News & Newsletter
First Lutheran Church of San Diego welcomes you to receive Communion regardless of denominational affiliation or church membership. All our communion tables are open, in the sanctuary and on our patio, on Mondays and Fridays where hundreds come to receive their daily bread. Restrooms are available as you leave the sanctuary to the right. There is a nursery for little ones throughout the morning (see an usher for directions).
September 17, 2020
Dear Members and Friends,
On Friday, August 28, 2020, state restrictions for COVID-19 on places of worship were lifted for San Diego County. Churches are now allowed to hold inside worship for 25% of building capacity, or 100 people, whichever is less. For First Lutheran, it means we can have 40-50 total people in worship, including worship leaders, musicians, and others who help with the worship service. Some of you have inquired about when First will be resuming in-person worship.
The Council is pleased to share that we are looking at Saturday, October 3, to host a live, outdoor, Blessing of the Animals service on the Patio. That occasion, the Feast of St. Francis, will function as a kind of dry run and practice effort for Sunday, October 11, when we intend to begin hosting worship again at 10:00 am in the sanctuary.
However, we also need you to know that re-opening is much more complicated than simply opening the doors to 25% of our building capacity and requiring everyone to wear masks. In July, the Council approved a plan submitted by the Re-opening Task Force. This plan is based on State, County, CDC, and the Pacifica Synod guidelines with the intent to meet and exceed those protocols which create the safest environment possible for in-person worship.
We thought you might be interested in knowing some of the requirements. What follows is by no means a comprehensive list. The state of California has issued a 14-page set of guidelines and protocols for places of worship. We trust you understand that these requirements are meant to keep all of us as safe as possible until we have a vaccine and reliable treatments for COVID-19.
We must have a written workplace plan that includes a person responsible for implementing the plan, a risk assessment, measures to prevent the spread of the virus, a process to investigate COVID cases and a process to check for compliance, and a way to document and correct deficiencies.
Worker training is required, including education on preventing the spread of the virus, self-screening steps, rules for when to stay home and when to seek medical attention, information on masks and physical distancing, and information on paid leave benefits through state and federal agencies. Workers are pastors, office, and lay staff.
Anyone on the church campus is required to wear a mask. We will provide masks for anyone who does not have one, and we will have a plan on how to deal with anyone who refuses to comply with this requirement. We will also be screening anyone coming on campus for symptoms and encourage the use of (and provide) hand sanitizer. Your temperature will be taken. We will need to find either a team of volunteers or assign these tasks to staff.
As you might expect, cleaning and disinfecting protocols are extensive. And there are some strict physical distancing guidelines which we’ll need to practice diligently.
Additional considerations for places of worship are:
- No coffee/fellowship time, even on the Patio.
- No singing or group recitation (Lord’s prayer, creed, responsive readings)
- Communion practices will be modified to avoid the possible spread of the virus.
As you can see from reading this letter, in-person worship will be very different from what we were doing before the pandemic. Not being able to do many things that make our congregation welcoming and unique will be difficult. Safely re-opening will entail extensive effort and the full support and participation of the entire congregation. But it will be worth it, and working together, we can do this safely and effectively.
As has been true since the beginning of this pandemic, older adults and those with underlying medical conditions (especially heart or lung disease or diabetes) are at higher risk of becoming severely ill from COVID-19. The CDC has released updated guidance for older adults, which can be found HERE. While we can’t prevent anyone from deciding to attend worship, we do discourage anyone who fits this description from physically attending worship.
Meeting all these guidelines requires time and resources. While this letter is mainly about COVID-19 and our health, we also want to share that we will continue for the foreseeable future to record, video, broadcast, and post worship from the sanctuary onto the internet. The Council has approved the purchase of items which will make this possible.
We will also have to recruit and train volunteers who will screen those attending worship, match attendees with the RSVP list and deny entrance to anyone not on the RSVP list or who does not comply with mask and other sanitation and physical distancing protocols. We will also need volunteers to stay and clean, wipe down, and secure the sanctuary after each worship. There is much to be done, but it will be worth the effort to worship together.
In the meantime, we welcome your suggestions, observations, and especially your prayers. Thank you for your continued support of our congregation’s ministry.
First Lutheran’s Congregation Council:
Rev. Kurt Christenson, pastor
David Pohl, president
Frank DeLouise, vice president
Allison Emery, secretary
Kem Taylor, treasurer
Anke Hartung, financial secretary
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