Guidelines for In-Person Worship
On May 23, Bishop Jim Gonia of the Rocky Mountain Synod, ELCA, made this recommendation to Augustana and the other 159 congregations in Colorado, New Mexico, Wyoming, Utah, and El Paso:
It is recommended that congregations and communities of faith continue to use an online/digital platform for corporate worship through at least August 31; there is a strong likelihood that such need will continue through the end of the calendar year or longer given public health requirements for all parishioners to safely gather for corporate in-person worship in church buildings. This recommendation will be reevaluated in mid-August in light of any new developments.
- In-person worship has very high-risk factors for spreading COVID-19.
- People are in close proximity in enclosed space for an extended period of time.
- Given that COVID-19 is thought to be spread through the air or by contaminated surfaces, high risk activities include congregational singing/spoken liturgy, offering, passing of the peace, celebration of Holy Communion, post-worship fellowship, and shared use of potentially contaminated surfaces from doors to restrooms.
- It is estimated that up to a third of people with COVID-19 are asymptomatic; without access to regular testing it is impossible to know who might spread the virus.
While we all grieve the loss of worshiping together in one space, we know that staying apart right now means staying safe and slowing or stopping the spread of COVID 19. The ELCA released guidelines in mid-May regarding reopening worship based on current science about the virus. They are daunting, both in terms of safety that needs to be provided and in changes to our ‘usual’ worship practices. If we are able to gather for in-person Sunday worship sometime in the future, it will look and feel very different until a vaccine is widely available; and some people will not or should not return to worship until that is the case.
Please remember that while Augustana’s building has been closed, the church—God’s people, the Body of Christ—have continued to worship, serve, and grow together.
Further decisions regarding in-person worship will be communicated widely with the whole congregation. Our online worship opportunities will continue, both on Sundays and our Tuesday/Thursday “We Are One at 1:00” devotions, which can be found on our website and on Facebook. In addition, the staff is discussing what other opportunities for learning and fellowship might be developed during this time of physical separation. Please feel free to contact a staff member if you have any questions or ideas.