For UNYUMC Guidelines: https://www.unyumc.org/about/church-covid-19-guidelines
WORSHIP AT ST. PAUL'S
UPDATE: Governor Hochul lifted the mask mandate for all vaccinated and unvaccinated persons effective Feb. 10. This means businesses are no longer required to mandate that all persons in their facilities wear face masks. Pastors and other local church leaders are now asking what this means for their churches, particularly as it relates to worship and other gatherings. Here are some guidelines which may be helpful in making this decision:
Congregations are free to add safety requirements for entering buildings and participating in programs which exceed federal, state, and local requirements.
Under the NYS Hero Act, all employers, including local churches, were required to put in place an airborne infectious disease plan to protect employees. Back in September of last year, Governor Hochul activated the plan and has extended the duration until at least Feb. 15. The Hero Act plans follow state guidance and mandates with respect to face coverings for employees. Consistent with the most recent guidance from the New York State Department of Health for HERO Act plans, face coverings are recommended, but not required, for church staff members. It is also recommended that face coverings continue to be worn by unvaccinated staff members, including those with exemptions, in accordance with federal CDC guidance. Churches should consider updating their HERO Act plans consistent with this updated guidance.
Current Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) masking guidelines recommend all unvaccinated persons and those who are immuno-compromised wear face masks. The CDC further recommends vaccinated persons “wear a mask indoors in public if you are in an area of substantial or high transmission.”
When deciding about whether or not to require masking in the congregation, consideration should be given to the infection rate in the county as well as rates of vaccination among the different segments of the congregation. For example, the current vaccination rate among children ages 5-11 is only 30%.
MASKS CONTINUE TO BE REQUIRED INDOORS AT ST. PAUL'S UNTIL FEBRUARY 1, 2022
Governor Kathy Hochul announced masks will be required to be worn in all indoor public places unless businesses or venues implement a vaccine requirement. The decision was made based on the continued high nmbers of COVID-19 infections. This measure is effective until at least Feb. 1, 2022, after which the State will re-evaluate based on current conditions.
UPDATE! December 13-January 15 MASKS REQUIRED INSIDE ST. PAUL'S! Unless a church enforces a strict vaccination requirement, all persons entering church buildings must wear an appropriately fitting mask covering to mitigate the spread of the COVID-19 virus, effective Dec. 13 through Jan. 15.
As per the governor’s announcement, “any person, past their second birthday and medically able to tolerate a face covering, must wear an appropriate mask while in any indoor place, regardless of vaccination status. However, businesses and venues can choose to implement a vaccination requirement, requiring proof of vaccination as a condition of entry inside the business or venue. Whichever requirement is selected, it must apply to all within the business/venue’s capacity, including staff, patrons, visitors, and guests. A business and venue cannot do a “combination” requirement.”
To properly enforce a vaccination requirement, every person’s vaccination status must be confirmed prior to entering the church facilities. Any church unable to accomplish this should require all persons to wear a mask.
August 11, 2021
Following the Upper New York United Methodist Church Conference UPDATED Guidelines: ALL individuals, including vaccinated and unvaccinated, are recommended to wear masks when gathering indoors.
Here is the updated portion
The CDC has recently issued revised guidelines for in person gatherings due to the rapid spread of the Delta variant of the coronavirus. These revised guidelines include the recommendation that vaccinated and unvaccinated persons in areas with substantial or high infection rates wear masks when gathering indoors. Because this recommendation would apply to worship and other church gatherings, churches are advised to consult their county listing on the CDC webpage. https://covid.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker/#county-view.
On Aug. 11, Fulton County - Substantial level of community transmission. Herkimer County - High level of community transmission. recommend masking by all people indoors. Madison County - Substantial level of community transmission. Oneida County - Substantial level of community transmission.
Substantial transmission is 50-100 cases per 100,000 people or a positivity rate between 8-10% over the last seven days. High transmission is more than 100 cases per 100,000 people or a positivity rate of higher than 10% over the last seven days.
