Gov. Reynolds signed a new proclamation continuing the State Public Health Emergency Declaration until May 27, 2020. The proclamation loosens social distancing measures in 77 Iowa counties effective Friday, May 1 and continues other restrictions until 11:50 p.m. on Friday, May 15, 2020. Watch the governor’s news conference here.
In the 77 counties, the proclamation permits restaurants, fitness centers, malls, libraries, race tracks, and certain other retail establishments to reopen in a limited fashion with public health measures in place. In addition, the proclamation lifts the restriction on religious and spiritual gatherings so long as churches and other gathering hosts implement reasonable public health measures. All other regulatory relief previously provided to affected Iowans is also extended until Wednesday, May 27, 2020.
SECTION ONE. I strongly encourage all vulnerable Iowans, including those with preexisting medical conditions and those older than 65, in all counties of the state to continue to limit their activities outside of their home, including their visits to businesses and other establishments and their participation in gatherings of any size and any purpose.
SECTION SIX. Pursuant to Iowa Code § 135.144 (3), and in conjunction with the Iowa Department of Public Health, unless otherwise modified by subsequent proclamation or order of the Iowa Department of Public Health, social, community, recreational, leisure, and sporting gatherings and events of more than 10 people shall continue to be prohibited at all locations and venues, including but not limited to parades, festivals, conventions, and fundraisers effective 12:01 a.m. on May 1, 2020 and until 11:59 p.m. on May 15, 2020.
A. Spiritual and religious gatherings are not prohibited by this section, but a church, synagogue, or other host of a spiritual or religious gathering shall implement reasonable measures under the circumstances of each gathering to ensure social distancing of employees, volunteers, and other participants, increased hygiene practices, and other public health measures to reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19 consistent with guidance issued by the Iowa Department of Public Health. Although wedding and funeral ceremonies are not covered by this section, wedding receptions of more than 10 people are social gatherings that are prohibited.
B. A gathering of people inside parked cars, trucks, or other enclosed motor vehicles shall not constitute a gathering of more than 10 people if no more than 10 people are inside each vehicle, all people remain inside the vehicle at all times.
C. Planned large gatherings and events must be canceled or postponed until after termination of this disaster.
Please contact the IDE Office for further questions. Please stay tuned for further resources.
All in-person meetings should ensure proper sanitary precautions. Please make hand sanitation stations throughout the congregation, but especially in key areas where resources are available for pickup. We recommend no meals and social gatherings take place. Please consider the impact of the current governmental and CDC recommendations, especially as they pertain to worship services, weddings, and funerals. As congregations seek to accommodate for Gov. Reynolds’ State of Public Health Disaster Emergency declaration, we are recommending congregations find alternative ways to continue Word and Sacrament Ministry. Some suggestions are:
If your congregation has the capability you could video yourself reading the lectionary for that Sunday followed by a sermon that you preach. You would be robed and vested. Some might want to video a Matins service with hymns if you are comfortable singing without others joining you. You could then post the video on your website or on YouTube or Facebook page for the membership to watch. If you do not have that capability then you could send an email copy of your sermon to each members home. If some members do not have a computer or internet access, home visits would need to be an added part of your schedule.
Baptism is the gift of the Holy Spirit to the child. This is a must. These would be conducted with 10 or less in attendance.
This is the most difficult one to assess. The funerals would be conducted but with 10 or less in attendance. The decision of who the 10 are would be family decisions. A memorial service could be conducted when the order is lifted.
Also very difficult to assess. The wedding could be delayed but if that is not a desire of the couple you would conduct the wedding for the couple with a few witnesses in attendance. All licenses would be signed, sent into the county and a new household is established. A celebration of their vows could be conducted at a later date with all the trimmings they would have had on their wedding day. The couple will certainly have a story to tell their grandchildren someday.
This is the one that is going to take some adjustment. One thing you could do is to list certain hour or hours you will be vested and robed in the Sanctuary on which ever day you choose. It would make sense to do this on a Sunday but any day or time would work. You would ask those folks who wish to commune to be at the church during the hours you post. You would commune one table at a time (probably 10 or less, they would be the only ones in the Sanctuary). You would do this for the entire time you had slotted. If more time is needed then allow more time to do this. I would suggest that you speak the words of institution for each table. Have them confess the Nicene Creed and pray the Lord’s Prayer together then commune and leave. You could do this for each week that you normally would have had the Sacrament.
Since this is done privately I don’t think anything would have to change or be adjusted for this. There may be more making use of it in these trying time that before which is always a good thing.
I think this is going to be an issue the elders or yourself will need to address. Lack of attendance in person can result in lack of offerings. There are a few things to highlight here: First, the mission and ministry of the Church continues to accumulate expenses no matter the social condition; Second, you as pastor will not cease the responsibilities of your Called vocation for their sake. Bills will still need to be paid and mission work will continue and maybe even increase. Your work load may even expand with additional hours and trips to those who are bound to their homes.