Plan to Re-Start In-Person Church Services

Plan to Re-Start in-person Church Services (PDF)

The Church Board discussed how to address a safe re-start of church services, what needs to be done to meet Toronto Public Health requirements, and how to create such a plan. The Board appointed a Committee for this purpose and the Committee of four people developed this plan with the goal of a wise and joyful return to Church. The Church Board set 2020, September 12th , as the target date for the Re-Start of Church services in a form that meets appropriate identified guidelines. This is an unprecedented situation and we expect that after the first Sabbath service we will review and reassess our format of services and the other processes associated with the re-start.

The Committee based its work on various documents that included the following:

  1. Toronto Public Health – COVID-19 Guidance for Places of Worship (dated August 17, 2020 and revision dated August 28, 2020)
  2. Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit guidelines, “FAQ’s- What Businesses Need to Know” [ … The officiant of a religious ceremony can choose to not wear a mask if …standing at least 5 meters from the public ] (updated July 17th, 2020)
  3. Toronto Public Health – COVID-19 Guidance for Indoor & Outdoor Events & Gatherings (dated August 19, 2020)
  4. Ontario Ministry of Health, COVID-19 Advice: Religious Services, Rites or Ceremonies Version 2 — August 21, 2020
  5. Reopening Ontario (A Flexible Response to COVID-19) Act, 2020 ONTARIO REGULATION 364/20, August 21, 2020.

A. Which Services will remain Suspended (i.e., not re-start on Sept. 12)

A1. Communion (Sveta Vecera) as well as any other close contact activity will remain suspended at this time.
A2. Regular child care and children’s programming will remain suspended at this time.
A3. Choir services and the use of wind instruments will remain suspended at this time.
A4. Indoor singing by attendees from the pews will remain suspended at this time.
A5. Sharing and distributing of books between members outside of your “social circle/bubble” will remain suspended at this time.
A6. Passing of collection plates from person to person will not be done at this time.
A7. Potlucks and indoor social gatherings will remain suspended at this time.

B. Format of Services that are planned on September 12 to Re-Start.

B1. Zoom Sabbath School will commence at 9:00 am via zoom for those finding it challenging to attend in person or that have simply chosen to stay at home for personal reasons.
B2. In Person First Service (Sabbath School) will commence at 10:00 am with everyone seated in his or her socially distant seats.
a. Opening Prayer
b. Introduction and spiritual message
c. Sabbath School lesson study discussion
– In sanctuary: one Adult class led from the pulpit;
– In social hall: one Family class led from the pulpit.
– English based CQ Lesson and the Cornerstone Lesson will be held out-doors.
Indoor audience shall be seated wearing masks and with appropriate physical distancing. Outdoor audiences shall be seated respecting physical distancing requirements.
B3. In Person Second Service (Divine Service) will commence at 11:15 am with everyone seated in his or her pre-assigned seats. This service will continue to be Live-Streamed via the Internet as usual. Cameras to only film the front of the church and not film attendees with masks. The service may include some or all of the following:
a. Opening Prayer
b. Introduction, Scripture Reading, and prayer.
c. Reading / Video of offering verse and Prayer.
d. Children’s story.
e. Special music.
f. Sermon
g. Closing Prayer
h. The deacons will release attendees out of the Sanctuary, last row first and will work their way to the front of the church with the first row being last of the attendees to leave, followed by the Pastor and podium attendees.

C. General Guidelines

It is the Church’s intent to implement strategies to minimize exposure to the virus that causes COVID-19 for all our worshipers, our volunteers, and our staff. To this end we shall implement the following processes and procedures:
C1. We shall request everyone planning to attend the in-person service to conduct a self- screening for COVID-19 symptoms in advance of arriving at church, to make appropriate decisions, and we shall conduct health screening for COVID-19 symptoms for staff, volunteers, and worshipers when they arrive at the church building.
C2. We shall deny admission to anyone that has not informed us of their planned attendance in advance if there are no seats available with appropriate physical distancing.
C3. We shall restrict admission to allow for ease of movement while maintaining physical distancing.
C4. We shall deny admission to anyone that may appear to have symptoms of any potentially communicable illness, including COVID-19. Anyone with symptom(s) of COVID-19, or any other communicable disease, even if they are mild, should stay home.
C5. Posters, floor markers, and furniture shall be used to encourage everyone to maintain two-meters/six-feet physical distancing.
C6. Services shall be modified to avoid prolonged close contact or appropriate barriers shall be installed (e.g. plexi-glass).
C7. Good hand hygiene shall be encouraged by providing hand sanitizer (70-90% alcohol concentration) at the entrance to the church for all to use when entering and exiting the building.
C8. Additional cleaning and disinfecting of high-touch surfaces and washrooms will be implemented.
C9. Staff and volunteers shall be trained on required public health measures to keep everyone safe, including themselves. Anyone with symptom(s) of COVID-19, or any other communicable disease, even if they are mild, should stay home.
C10. Indoor services shall be limited to 30% of room/building capacity to allow for physical distancing.
C11. Members of the church shall be informed on our planned efforts and processes to keep everyone safe during the COVID-19 pandemic via announcements on a Sabbath(s) prior to the date of the planned re-start as well as by e-mail (if they provide their e-mail address). Ongoing announcements after re-start shall be used to communicate processes and requirements.
C12. Church Photo-copier will be made unavailable during Sabbath.
C13. There will be one pianist assigned for the Sabbath services and one organist assigned for the Sabbath Services. [Responsible – Director of Music: Zeljka C ]
C14. The Pastor’s office, Kindergarten room, and Library will be made inaccessible due to lack of space for physical distancing.

