Letter from Bishop Laurie Skow-Anderson
September 14, 2020 (Holy Cross Day)

Dear Pastors, Deacons, SAMs and Lay Leaders, 

We had a frost warning last week! Colder temperatures will bring an end to most outdoor, parking lot worship services in a few weeks and make us realize that the snow isn’t too far off! I know some are wondering: If we can’t worship outside, then when and how can we safely return to worship in our building?  What about Christmas? As you know, a vaccine hasn’t yet been developed and the Coronavirus will be affecting our lives for many more months. I’m sure you have heard all of this before, but I believe it bears repeating. Please share this with your leadership as you consider how to move forward together in God’s mission. 

To be clear, the safest course of action is to refrain from in-person, in-the-church building worship and continue online worship at this time.  However if you and your leadership[1] decide that in person worship can be done safely then consider this background information.

1.     As of 9/13/2020---- 1,210 Wisconsin residents have died from COVID 19---- 6,322 have been hospitalized---- 89,185 tested positive.[2] (Wisconsin DHS) There is a still significant danger from the Coronavirus. Many are tired of it and express “caution fatigue.” Others have politicized this health issue and refuse to take precautions to make a partisan statement.  

2.     Late fall is the beginning of the typical “FLU” season. Combined with the regular flu season, there could be a second wave that is even worse than the first wave of COVID 19. [3]

3.     In northern Wisconsin, weather drives us indoors in the winter. During a pandemic, a large inside  gathering is without question, a dangerous activity. This virus spreads easily in a group. A wedding in Southwest Minnesota with 275 mostly unmasked guests resulted in at least 75 cases of COVID 19.[4]

4.     Gathering inside a church building with closed windows and a large number of unrelated individuals is risky. Limiting the chances for physical contact in group settings has proven to be the most effective way to slow the spread of COVID 19.
5.     If you decide to go to in-person/in the building worship, be prepared to stop and go back to only online, dial back if the cases in your neighborhood spike. 
If you have decided to gather inside your building consider these things to keep your people safe:

Small Group Worship: Gather in small groups based on county recommendations and room size---county recommendations vary greatly. See: Chippewa Falls County[5]-limits indoor group size to 15. Eau Claire County-recommends limiting all gatherings to under 50.[6]  You might consider offering additional small worship services during the week. [7]

1.     Reservations: Take reservations to attend worship, keep a log of all who attend worship in case contact tracing is necessary. Consider using SignUp Genuis or another online registration form.
2.     Masks: Require that everyone is masked, social distanced, no physical contact, hand sanitizer, encourage everyone to get a flu shot. 
3.     Traffic Pattern: limit contact with a clear traffic pattern…in one door and out another door…
4.     Singing: Limit singing to soloists or small ensembles; limit spoken responses-consider clapping rather than a spoken AMEN, a wave rather than the PEACE. Limit wind instruments. 
5.     Air Filtration: Open windows even in cold weather between services-not fans, not air conditioning. Natural airflow with outside air is the best to rid the space of aerosols. 
6.     Rules: Communicate the rules about attending in person worship clearly. Enlist the council or a team that announces and enforces the rules. Some congregations are creating a covenant. 
7.     Multiple small groups-Four services with 25 people are safer than one service with 100. 
8.     Online Worship: Continue or start an online worshiping community-be sure to show proof of copyright for music used in worship. Facebook announced that it will watch more carefully and may mute professionally recorded music without posted copyright notice. If you are using your own musicians and have CCLI, Onelicense, no worries.       

NO-singing, wind instruments, bulletins, hymnals, touching, coffee hour, communion*, responsive readings, large groups, risky behaviors                                                                                                               

YES-small groups, social distance, masks, flu shots, hand sanitizer, cleaning, open windows, reservations, sign in, prepackaged communion elements*, outdoor worship service, rules, online worship, keep people safe
HAVE A PLAN If you are going to in-person worship have a plan…
·       Who will enforce masking or distancing expectations? What will you do if someone does not follow the expectations?
·       What will you do if someone who has attended church is diagnosed COVID? If there is a COVID outbreak associated with the church?
·       If there is a number of positive COVID cases in the community or church, will you pause in person worship? 

We will take some time to talk more about all of this at our Fall Ministry Retreat on September 27-29. If you haven’t registered, please do so, here’s the link. Love without Limits-cost for this Zoom event is $25. 

What about ADVENT and CHRISTMAS?
Join the Synod Ministers for a conversation, ideas and resources to help your planning.  
Advent and Christmas (Pandemic) Planning
A synod wide Zoom Event
Tuesday, October 6, 2020 10 am

Join Zoom Meeting

Meeting ID: 941 8937 4675
Passcode: 619044

I am amazed by your creativity and resourcefulness. Most of all, I am grateful for your partnership in sharing the good news Jesus. Thank you for your faithful ministry during this difficult time.

Please don’t hesitate to contact me or one of the synod ministers. We are here to help.  

~Bishop Laurie Skow-Anderson

Prayer for Holy Cross Day
Almighty God, your Son Jesus Christ was lifted high upon the cross so that he might draw the whole world to himself. To those who look upon the cross, grant your wisdom, healing, and eternal life, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. AMEN

1 Corinthians 1:18 For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 

[1] Every congregation is different. Smaller congregations will find it easier to gather safely for worship than our middle size and larger membership congregations. 
[3] Encourage everyone to VOTE and get a FLU shot!