Dear House of Prayer Friends,
We are pleased to announce that we will be “re-opening” our church building for in-person worship on Sunday, June 21 at 10 AM!
This decision has been made with utmost concern for the health and safety of all who will choose to worship among us. We have attached with this greeting a document entitled, Guidelines for a Return to In-Person Worship outlining specific protocols that we encourage you and your family to observe as part of each worship event. Please review carefully the material presented.
Your Church Council has worked diligently to provide an environment for worship that respects the concerns many still may have about gathering in-person. We hope everyone will demonstrate a spirit of cooperation and patient understanding as we work together to rebuild a “renewed level of confidence” among all who choose to worship with us. As we take these early steps toward a fuller expression of worship together, we are aware that some of you may still elect not to join us. To accommodate your needs, we plan to continue a live-streaming of our 10 AM Sunday Worship Service on Facebook.
Uniting as a community, once again, is a privilege we anticipate celebrating with all of you! As always, we invite your prayerful support of this “re-opening.” If you have further questions or concerns, please contact your Pastors or a member of Church Council.
Serving faithfully with you,
House of Prayer Church Council
For a Return to
(June 8, 2020)
After thoughtful and prayerful deliberation, your Church Council will be re-opening our church building for in-person worship, effective SUNDAY, JUNE 21. This re-opening is contingent upon limiting our gathering numbers to 25% of our sanctuary’s seating capacity in order to facilitate adequate “social distancing” measures.
(NOTE: At this time, it is still recommended that individuals over the age of 65, or anyone with underlying health concerns, refrain from gathering for in-person worship until all precautionary restrictions are lifted. We will continue live-streaming our 10 AM worship service in support of all who consider it necessary to avoid in-person worship events.)
Because the CDC cautions that large gatherings can become venues with a “higher” level of risk for viral outbreak, the following precautionary measures have been taken to ensure the health and safety of our worshipping community:
GENERAL BUILDING MATTERS:
1.) COMMON USE AREAS will remain “closed” to public use during worship. (i.e. Church Library, Fellowship Hall, Nursery, Sunday School Classrooms) This measure minimizes the areas within our building that will need to be sanitized on a regular basis.
2.) PUBLIC RESTROOMS will be limited to only two occupants at the same time in order to maintain adequate “social distancing” (6 feet) standards. These facilities will be sanitized before and after each worship event.
3.) The NURSERY will remain “closed” to all occupants until further notice.
4.) ENTRY DOORS will be blocked “open” during entry and exit to reduce contact with “high touch” surfaces. All “high touch” surfaces – door handles and pew backs – will be sanitized before and after each worship event.
1.) All worshippers are encouraged to visit/fellowship outside of the church building, weather permitting.
2.) All worshippers will be asked to record their attendance at worship for the purpose of “Contact Tracing” should this become necessary.
3.) All worshippers are encouraged to greet one another with “verbal” forms of welcome only. (Please refrain from exchanging handshakes or sharing other forms of physical contact when meeting and greeting one another.)
4.) All worshippers are encouraged to enter the Sanctuary by the most direct route possible and sit only in designated seating areas. When locating a seat, strive to maintain “social distancing” standards as much as possible. (Please follow the guidance of our Ushers and refrain from congregating in our Entry Area.)
5.) Seating will be arranged with every other pew kept vacant, ensuring six feet of separation on all sides between family groupings (i.e. All who share the same household).
6.) Worshippers are encouraged to use cloth face coverings, if age and health conditions permit. (For those who do not have a face covering, additional face masks will be made available.). The use of a face covering is respectful of the health concerns of others and demonstrates care for the safety of our neighbors. (For obvious reasons, your Pastors will not wear a face covering in order to facilitate worship leadership.)
WORSHIP SERVICE PROTOCOLS:
1.) SHARING OF PEACE with fellow worshippers outside your family group must be limited to a “verbal” greeting or a “wave.” (Families living in the same household are welcome to exchange “peace” in the customary fashion.)
2.) OFFERINGS will be welcomed at a designated station positioned at the entrance to the Sanctuary. This station will be monitored by a member of Church Council. (Offering plates will not be passed from person to person.)
3.) CONGREGATIONAL SINGING will be curtailed as much as possible. (The CDC cautions that congregational singing and unison speaking can create a “higher” risk for viral spread.) Because music is an essential feature of our worship life, music will be provided by a song leader, a featured soloist, small ensemble, or recorded music. The Creed and Lord’s Prayer will continue to be spoken in unison as our faith tradition dictates.
