Ecumenical Guidelines for Worship during the Pandemic

Image credit James Steakley via Wikimedia Commons (CC-BY-SA-3.0)

An ecumenical group of scientists, theologians, clergy, and physicians gathered in consultation about resuming public worship during the time of Covid-19. The protocols they created are available for download here. In the introduction, they state, “The coronavirus pandemic has challenged churches to continue being the Church without gathering in person. In many places we have met that challenge by meeting online, live streaming worship, providing instructions for worship at home, and finding other ways to connect. Now churches face another challenge. As states ‘re-open,’ how will we resume worship gatherings in person while the pandemic is still with us?”

The document they have prepared seeks to answer that question by working from a theological foundation and establishing a framework for how to “be church” during these challenging times. Following guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Coronavirus Task Force (p. 8-9), the document establishes basic practices for resuming public worship, outlining steps to be taken in preparation before any worship services are held in-person. Specific recommendations and ideas for the celebration of baptism and confirmation (p. 23-25), weddings (p.25-26), funerals (p. 26-28), and communion (p. 20-21) are included. There is also a section with guidance on singing and music (p. 19).

In resuming public worship, churches and church leaders must balance physical safety and guidelines that aim to preserve the health of those who come to worship with the very real  need for fullness in our symbols and beauty in our worship. It might be difficult to hold these things in tension as we work out the best ways to worship together under the circumstances.

What challenges is your community facing during this time as public worship resumes? What concerns you most?





One comment

  1. The biggest challenge: livestreaming “private” Mass with music was, in some ways, superior to limited reopening Mass, well below the limit of worshipers with the bare minimum and presiders stumbling to adjust to new procedures. Each was far from ideal. My biggest long-term concern is with the number of parishioners who may feel there is not enough being offered at Mass to merit a return even after we’ve returned to normal. We’ve already lost most of a generation or two. Now older believers might be sifted out of the mix.

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