COVID-19

Please note: We are keeping our online information as up-to-date as we can. We are unclear when gatherings and events of any size will be scheduled. Please check our calendar often and keep in mind that future event details are subject to change. It is difficult to create a calendar for the future when information changes frequently.


Bethany's Task Force for Safely Regathering

Biweekly Video Update for April 29, 2021:

“Therefore encourage and build one another up, just as you are already doing.” --1 Thessalonians 5:11

“Be an encourager. The world has enough critics already.”  --Dan Willis

April 29: This week in thinking about my message, for the first time I felt like I needed some guidance in what to say. I will give an update on the data as usual, but it just didn’t feel like enough. I, like many of you, have grown tired of thinking about COVID. And I know that just because I am done with COVID, doesn’t mean COVID is done, but I just needed to take a different approach.  COVID is hard. We have all been negatively affected in some way (some more than others) by this virus. I think it’s safe to say we could all use a little encouragement right now! And encouraging your neighbors is an important part of loving them as yourself.

With that in mind, I do have some encouraging data to report. The numbers have not increased (or decreased) significantly in the past two weeks. We still remain in the orange (or high risk) level. Although this may not seem particularly encouraging, it is, considering many of the surrounding states and counties were seeing a surge in COVID cases. As of today (Wednesday April 28), there is 10.1 cases per 100,000, and although that number keeps us in Phase 2 or 25% of our capacity, if we see a drop below 10 cases/100,000 for two weeks, we will be able to move back into Phase 3. The vaccination rate is currently 37.5% in the state for first dose vaccination.

Vaccine supply is also very encouraging with plenty of supply and no waiting lists for vaccine.  All individuals 16 and up are eligible. There is a Community-Based Vaccine Clinic at UWEC-BC in the gymnasium from 11:00 a.m.-7:00 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday. You can call 1-844-684-1064 to register by phone or online at https://vaccinate.wi.gov. I encourage you all to get your vaccine if you have not and encourage others to do the same if you have. Continue to wear your mask, wash your hands and socially distance to keep our numbers encouraging.

If you have questions, do not hesitate to reach out to one of our members or contact Mark Nymo, chair of the Safely Regathering Task Force, at .

Effective Masking Video

Phase Recommendation as of February 16, 2021:

Bethany's Council unanimously approved at their meeting on Monday, February 15, to move to Phase 2 of Bethany’s pandemic response plan. This action was recommended by the Safely Regathering Task Force in response to the rapid decline of Barron County new case numbers released on Sunday, February 7. We are targeting Sunday, February 28 for the first in-person worship, in addition to our Lenten offerings. This target date is contingent upon avoidance of resurgence of COVID disease in Barron County and the ability of the church staff to put in place the details needed for this service. More information will be announced later this week. Also watch the Bethany 411, Good NewsBreak and worship announcements for more details. Worship streaming and radio broadcasts will continue as usual for those who wish to worship from home.

We’ve been waiting for this good news for a long time. Please keep all those involved in this planning in your prayers, as we, your leadership keep you in our prayers.

If you have questions, please contact Mark Nymo, chair, at or Pam Crouse, council president, at .


February 11, 2021 Report from the Safely Regathering Task Force

Greetings in Christ fellow Bethany members,

The Safely Regathering Task Force is pleased to inform you that we have recommended to church leadership that we move into Phase 2 of our regathering process. We would like to relate how we have arrived at this decision and detail for you what our recommendations for Phase 2 and beyond look like.

As a basis for our decision making, we have chosen to prioritize the lives and health of our members, pastors, staff and visitors. We realize that not all communities, churches, businesses or individuals would choose this priority and we do not assert that this is the “right” or only way to view this issue, but as a committee tasked with finding ways to reopen our church safely, we felt the need to uphold this priority.