HOLY COMMUNION PRACTICES:
1.) Your Pastors will serve as distributors of Holy Communion. They will sanitize their hands, in full view of congregants, immediately before handling any communion elements.
2.) Worshippers who partake of Holy Communion will be invited forward to a central serving station. Ushers will issue this invitation one row at a time. (Please maintain “social distancing” standards as you approach the communion station. All communion participants are encouraged to sanitize their hands at a designated station prior to receiving the elements.)
3.) Receiving Holy Communion will remain a matter of personal choice. A wafer and individual cup will be made available to all communicants. If communicants are concerned about handling cups during this unique time, it is appropriate to commune with only one element (a wafer only), and not partaking
of the wine. The customary words of promise will be proclaimed for either method of communing:
“The body of Christ given for you. The blood of Christ
shed for you.”
1.) Worshippers will be invited by our Ushers to leave the Sanctuary, beginning from the back and moving to the front. (This facilitates a smooth transition out of the building and allows for consistent “social distancing” for all concerned.)
2.) Your Pastors will refrain from greeting worshippers before and after worship for the safety of all. (Time for visiting/fellowship is encouraged outside the church building. Such social contact will be at the discretion of each individual.)
WAIVER OF LIABILITY:
House of Prayer Lutheran Church wants you to be blessed by the time you spend in our space, especially in these unusual times. To help ensure the health and well-being of everyone who chooses to worship with us, it is very important that every worshipper responsibly observe all the protocols outlined above. These measures are being put into practice to assist in restoring a “renewed level of confidence” that all can safely gather for worship at House of Prayer, even in these times of COVID-19.
Your attendance at our worship services acknowledges that you enter House of Prayer Lutheran Church by choice. Additionally, your presence among us serves as affirmation that you have reviewed the GUIDELINES for a Return to In-person Worship and that you, and your family members, will strive to be in compliance with the outlined standards. Furthermore, you agree by your presence that should you, or any member of your family, become exposed to or contract symptoms of COVID-19 while attending a service of worship at House of Prayer Lutheran Church, you will not hold this church, or any of its leadership, liable for potential hardship.
May 7, 2020
Greetings House of Prayer Friends!
Following last week’s announcement from Governor Burgum regarding the initiation of ND Smart Restart Protocols and the subsequent opening of many businesses in our community, we suspect many of you are beginning to wonder “when” our House of Prayer will be “open” for in-person worship gatherings.
On Tuesday, May 5, your Church Council gathered for an online meeting to discuss at length the most prudent course of action to take with regard to our future worship life. At this time, it is the unanimous view of your Council and your Pastors that our church building must remain “closed” for the safety of all concerned. We plan to reassess this decision at our next scheduled meeting on Thursday, May 21.
Our Lord Jesus commands us to love our neighbors, even as we love ourselves. In light of the on-going threat presented by COVID-19, we strongly believe the most loving act we can show our neighbor is taking steps to protect and care for one another, especially those who are the most vulnerable and at risk in our midst.
Recently, our ELCA Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton made this statement in her update about the COVID-19 threat and its impact on the church. “The faithful thing for us to do right now, in caring for those who are vulnerable and at risk, and in order to slow the disease even more, is to stay home.”
A similar message of guidance was shared on April 29 by the Bishops of our Eastern and Western North Dakota Synods as they issued guidelines for all ELCA congregations who are deliberating about “when” to open their church buildings for worship. “As you begin to plan for the upcoming months, we encourage communities to be wise and flexible, putting first the needs of the most vulnerable.”
We feel this current guidance from our church leaders reaffirms our decision to remain “closed” to public worship until it becomes clear that we can ensure the safety and health of everyone who chooses to worship among us. In the meantime, we remain committed to keeping you well-informed as circumstances evolve and as decisions are made with regard to our future together.
Please know that we value your prayerful support of us as we strive to lead our congregation through these uncertain times. You and your loved ones remain in our prayers, as well. If you have further questions or concerns, please speak with our Pastors or contact a Church Council member.
Your faithful servants: House of Prayer Church Council,
Jarred Roloff Keith Zhorela Eric Schwingler Pastor Joel Samuelson
Kadon Hintz Jen Dockter Jody Sommer Pastor Dave Swonger
Rheannon Huber Luke Ingemansen Dawn Stave