Bethany's Task Force for Safely Regathering

September 2, 2021 Update: Covid 19 activity remains high in Barron County with the average daily new case number at 35.7 per 100,000 population and positive Covid 19 test percentage at 13.1%. We therefore continue to follow CDC recommendations for universal masking indoors for all over the age of two years. Recognizing the higher potential for transmitting Covid with the Delta variant, the CDC recently recommended that in areas of high numbers of Covid 19 cases, people should consider wearing masks outdoors in a crowded setting or for outdoor activities with close contact with others who are not fully vaccinated. If one wishes to lower their risk of Covid infection in our outdoor worship setting, one might consider wearing a mask, or one might consider creating a bit of distance between family units when picking a place to sit under or near the tent. With temperatures trending cooler, we might not all need to be sitting shoulder to shoulder under the tent to try and find some shade and could spread out a bit more. Hopefully, these options give us some choices, depending on our tolerance for risk, for those continuing to worship outdoors in these beautiful days of autumn.

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

July 30 Letter from Bishop Laurie Skow-Anderson

Video for Sunday, August 8, 2021:

Effective Masking Video


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 - Revised February 10, 2021

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.

February 11, 2021 Report in .pdf form

Recommended Resources:

Barron County Public Health Department latest information on COVID-19

Center for Disease Control