We next needed to determine on what basis we would recommend moving forward in efforts to reopen. We chose to operate on a data-based process with additional input from the Barron County Public Health Department. We constructed a model of three phases with Phase 1 being our present situation, and with less restrictions as we would move to Phase 2 and 3. Movement from Phase 1 to Phase 2 would be recommended when there occurred a two week downward trend in Barron County’s new cases of Covid per 100,000 population and in the percent of positive tests, and aligning with Barron County Public Health guidelines for maximum number of people for indoor gatherings. Following are the Gathering Recommendations from Barron County Public Health:

Uncontrolled Spread: 25 or greater cases per 100,000 population
          Maximum 10 people for indoor gatherings

Accelerated Spread: 10-24 cases per 100,000
          Maximum 25% of capacity

Community Spread: 1-9 cases per 100,000
          Maximum 50% of capacity

On Track for Containment: Less than 1 case per 100,000
          Maximum of 75% of capacity

We could have chosen much more strict criteria for our movement between phases. The Wisconsin Council of Churches for example, recommends not reopening in any fashion until at least a 50% vaccination rate is achieved. We felt this would be an unrealistic parameter to wait for and that we would instead rely on data showing diminished Covid activity in our community as a better target. We have been following the data closely and have been in weekly correspondence with Laura Sauve, Barron County’s public health nurse. She has extended her gratitude to us as a congregation for following guidelines as she related there have been churches in Barron County which have had indoor transmission of cases of Covid that led to hospital admissions.

In early January, new daily case counts in Barron County were still very high, 53 cases on January 5. Barron County also had the second highest death rate in Western Wisconsin from Covid. At that time, Laura Sauve informed us that it likely would be a long time before the case count would decrease to 24, allowing the county to increase the indoor gathering maximum from 10 people to 25% of maximum capacity. Knowing the sense of frustration and desire for at least some type of indoor church experience, the task force asked church staff to try and develop some type of in-person experience while we awaited the case numbers to further decline. The Lenten and meditation opportunities were offered to attempt to meet these needs within the boundaries of the guidelines. As those plans were made, the case rate began a steep decline. The case number had dropped to 25.1 last Saturday, February 6 and on Sunday, at 2:00 p.m., the case number had dropped below the threshold of 24 to 23. Last night, two days later, our task force voted to recommend moving to Phase 2 and we are forwarding that recommendation to the Church Council and Pastors.

In developing our guidelines for worship practices, we relied on many sources, including the CDC, the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, the ELCA, the Northwest Synod of the ELCA, and the Wisconsin Council of Churches. The Wisconsin Council of Churches, in particular, divided their discussion of worship practices into three categories, “unsafe, safer and safest.” Most of our recommendations are within the “safer” category. Following is the list of recommendations that we developed on July 20. We are pleased to see that a number of suggestions listed on a recent circulated email endorse a number of recommendations that we had developed.

Worship Practices as We Regather Safely - July 20, 2020; Revised February 10, 2021

The document below is a compilation of the following resources, including several links within the resources:   

Considerations for Returning to In-person Worship from the ELCA
Resuming Care-Filled Worship and Sacramental Life During a Pandemic by The Ecumenical Consultation on Protocols for Worship, Fellowship and Sacraments endorsed by The United Methodist - ELCA Full Communion Coordinating Committee
Returning to Church and Returning to Church: Church Music by The Wisconsin Council of Churches
6 Steps to Safely Return to Worship by the Northwest Synod of Wisconsin
Barron County Public Health Department latest information on COVID-19
• COVID-19: Badger Bounce Back from Wisconsin Department of Health Services
Center for Disease Control

Begin Immediately and continuing during consecutive phases:

Communication with the congregation through all appropriate channels
• Mail
• The Good NewsBreak
• Email/Text
• Website
• Biweekly Worship Announcements from a task force member reporting current numbers and phase (begin immediately)

Phase 1:

• Holding on-line services only
• No public access to building (i.e. meetings/Bible study)
• Office personnel working from home
• No more than 10 in a room at a time
• Recorded service worship leaders practice physical distancing of at least 6 feet, 12 feet for singers

Phase 2:

• Up to 25% of capacity per room
• In-house worship services will not exceed 30 minutes
• No Fellowship/Coffee Hour
• All persons in the building should always maintain physical distancing of 6 feet or more as we enter, worship and depart

