Please check back for occasional updates and additional resources regarding the COVID-19 pandemic and the reopening of businesses. Minnesota Governor Tim Walz has stated that churches will be on the slower end of his "adjusting the dials" approach to reopening. View MN Stay Safe Plan.
COVID-19 Restrictions Eased (3-12-21)
Governor Tim Walz announced the easing of a number of restrictions that had been in place to lessen the spread of COVID-19; the new guidance became effective on March 15, 2021. Occupancy limits for faith services including weddings and funerals have been removed, but capacity must still be adjusted to allow for social distancing. Restrictions have also eased for receptions, celebrations and private social gatherings.
This, however, does NOT mean that worship or other activities that take place in our faith communities are “back to normal.” Please take time to read the Governor’s Emergency Executive Order 21-11 from March 12; you’ll see such clarifications such as:
- Masks and face coverings are still required.
- Places of worship, funeral homes, and other venues that offer gathering space for wedding ceremonies, funeral services, or other planned services such as worship, rituals, prayer meetings, or scripture studies are strongly encouraged to offer virtual alternatives to the maximum extent possible. These venues are still required to have and follow a COVID-19 Preparedness Plan in accordance with guidance available on the Stay Safe Minnesota website.
- Congregational singing, group singing or chanting by attendees is not recommended for indoor settings. See www.health.state.mn.us/diseases/coronavirus/musicguide.pdf, page 6.
- Drive-in gatherings are encouraged, following the Stay Safe Minnesota guidance.
- Indoor social gatherings are discouraged, but gatherings up to 15 people indoors or 50 people outdoors are permitted, assuming adherence to Stay Safe Minnesota precautions.
- Remote work is still strongly recommended. Until mid-April, employees who can work from home must work from home. Beginning April 15, employers are strongly encouraged to allow employees who can work from home to continue to do so.
More information may be found on the Stay Safe Minnesota website, including guidance specific to places of worship. However, please note that as of this writing, some items have not yet been updated on state websites. Be sure to check the posting date of any references to ensure you’re seeing the most current version.
How to Host an Annual Meeting in a Pandemic (new 11-13-20)
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to limit in-person gatherings, the Saint Paul Area Synod hosted a Zoom call for congregational lay leaders and rostered ministers on how to hold an online annual meeting. As a follow-up to that conversation with Synod Attorney Sarah Crippen, the synod created a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) document that covers constitutional requirements, notification of congregation members, logistical concerns, how to vote and other questions. Please read the FAQ document and contact the synod office if there are further questions.
Zoom Call: A Conversation About Reopening Churches
On May 19,2020, the Saint Paul Area Synod hosted a Zoom call with nearly 200 pastors, deacons, council presidents and key leaders participating. The content included our common values as we look to reopening our congregations, factors from public safety, as well as the shared wisdom of congregations in their planning for the weeks and months to come. Speakers included Bishop Patricia Lull, along with pastors and representatives of four synod congregations: Memorial in Afton, Gloria Dei in St. Paul, Fish Lake in Harris and St. Timothy in St. Paul. Click below to review a variety of resources related to this conversation:
- Recording of the Zoom call
- Template for COVID-19 Preparedness & Response Plan (courtesy of Gloria Dei): Word document PDF
- Memorial Lutheran's COVID-19 Congregational Resource Page
- Reopening Churches PowerPoint
- Guidance on Hosting Faith-Based Services in Parking Lots (MN Department of Health)
- Considerations for Returning-to In-person-Worship (ELCA) | Spanish version
Links to Public Health Agencies:
