Trinity’s Phased Plan for Returning to the Building
Our building has been closed to the public since March due to the COVID-19 pandemic and in-person gatherings have been suspended. We want to be clear, however, that our ministry is not “closed.” The church is not a building; it is the people. Our mission and ministry have continued in online gatherings, prayer, acts of service, caring community, and more.
As we make preparations to reopen our building, it has become increasingly clear that things will not “return to normal” as quickly as we had hoped or planned for. For the sake of safety, our return to the building will not be an all-at-once reunion, but instead a phased approach over the course of several months.
In our planning, Trinity Lutheran will rely on the advice of public health experts and the guidance of the Wisconsin Council of Churches and our local synod. The safety of our members and Jesus’ command to love our neighbors will be core values in our decision making.
Safer at Home
Madison and Dane County are still under Safer at Home by emergency order until May 26th. According to the guidance from Public Health Madison & Dane County, “Religious entities are required to use technology to the greatest extent possible to avoid meeting in person.” To ensure the well-being of staff and members, we will follow the safest guidelines.
Trinity’s practices until the order is lifted:
• Online worship services only.
• Building closed to outside groups and the public.
• Minimal in-building staffing sufficient for essential operations (deposits, mail processing, building maintenance)
According to the Badger Bounce Back and Forward Dane plans, Phase One begins when certain public health measures are met: two weeks of declining case counts, widespread availability of testing, contact tracing, and no shortages of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). Dane County recently announced Phase One will begin on May 26th.
Adjustments at Trinity in Phase One:
- Online worship services only. A return to some recording in the sanctuary with at least 6 feet of distance between people – greater distance between those who are singing.
- Life rituals (weddings, funerals) may resume with less than 10 in attendance including staff – meaning primarily immediate family. When possible, services will be held outside. We may be able to set up online options for participation. Masks will be worn; 6 feet of distance; sanitizing of surfaces.
- Small groups will still mostly meet online/by phone. Some groups may start meeting again in person as long as the group is less than 10 people, the group wears facemasks, and can maintain at least 6 feet of space between people.
- Office functions will remain as limited as possible to ensure essential operations. Staff will work from home when possible. Surfaces, including the phone, will be regularly sanitized. Masks may be worn.
In the Dane County and statewide plans, the shift from Phase One to Phase Two will take place after several weeks of improving conditions based on the original criteria (declining number of cases, access to testing, available PPE, contact tracing).
Adjustments at Trinity in Phase Two:
- We will continue to provide options for worship online and by phone for people at high risk of complications due to COVID-19 (those over 60 and those with underlying conditions).
- Under Phase Two, it may become possible to hold in person gatherings of 50 people or less. Trinity will be exploring options for how this might work for us. Masks will need to be worn, 6 feet of distance observed, and surfaces sanitized after each gathering.
- Life rituals (weddings, funerals) could take place in a more traditional way, with careful attention to guest lists so as to keep under the 50 person limit, and physical distancing plans.
- Small group may be able to meet with similar mask and distance practices.
- Regular office functions could resume while maintaining social distancing and wearing masks. Office space and high-touch surfaces will need to be cleaned and sanitized.
In the Dane County and statewide plans, the shift from Phase Two to Phase Three will take place after re-evaluation based on the original criteria (declining number of cases, access to testing, available PPE, contact tracing).
Adjustments at Trinity in Phase Three:
- We will continue to offer worship online and by phone for people at high risk of complications due to COVID-19 (those over 60 and those with underlying conditions).
- In person gatherings will resume in a more normal way. We will follow recommendations regarding spreading people out in the sanctuary, using no-touch alternatives for passing the peace, congregational singing, and our celebration of Holy Communion.
- If it is still recommended by public health officials, we will encourage the wearing of cloth face masks at church and in community ministry.
- Office functions could resume as normal, with attention to cleaning.
- Groups, teams, and committees could meet in person.
The timing of these three phases is hard to determine at present. If infections increase again, it is also possible that physical distancing recommendations would need to be tightened temporarily in order to get back on track.
Our plans may adjust as we go, but we want to be open and honest as we figure this out together.
Forward Dane Plan: https://publichealthmdc.com/coronavirus/forward-dane
Guidance from the Wisconsin Council of Churches: https://www.wichurches.org/2020/04/23/returning-to-church/
Guidance from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America: