Updated ECMN Regathering Plan
Beloved in Christ,
ECMN is now implementing a process, modeled after many other dioceses across the church, that will help us to prepare to safely reopen our buildings to work, ministry, and worship, and to do so while staying in conversation with one another as we move through the next 12-18 months of life during this pandemic.
As we live into this new normal, the complexity of the terrain we are traversing continues to reveal itself. The realities of our different contexts, building sizes, and local infection rates mean that a one-size-fits-all approach to whether and how we gather in person is not helpful. And while, based on everything we know about the virus and how it spreads, it is still the safest and best option to gather outdoors or virtually, we know that the window for gathering outdoors is limited here in Minnesota.
I want to continue to trust and respect the faithful leadership all of you are exercising locally, and at the same time be diligent in my responsibility to provide you with support you need as we move forward.
I encourage everyone to continue to move forward as slowly and cautiously as possible. Even where in-person gatherings are permitted, some faith communities may discern that their congregation will be better served by continuing to gather virtually. And when a faith community does discern that reopening buildings is the right next step, we know that it is safer to move through this process slowly, reopening one ministry at a time, rather than all at once. This is why we’ve determined to break up the reopening process into two distinct phases. More information on that can be found below.
Changes to this Document Since Previous Version
- We’ll be looking at the 7-day positivity rate as our metric for how we’ll determine which phase ECMN and individual faith communities are in.
- The Building Use Task Force will accept plans for reopening church buildings in two phases.
- Appendix A has been transformed into a metric that can be used to create a reopening plan for your faith community.
- Additional clarification and best practices have been added to Appendix G for the practice of the Eucharist once faith communities return to in-person worship.
Reopening Church Buildings in Phase 1.5
As of August 18th, 2020, all in ECMN are still in Phase 1.5 of our Re-Gathering Plan. This means that the 7-day positivity rates are trending at or above 5% for either the state or county.
During Phase 1.5, the Building Use Task Force will now consider plans for the reopening of church buildings for use by clergy, church employees, volunteers and businesses or organizations operating in church buildings.
The Guidelines for Phase 1.5 have been updated with more specific information.
Reopening Church Buildings in Phase 2
As we look ahead and prepare to move to Phase 2, we will shift our focus to the positivity rates of both the state and county in which a faith community is situated. In order to be considered in Phase 2, the 7-day positivity rates of the state AND county must both have trended under 5%. This means that some faith communities will likely move to Phase 2 before others based on the prevalence of COVID-19 in their counties.
When a faith community is considered in Phase 2, the Building Use Task Force will consider plans for opening buildings for ministries, outside groups, and limited capacity in-person worship.
My prayers are with all of you. I understand that this plan will not answer every question or account for every circumstance, so let’s see this as a further invitation to relationship and conversation as we remain thought partners in sorting through all of the complexity that this season brings. I, your missioners, and the Building Use Task Force are all here to support you on this journey.
The Right Reverend Craig Loya
Episcopal Church in Minnesota