May 8, 2020

There have been questions circulating about the timing of and parameters for reopening our churches to in-person worship and activities.  Some guidelines have started to circulate.  The Presbytery of Milwaukee is committed to following public health guidance which recommends a phased approach, including the Badger Bounce Back Plan (modeled on the national Opening Up America Again plan), the Wisconsin Council of Churches guide, and the recommendations of our Presbyterian Church (USA).  We are firmly committed that the command to love our neighbor as ourselves requires adherence to sound science and public health guidelines.  Practical and liability reasons also exist that warrant your documenting a careful and safe plan for reopening.
At this point, Wisconsin is still operating under the Safer At Home order although that might change based on the expected decision of the Wisconsin Supreme Court.  Even if church closures are not mandatory under state or federal law, we urge all Sessions to adopt a phased reopening plan based on demonstrated and sustained decreases in the State of flu-like symptoms and positive COVID-19 cases, the ability of hospitals to effectively treat affected patients, and implementation of a rigorous testing plan.  Because these requirements (often called Phases 1, 2, and 3) have not been met, congregational leaders have a window of time to think carefully through the safety protocols for a gradual reopening.  Linked is a guide and sample template-Word and guide and sample template-PDF for a written reopening plan to help your Session and other congregational leaders begin or continue the process.  You might also decide that you'd like to wait before beginning that discussion.  We leave the timing of the discussion to your sound discretion.  The guide and plan template are for your use; there is no need to provide copies to the Presbytery.  Based on your individual circumstances, there might be additional questions that need to be raised for your context, so please feel free to edit the template and add questions to make this useful to you.
We offer special thanks to Ann Gibbs and Chris Halverson on Presbytery staff, who took the laboring oar in putting these documents together for you.  In the guide, you will find references to other sources that have been helpful to us in preparing these documents.
As we walk together through this pandemic, we give thanks to God for your faithfulness, compassion, and tenacity.  These are unprecedented times, and your leadership is both needed and appreciated.  Please let us know how we can support you.

Rachel Yates, Presbytery Executive
Christian Boyd, Presbytery Stated Clerk
Judy Jaggard, Presbytery Moderator