged facility shutdown to minimize the risk of Legionnaires’ disease and other diseases associated with water.