D. Preparation for Services

As noted in section B1 and B3 above, we shall include members that cannot participate in person or have chosen not to participate in person, by providing Sabbath School via Zoom at 9:00 am and then Live-Stream our Divine Service at 11:15 am. The remainder of this section shall focus on our preparation for re-opening in-person church services.
1. The seating capacity of our Sanctuary is 240 worshipers (as per architectural drawings), plus deacons/greeters, plus pulpit attendees. Therefore 30% of 240 is 72 seated worshipers in the Sanctuary. However, children under the age of two are not counted in the number of participants. Overflow-seating capacity will be planned with physical distancing in the social hall for Divine Service. Additional disinfection of seating in social hall will be done between Sabbath School and Divine Service.
2. Pre-arranged Seating: We shall contact all members in advance of the day of re-start of services to identify the persons that are planning to attend on Sabbath morning so that a draft seating plan can be prepared with appropriate physical distancing between “social circles”. Families and individuals will be seated in a way to take advantage of their “social circles” so that we can minimize the amount of space used for physical distancing (e.g., if two or three families or a group of individuals have an identified “social circle”, then we shall seat those families/groups in the same pew or bench without any physical distancing between them, but maintaining the 6 ft minimum distance to the next person or family). Following initial Sabbath, we shall use a texting system for people to send a text to identify their planned attendance. The telephone number for confirmation of planned attendance texts shall be 647 370-4833. The deadline time for receiving the text shall be 6:00 pm Thursday evening. [Responsible for creating the list of attendees: Dan R ]
3. Reserved Pews in the church: Pews will be marked off as RESERVED or equivalent to ensure that physical distancing is maintained between rows. These wood barriers will be created specifically for the church pew distances. The pew row closest to the entrance/exit will be blocked off and then at least every other row. [Responsible for manufacturing and install: Anthony B and Joel B] [Responsible to review: Pastor, Deacon, and Elder]
4. All entry to the church building shall be via the front doors. The greeters or deacons and deaconesses of the day shall have a list of volunteers, staff, and planned attendees who have previously identified their intention to attend the day’s services. This list will also have a seating plan for each person, group of persons, families, or group of families. All attendees will be requested/required to sit in their pre-arranged seats, understanding that this may be the norm for a period of time that this Pandemic is impacting us.
[Responsible for creating the Seating plan: Dan R and Milan B ]
[Responsible for filling in the list of attendees and their Screening Responses: Greeters, deacons, and deaconesses of the day. This will be Dan R and Milan B on September 12]
5. A screening station will be set up at the front entrance to the church building with appropriate physical distancing space available for multiple families in the area between the front property gate and the church building doors in order to wait for the pre-screening process to conclude for the individual or family ahead of you. All staff, volunteers, and attendees shall be asked the screening questions and the greeters or deacons and deaconesses shall document their responses. [Responsible for set-up of Screening Station, signs, and physical distancing markers: Mark Svara]
6. Information at screening station: Official signage from the City of Toronto (and some translated version) regarding screening, mask wearing, and physical distancing will be
posted at the entrance screening station. [Responsible for ordering posters/signs and physical distancing markers: Mark Svara ]
7. Within the church: Floor markers will be affixed indicating direction of movement to support acceptable physical distancing. Floor markers will be affixed indicating physical
distancing at washroom entrances. [Responsible for affixing direction indicators, posters/signs, and physical distancing markers: Mark Svara with the input from Pastor Sudarevic]
8. Hand sanitizer will be provided at the entrance to the facility (the screening station), just outside of the washrooms, in the social hall, just before entering the sanctuary, and may
include other locations deemed appropriate by staff. [Responsible for ordering and maintaining adequate supplies of hand sanitizer: Mark Svara ]
9. Non-medical masks will be provided for those that forget to bring their own at the entrances to the church. [Responsible for ordering and maintaining adequate supplies: Dan R ]
10.Enhanced Cleaning and Disinfection: Cleaning of the high-touch surfaces and washrooms will be performed during the regular weekly cleaning and outside the sanctuary prior to the completion of each service. The bathrooms will be disinfected every 30 minutes. High touch surfaces such as handrails, door knobs, door handles, chair backs, tithe box, table tops.[Responsible: Mark Svara ]
11.Training of Staff and Volunteers: Training will be provided on this plan and safety. Full face shields and gloves will be provided to the staff and volunteers on duty. [Responsible for ordering and maintaining adequate face shields and gloves: Dan R ]
12.Preparing for Welcoming and Screening station(s) and Volunteers: The first Deacon and first Elder will act as greeters and perform the Welcoming and Screening function on the first Sabbath (Sep 12th). The first Deacon will create a schedule for performing the Welcoming and Screening function for the rest of September and Q4 2020. [Responsible for creating a schedule and training: Dan R ]
13.Offering Box: The treasurer shall purchase an appropriately sized clear plastic box with a
large enough opening to accept tithe envelopes and shall have a lock. The box shall be
sanitized before and after service. The assistant treasurer on duty shall take the box
home and keep it closed for 5 days before handling its contents for processing.
[Responsible for box and contents: David R, all assistant treasurers.] [Responsible for sanitizing the box before, during, and after services (i.e., consider as high touch area): Mark Svara.]
14.Drinking water: The drinking fountain will be made unavailable till further notice. The Kitchen will be closed to attendees till further notice. In lieu of the water fountain, we will encourage attendees to bring their own water bottles and in addition we will make a limited number of disposable water bottles available from the deacons/deaconesses. [Responsible to purchase: Tatjana B ]

