Greetings, beloved friends! I have some important news to share with you regarding resuming in-person worship, so please, read this letter carefully.
Earlier today, Governor Ron DeSantis announced that Florida will move into Phase 3 of reopening. Specifically, all statewide restrictions on businesses will be removed, and local governments cannot close businesses. Local governments can still limit or regulate operations in some ways relating to COVID-19, and private businesses can still operate with any self-imposed restrictions, like opening at limited capacity. The State of Emergency order will run through November 3rd.
So what does this mean for our congregations? I know this news has created many questions and concerns. Some are excited to resume in-person worship, while others are nervous about the health and safety risks of meeting in person.
As Bishop of the Florida-Bahamas Synod, I support the decisions of our pastors and congregational councils in regard to resuming in-person worship for their congregations. I trust our pastors to know the needs and risks of their specific communities. I know that the decision to resume in-person worship will be made with extensive prayer, reflection, and assessment.
If you plan to return to in-person worship based on the governor’s announcement, you should return in an orderly and safe way, implementing all the necessary measures and following all health and safety guidelines. Resources like adequate hand sanitizing stations and extra masks for volunteers will be vital. Congregations with older members are advised to proceed with caution, as seniors are still at an increased risk.
Everyone should consult the CDC guidelines thoroughly. For a complete list of CDC recommendations, please click here. Additionally, you can find the official recommendations on in-person worship from the ELCA by clicking here.
Any congregation considering resuming in-person worship will need a safety plan. If you need help creating a safety plan, please contact our Director of Disaster Response Jim Habermehl at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I know that many congregations have questions about insurance coverage during this time of pandemic. Please direct your insurance questions to Pastor Rob Rose, Assistant to the Bishop for Administration, by email at email@example.com.
Please follow all state and local guidelines related to safety during Phase 3 of reopening. Common sense, patience, and thoughtful consideration will be necessary in the coming weeks. If you have any questions about resuming in-person worship, please contact the Florida-Bahamas Synod office.
And please, continue to pray for the safety of all our congregations as we navigate the COVID-19 pandemic together.
+ Bp. Pedro
The Rev. Pedro M. Suarez, Bishop
Florida-Bahamas Synod, ELCA