- Industry Guidance for Safely Reopening: Faith-based Communities, Places of Worship, Weddings, and Funerals (updated 7-22-20 to reflect the statewide face covering mandate in all public indoor spaces effective July 25, 2020)
- COVID-19 Prevention Guidance for Youth and Student Programs (new 8-19-20)
- Interim Guidance for Communities of Faith (5-23-20)
- CDC Faith Community Partnership (PDF)
- CDC Cleaning and Disinfection for Community Facilities
Messages from Bishop Lull:
- Freedom From/Freedom For (5-23-20)
- Thig-mo-morph-o-gen-e-sis (5-17-20)
- A Message from Minnesota's Six ELCA Bishops (5-13-20)
- Preparing to Reopen (5-9-20)
- Church at Its Best (4-25-20)
- A Message for Easter Monday (4-11-20)
- Called by God's Grace (4-7-20)
- Financial Resources for Individuals and Congregations (4-4-20)
- An Easter to Remember (4-1-20)
- Working at Home & Guidance on Funerals (3-29-20)
- Pastoral Work in the Time of COVID-19 (3-25-20)
- Synod Assembly Postponed (3-20-20)
- Tough and Timely Decisions (3-15-20)
- COVID-19: In This Together With Neighbors Near and Far (3-12-20)
Synod Global Travel:
Our synod has close relationships with companion synods in Tanzania and Guatemala with an active travel schedule of partner visits. At this time, both the Iringa and Guatemala committees of our synod are not recommending travel. Please click the links below to see the FAQ sheets for each partnership:
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) has a public health webpage that offers resources for worship, congregational support, faith at home, stewardship and more, including:
- Safely Returning to Worship Webinar (Church Mutual in conjunction with the ELCA) (new 6-22-20)
- Resuming Care-Filled Worship and Sacramental Life During a Pandemic (new 6-8-20) | The Ecumenical Consultation on Protocols for Worship, Fellowship, and Sacraments
- Returning-to In-person-worship (new 5-12-20) | Spanish version
- Tracking Online Worship Attendance
- FAQ on Paycheck Protection Program Loans
- Paycheck Protection Program Informational Video
- Considerations for Remote Council and Congregation Meetings During the COVID-19 Pandemic
- Update and Resources on COVID-19-related Benefits for ELCA Congregations, Synods, Other Ministries and Their Employees
- Families First Coronavius Response Act - UCC Update
- Summary of Cares Act Provisions
- Comprehensive COVID-19 response to provide several levels of support for our most vulnerable congregations and ministries: Daily Bread Grants, Here to Serve, and the COVID-19 Response Appeal
- statements/messages from Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton and more!
- ELCA Guidance for Funeral Practices: Ministering to the Bereaved During a Public Health Crisis
- Minnesota Funeral Directors Association: COVID-19 Information for Minnesota Funeral Directors
- Massachusetts Council of Churches: Guide for Christian Funerals During COVID-19
- Portico Benefit Services: What Recent Legislation Means for You (CARES Act)
- Mission Investment Fund: Connecting with MIF During the COVID-19 Situation
- Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development: Safely Returning to Work
- Faith & Leadership: Resources for Christian Leaders During Coronavirus Pandemic
- The Christian Century: 10 Guidelines for Pastoral Care During the Coronavirus Outbreak
- Calvin Institute of Christian Worship: Resources for Churches Adapting to Social Isolation
- Stewardship for Unprecedented Times by Peter Reuss, GSB
- Discipleship Ministries: The United Methodist Church: 10 Ideas for Church Financial Leaders Amid the COVID-19 Crisis
- Online Teleprompters: Google "online teleprompters" for a tool that allow you to paste in your text script, then scrolls your message in large print as you lead worship or share a message. The scrolling speed can be adjusted or paused. Examples are https://www.teleprompt.online/ and https://cueprompter.com/.
- Church Marketing University: The Ultimate Coronavirus Guide for Churches
- Faith+Lead from Luther Seminary: Faithful Adaptation Webinar Series
The links below do not necessarily represent endorsement by the Saint Paul Area Synod; they are simply provided as a public service. Be sure to carefully vet any information, offer or service.