E. Health Screening of all attendees, Contact Tracing, and COVID 19 Outbreaks

Every Sabbath the greeters at the Welcome and Screening Station will fill in the attendance list and the response to the screening questions declared by attendees, volunteers, and staff. At the end of the service the greeters of the day shall provide the list to the first Deacon for review and he will in turn pass it to the Pastor for storage for the required period of time. Through the announcement process in church, we shall request all attendees to inform the Pastor, Deacon, or Elders if they have taken ill with Covid-19 so that we can inform others to get tested. If someone from Public Health with appropriate identification requests attendance information or seating plan, it will be provided in consultation with the Pastor, Elders, and first Deacon. [Responsible: Assigned Greeters, Deacon, Elder, Pastor ]

F. During Services

1. Members and visitors who become sick or experience symptoms of COVID-19 while in the building will be reminded that they must go home right away and self-isolate. They can call Telehealth Ontario at 1- 866-797-0000, their health care provider, or a COVID-19 Assessment Centre for guidance about testing.
2. Children must remain with and be supervised by their parent(s) at all times while in church. This includes going to the bathroom.
3. Offerings and Tithes will not be collected during service but attendees will be encouraged to use the Offering Box at the exit to the Sanctuary. Tithe envelopes will be provided in every pew for the people in that pew. Additionally, attendees will be reminded that on-line- giving is an option as well.
4. Use of Instruments During Services: The Piano and the Organ and any other non-wind
instrument may be used during services. If multiple non-wind instruments are being
played, physical distancing between musicians will be maintained unless they are from the
same household. [Responsible – Director of Music: Zeljka C in consultation with Pastor Sudarevic for musical requirements.]
5. Microphones: Each participant in the program shall have their own microphone. [Responsible: A/V Department volunteers on duty]

G. Ending of Service and vacating the premises

Upon completion of the service, Deacons will in an orderly and controlled process release attendees out of the Sanctuary, last row first and then work their way to the front of the church with the first row being last of the attendees to leave, followed by the Pastor and podium attendees. The purpose for this changed order is to minimize people touching each other as they depart. All attendees will be encouraged to use the hand sanitizer located by the exit on their way out of the Church building. Attendees will also be reminded to respect other peoples’ physical distance as they leave the building and if they want to socialize to do it outdoors and continue to respect peoples’ physical distance. [Responsible: Deacon and Elder on duty.]

H. Review of September 12th Services and identify potential improvements.

The Committee shall meet during the week immediately following the first service to review how things went and identify potential improvements, if any.