Statement and Guidelines for Responsible Re-Opening of Local Churches from the College of Bishops
As your chief pastors, we express thanks to our pastors and churches for the stellar efforts you have and are making to adapt during this ongoing pandemic. You are to be commended for having chosen some very creative online presences offering worship, study, fellowship and ministry of your congregations and the larger community. Because of your efforts the CME banner has been extended to multiple audiences in ways we had not previously reached.
However, we believe it is now time for us to responsibly prepare for re-opening our churches for worship and for ministry using best practices to seek to mitigate infections from COVID-19 and its Delta Variant. Thus, we offer the following statement and guidelines to our Zion:
First, all decisions about re-opening should be based on accurate information on the status of the virus in your local community.
Second, we urge all pastors and members to get vaccinated; take the booster shot when appropriate, and continue to follow the guidelines of the Center for Disease Control (CDC) (www.cdc.gov) and other reputable sources in the medical community.
Third, we are recommending that by October 3, 2021 all local churches will prepare a re-opening plan for our church facilities. Pastors, officers and members should be in dialogue to develop the plan for in- person worship, prayer, study, fellowship, meetings and funerals. Local health authorities should be consulted in developing the plan. Online and outdoor opportunities for worship and other activities should be continued and/or added. The process of reopening church facilities demands intentional prayer, physical preparations and vigilant efforts to mitigate COVID-19 infections among all who enter our facilities.
Therefore, churches that are re-opening (or have already re-opened) should follow these basic guidelines:
All gathering places (sanctuaries, fellowship halls, bathrooms, classes, microphones, pews, pulpits, choir seating, musical instruments, etc.) should be carefully cleaned and sanitized prior to and ongoing as persons enter our church facilities.
If your facilities have been closed for a long period of time, perform a test on the water to ensure it is safe to drink and the ventilation system should be checked and cleaned.
All attendees (regardless of vaccination status) must wear masks, wash hands appropriately, and practice social distancing when seated or standing and avoid unnecessary physical contact.
Each church should use temperature gauges to monitor persons attending worship and gatherings. Attendance should be taken for any future notification purposes.
We urge worship and gathering events be limited to a maximum of one hour. Exit the building promptly after the service ends.
We encourage you to feel free to consult with other pastors and churches. Take advantage of opportunities to learn from each other; hold each other accountable while supporting others.
Furthermore, we ask that all pastors keep their respective presiding elders and bishops informed of ongoing efforts to navigate through this crisis filled time.
For our congregations in Mother Africa, Jamaica, Haiti and beyond, we are aware of the problem of vaccine inequity and have raised the issue of equal access to our leaders in Washington DC. The CME Church firmly believes all countries, regardless of their wealth, must have access to life saving vaccines.
Further, in the absence of equal access to vaccines, your diligent efforts in enforcing the wearing of masks, social distancing and sanitization of hands and facilities has preserved life and stand as an example to all of us as we plan for a safe return to our facilities.
The College of Bishops, CME Church
Lawrence Reddick, Senior Bishop
James B. Walker, Chair
Teresa Jefferson-Snorton, Secretary
Henry M. Williamson, Sr.
Thomas L. Brown, Sr.
Kenneth W. Carter
Sylvester Williams, Sr.
Marvin F. Thomas
C. James King
Paul A. G. Stewart, Sr., retired
Othal H. Lakey, retired
Marshall Gilmore, retired