Resources on Livestreaming:
- How to stream your worship service — A starter guide
- Practical Resources for Churches: Getting Started with Church Online: Sharing what we know to help with online worship, Bible studies and meetings [on demand recording]
- Caffeinated Church: An Opportunity to Cultivate an Online Worship Community
- Hacking Christianity: COVID-19 Lockdown: Creating Live-streamed Worship in 3 days
- Local Church Guide to Using Facebook Live
Resources on Podcasting:
- Churchstreaming.tv: 90 days free due to COVID-19
- One License: Gratis License covering hundreds of publishers [valid through April 15]
- Avaya Spaces: free business version for video conferencing, team spaces and file sharing [valid through August 31]
- Zoom: advanced capabilities with a free license
- Google Hangout: Gsuite customers have access to advanced features through July 1, including live streaming and recording
- Adobe Connect Free 90 day subscription (until July 1) for web conferencing.
Zoom Videoconferencing Resources:
- Zoom for Beginners by the Rev. Michael L. Jannett of the Southeastern Synod of the ELCA
- Tips on Using Zoom (video)
- Beware of "ZoomBombing:" Screensharing Filth to Video Calls
Leveraging Facebook for Online Church During COVID-19:
by Nona Jones - Head of Global Faith-Based Partnerships at Facebook
I have received a large volume of emails and social DMs from concerned pastors around the country who are scrambling to try and move services online given growing concerns with in-person gatherings due to COVID-19. I want to first assure you that we have been working earnestly over the last week internally to enhance our products that are most relevant to churches and I will share more about that once they are shipped (within the next two weeks, hopefully sooner). Today I want to offer thoughts on what you can do right now to leverage our tools for online church beginning today. I will do my best to respond to comments and questions on this post as well.
MORE THAN A PROGRAM
Church is more than the weekend gathering and, because of that, while a resource for Facebook Live will be shared below, I encourage you to pay close attention to Facebook Groups. If you think of your Facebook presence like a house, your Page is your front porch, Facebook Live is you opening the front door, and Facebook Groups is you inviting people into your living room for a conversation. Groups is what will keep your church connected beyond the live stream, so if you haven’t created one yet, do so and link it to your Page. With that framing, please see below.
ONLINE CHURCH STRATEGY
NOTE: Links at the bottom of this post for resources to learn more.
- Page: Your Page is the public face of your organization and, as such, is accessible by anyone on our platform. Use your Page to share information about your organization, including upcoming events, messages of encouragement, and general updates that would be of interest to your followers.
- Live on Page: When you use the Facebook Live tool from your Page, your followers will have the opportunity to tune in and watch your broadcast while also providing their feedback through questions and likes. They will also be able to share your live stream to their own profile or Page. Note: If you link a Group to your Page, you will be able to enable a Join Group button on your Livestream so people can join your online church and connect with others after the livestream ends.
- Group: While the Page is where you share information about your organization, your Group is where you build relationships, engage in conversations and grow together. Create a Group and link it to your Page and, when you go live from your Page, you will be able to select a Group for people to join so they can connect with you after the livestream ends.
- Live in Group: When you use the Facebook Live tool in your Group, your members will be able to tune in and engage with you through comments and likes. Lives in Groups can’t be shared outside of the Group. Use this feature for bible studies and other online gatherings that you would have with your members during the week.
- Learning Units: Use this tool to create sequential, modular learning in your Facebook Group. This is a great tool to help members learn together and you can build units for any topic, including bible studies, sermon series, devotionals and more.
- Donations: If you have not already applied to be able to fundraise through Facebook, see below for the link to do it today and to learn more about this feature.
- Linking a Group to Your Page: https://www.facebook.com/help/742706805906818…
- Best practices for going Live from a Page: https://www.facebook.com/help/publisher/626637251511853
- Best practices for creating and leading Facebook Groups: https://www.facebook.com/community/getting-started-with-groups/
- Leveraging Social Learning Units for teaching: https://www.facebook.com/help/184985882229224…
- Fundraising on Facebook: https://socialgood.fb.com/charitable-giving/