I am not certain how long COVID-19 will remain virulent among us, but I am certain that as Christians, the second Great Commandment should undergird the responses we make: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
The Latest from Bishop Benfield
March 24, 2021
Recommendations for Restarting Church Activities
I spoke with clergy and lay leaders this week regarding my latest detailed recommendations for restarting church activities, based on new guidelines issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Here are the highlights:
- Until we reach a higher percentage of the total population vaccinated, masks need to be worn and social distancing continued at any event at which not everyone has been fully vaccinated.
- Small group meetings (12 or fewer people) without masks are possible where everyone has been fully vaccinated. (This however does not include choir rehearsals.) You should still keep meetings short.
- Open doors and windows as much as you can to bring in fresh, outdoor air.
- The CDC recommends that all food that is served consist of pre-packaged, individual servings. Avoid buffets.
- Given the CDC’s guideline not to share food, do not share the chalice at Holy Communion.
- Continue to use masks and social distancing before, during, and after worship services.
- If more than one person is sequentially using the same microphone, a fan trained on the microphone can help reduce aerosol droplets in the area of the microphone.
- Paper-based materials are not considered a high risk for transmission and do not need additional procedures for cleaning or disinfection.
Arkansas currently has a moderate risk of Covid-19 transmission, and thus any decision to commence Christian education or nursery care for children must be carefully made. Here are some recommendations:
- All teachers or care providers should get vaccinated as soon as possible.
- Masks should be used in both indoor and outdoor spaces by child care program staff and children over the age of 2. Masks should not be placed on children younger than 2 years old.
- Avoid as much as possible any object that children might share.
- Clean and disinfect more frequently your shared objects and surfaces, such as door handles, toilets, tables, sink faucets, and drinking fountains.
- Require hand washing or use of hand sanitizer after coughing or sneezing.
- Outdoors, routinely clean high touch surfaces made of plastic or metal, such as grab bars and railings. Do not clean and disinfect wooden surfaces (play structures, benches, tables).
Bishop of Arkansas
- 2/24/21 Update from Bishop Benfield (“As Cases Decline, Indoor Worship Is Possible for Some Churches”)
- 11/18 Update from Bishop Benfield (“An Update on Worship During the Pandemic”)
- 9/23 Update from Bishop Benfield (“Latest Recommendations for In-Person Meetings”)
- 8/12 Update from Bishop Benfield (“New Recommendation on When to Consider In-Person Worship”)
- 7/29 Update from Bishop Benfield (“Responding Creatively”)
- 6/17 Update from Bishop Benfield (“Reopening Our Churches”)
- 5/4 Update from Bishop Benfield (“Our Approach to Regathering”)
- 4/22 Update from Bishop Benfield (“Looking Forward”)
- 4/1 Update from Bishop Benfield (“Holy Week and Easter in the Time of COVID-19”)
- 3/25 Update from Bishop Benfield (“Thanks you for Being the Church”)
- 3/17 Update from Bishop Benfield (“How to Love Your Neighbor During a Pandemic”)
- 3/13 Update from Bishop Benfield (“All Congregations Urged Not to Meet”)
- 3/12 Update from Bishop Benfield (“Churches in Three Counties Encouraged to Close”)
- 3/11 Update from Bishop Benfield (“What to Expect in Church on Sunday”)
- 3/4 Letter from Bishop Benfield (“Living Faithfully in a World of Pandemics”)
- 3/2 Notice (“Concerned About Coronavirus and Your Congregation?”)
Active Covid Cases by County
The use of active cases per 10,000 individuals as a standard is based on the likelihood of encountering a currently contagious person in the county in which the congregation is located.
Congregations in counties with 14 or fewer active cases per 10,000 individuals might want to consider indoor, in-person gatherings if the congregational leadership feels confident that doing so is acceptable from a risk standpoint. Congregations in counties with more than 14 active cases per 10,000 individuals might want to consider holding gatherings online or outdoors with limited attendance. No matter whether you meet indoors or outdoors, stay masked, stay at least six feet from other people, and never allow a gathering to turn into a crowd. Note that if the rate is above 35, your county is extremely risky for virus transmission and online-only gatherings are recommended.
(click for graph)
|CHURCH LOCATION||ACTIVE CASES PER 10,000*|
|Garland||Hot Springs, HSV||6.1|
|St. Francis||Forrest City||5.7|
* As a seven-day rolling average.