Previous guidance which still applies Having reached 70% vaccination one-dose rate for persons 18 and older, NYS has suspended many pandemic restrictions. The CDC guidelines related to unvaccinated persons remain in effect. For local churches, this means:
Local churches need no longer enforce certain restrictions:
Social gathering limits (limits on numbers of persons who may gather at same time);
Capacity restrictions (number of persons allowable in a space. Note: fire code limitations remain in effect.);
Social distancing (distance between persons, including for singing);
Health screening (questions required before entering a building or activity); and
Pandemic-related cleaning and disinfecting protocols.
The lifting of restrictions applies to all activities held in church buildings and elsewhere, including worship, fellowship time, meetings, and small groups. When food and drink are offered, please remember to regularly clean and sanitize surfaces, containers, utensils, and dishes. Consider taking precautions to minimize self-service offerings and instead have designated servers distribute food and drink. For Sunday School and children's activities, try to encourage participants under 12 to wear masks as much as possible. Sanitize commonly used surfaces and tools (e.g. scissors). Encourage good handwashing practices. Ask parents to keep children at home if anyone is experiencing symptoms of illness. 2. Unvaccinated persons should continue to wear masks and social distance from other persons during all church activities, including worship, fellowship time, meetings, and small groups.
GOOD NEWS UPDATE! May 26, 2021
We can sing again at church services! To make this happen we are adopting the guidelines from the UMC Upper New York Conference for separate seating for unvaccinated persons. Most of the sanctuary will be set up for vaccinated folks – with open seating, no social distancing, and no masks required. A smaller area will be set up for non-vaccinated folks – with 12’ social distancing (to allow for singing) and with mask wearing required at all times. There will be a sign that identifies the non-vaccinated area. Going forward, we will adjust the sizes of the two areas as needed. To help us with this, if you feel comfortable doing so, please share your vaccination status with an usher on the way in. If you’d like to review the conference guidelines, please visit the link above.
We have reconvened our in-person worship services at St. Paul’s. Attendance has averaged about 30 people including the pastor and the organist. Although the service is different than it was during pre-pandemic times, it is great to see all who attend. As we move forward, the rules governing the service are set by New York State, the UMC’s Upper New York Conference, and the Administrative Council. We understand that in-person services are not right for all, including those not comfortable with group gatherings and those that are more at risk due to underlying medical conditions. So, what does St. Paul’s worship look like?
No nursery care is provided. No one may be in the nursery.
There is still no Sunday School. If you have a child whom would like information surrounding our Children’s Ministry, please message the office.
Only the narthex, sanctuary, bathrooms, and connecting hallways are open.
No food or drink is allowed in the church.
No coffee hour or similar gatherings are held.
There is no “passing of the peace” or other touching during services.
There is music, but the congregation does not sing together.
The collection plates are placed near the entrance to the sanctuary so that you may put your offering in the plate either before or after the worship service. A reminder: you can also give by US mail, online at our website, and directly through PayPal.
The ushers control exiting at the end of service, like the way they manage communion.
There are now bulletins offered for individuals who cannot print one at home. They are available in the Narthex in a sheet protector. At the end of the service please leave the bulletin on the pew back in front of your seat. We request that all that can do so continue to print their bulletins at home.
The hymnals and Bibles have been returned to the pews. You may still sign-out a hymnal for the duration of the pandemic and bring it back and forth each week for your own use.
Upon entering the church, each person must wear a mask until a spot with a safe social distance is reached and then you may remove your mask during the worship service and put the mask back on before exiting the pew. We encourage visiting with friends before and after church, but please do so outside at a safe social distance. Seating is controlled:
Members of the same household may sit next to each other, but in no case should any non-household members be within 6 feet.
Some pews and sections of pews will be blocked off to allow masks to be removed during the worship service.
If we run out of room in the sanctuary, safe seating will be provided in the choir area, by the piano, and in the narthex.
We record attendance and request a phone number if we don’t have it on file. This will allow the Madison County Health department to contact folks in case we find out that someone in attendance was infected with COVID-19. We continue to asses and adjust our plans as conditions change.