• Worship Leaders and Worshipers
     o Masks are required to be worn by all, except for children two years of age and younger
     o Persons who are unable to wear masks will need to continue to worship from home
     o Worshipers will need to request a reservation for worship in order not to exceed capacity limits (staff to decide how)
     o Training for Worship Assistants will be provided by the Task Force
     o All worshipers will use the Newton Street entrance
     o Worshipers will enter building no sooner than 15 minutes prior to service.
     o Greeters will be stationed at the entrance, check worshipers in, record name and phone number for potential contact tracing
     o Greeters will ensure all are wearing masks, hand out masks, if needed, encourage persons to use hand sanitizer as they enter/exit the building.
     o Ushers will seat individuals/families/households a minimum of six feet from others, beginning at the front of the worship space and working to the back.
     o Ushers will dismiss individuals/families/households at the end of the service starting in the back and working toward the front.
     o Ushers and greeters will encourage people to move in a timely manner, refrain from mingling in the building
     o Worship leaders (Pastors/musicians) will enter and exit from the front of the Sanctuary. For Gathering Room, leaders should be in place before worshipers enter (ideally)
     o Limit congregational responses, remind people to speak in a low, soft voice or to themselves – Worship planners and leaders should minimize amount of responsive readings

• Prepare Worship Space
     o Open all doors and windows, weather permitting
     o Fans should remain off
     o Remove pew cushions in Sanctuary for ease in cleaning
     o Rope off/tape off pews to maintain minimum of 6-foot distancing
     o First seating pew should be at least 16 feet away from Pulpit and Lectern
     o Remove all materials from pews (Bible, envelopes, pew pads, etc.)
     o Remove Children’s bags
     o Ample hand sanitizer and wipes available to worshipers

• Worship Practices
     o Martin Looper will not be offered
     o No Congregational Singing
     o No Bulletins ~ written communication on PowerPoint
     o Use Alternate ways to share the Peace (Nod, Wave, American Sign Language)
     o Children should remain seated with their parents during the Children’s Sermon time
     o Stationary Offering Plates will be located near the entrance of the worship area (highly encourage online giving)

Phase 3 would entail less restricted worship practices and increased capacity limits, at least 50% of capacity if not greater, depending on limits recommended by the Barron County Health Department.

Recommended resources for Pastors and Church Staff providing details regarding special circumstances (i.e., baptisms, funerals, weddings):

Considerations for Returning to In-person Worship from the ELCA
Resuming Care-Filled Worship and Sacramental Life During a Pandemic by The Ecumenical Consultation on Protocols for Worship, Fellowship, and Sacraments endorsed by The United Methodist- ELCA Full Communion Coordinating Committee
Returning to Church and Returning to Church: Church Music by The Wisconsin Council of Churches
6 Steps to Safely Return to Worship by the Northwest Synod of Wisconsin

Although most of these recommendations were included in the snail-mail congregational letter of October 1, 2020, we are again forwarding them to church leadership for approval, denial or modification.

We as a task force, fully realize that we are an appointed committee, not a group elected for leadership and we are not in a position to set policies. We therefore submit our recommendation to church leadership for moving ahead to Phase 2 with the noted worship practice recommendations. We would look to church leadership to accept, deny or modify these recommendations. If the recommendations are accepted, with or without modifications, we would then look to the Pastors to determine when these services might begin and what form they might take.

Lastly, a personal note; I believe all of us in this wonderful congregation have the same goal in mind. We all want to worship together, to celebrate in fellowship and be enveloped in-person by all of the goodness that we have shared together in this church. From feedback that I have received, the pace of reopening for many, has been too slow, for some, just right. My hope and prayer is that as we now begin to reopen, that all of us, as sisters and brothers in Christ, can continue to work together toward our common goal of uniting once again in this wonderful place we call Bethany.

Respectfully,
Mark Nymo
Chair, Safely Regathering Task Force

February 11, 2021 Report in .pdf form


Recommended Resources:

Guidance from the CDC about the holidays

From the ELCA: Considerations for Returning to In-person Worship

Resuming Care-Filled Worship and Sacramental Life During a Pandemic by The Ecumenical Consultation on Protocols for Worship, Fellowship, and Sacraments endorsed by The United Methodist- Evangelical Lutheran Church in American Full Communion Coordinating Committee

Returning to Church and Returning to Church: Church Music by The Wisconsin Council of Churches

Returning to Church Update - July 2020 by The Wisconsin Council of Churches

Barron County Public Health Department latest information on COVID-19

COVID-19: Badger Bounce Back from Wisconsin Department of Health Services

Center for Disease Control