This week the governors of Oregon and Washington both released their versions of a “Stay Home” orders that closed many non-essential businesses across both states.
Interestingly, the orders have slightly different implications for our churches in Oregon and Washington. Here’s how we’re understanding the implications for Oregon Conference churches.
Your church building is not closed if:
• There’s something that needs to be done there that can’t be done from home.
• There are less than 10 people present to do what needs to be done.
• You can maintain appropriate personal space (6 ft+) while doing what needs to be done.
• You have a designated person to enforce social distancing policy and practices.
This means that if you need your church building to livestream or record a worship service, prayer meeting, etc, it is legal to do so. If someone needs to pick up the mail from the church, it’s legal to do so. If there’s any other reason the pastor legitimately needs to stop by the church, it’s still okay, but we still urge that there are no in-person worship services, Bible studies, meetings, etc, that happen during this time.
Our food banks in Oregon are still a critical resource in the community and are encouraged to remain open to serve those who need food security. Many food banks need healthy, low-risk volunteers to maintain service to the community. Are you healthy & low-risk? Consider helping out a food bank near you!
It’s still important to stay home as much as possible. Let’s flatten the curve together.
Churches and religious services were not initially identified by Governor Inslee as essential services. Thankfully, that has changed and churches are identified as important community partners. It’s still important that church buildings remain closed for the duration of the proclamation (currently April 8). If a church decides to live-stream their worship service from their church building, this is welcomed as long as proper social-distancing can be practiced.
Pastoral care is still a critical part of church life. If a pastor or elder needs to visit a member to drop off food or otherwise assist a member in need, they must follow all of the social distancing requirements and personal health best practices. If they can connect with members via means other than an in-person visit, they should use those other means.
Food banks in Washington can definitely stay open. But please connect with local authorities for guidance on how to do so. Volunteers to operate a food bank aren’t clearly addressed in the Governor’s action. But church members who are capable of volunteering are encouraged to reach out to local food banks or other critical services to volunteer when possible.
The church goes on!
With our facilities largely unavailable, it is even more important that we stick together as a community of faith. Reach out to another church member via phone, text, or video. Check in on your pastor––he or she has probably never pastored through a pandemic before. Do something that contributes to the life and health of your spiritual family.
We’ll get through this!