From March to Sept 2020, St. John’s Lutheran Church in Wharton did not offer in-person worship for its members or community. We broadcast our services with a local radio station as we have done for years, and had special recordings on our website.
As of September 2020, we began to gather for in person worship again, with some changes to reduce the spread of the Corona Virus. This page outlines the hygiene protocols we have put in place, and on the following page we share the broad outlines of how we make the decision to meet in person or not.
Let’s assume for this post that we are meeting in person. What does that look like?
In the New Year, COVID-19 vaccine distribution has picked up. Several of our members have gotten at least one of the two shots needed for their protection. As members complete vaccine regimens we also welcome them back to worshiping in person, and following the CDC guidelines, we do not require masks and social distancing when someone is fully vaccinated. However, as currently there is no vaccine available for minors under the age of 12 years old, who may either get sick OR spread the virus to others, we are keeping 1/2 of the church seating set up for social distancing, for those who have not yet or cannot get the vaccine.
We have services each Sunday morning at 10:00am. Our current understanding is that there is a very low risk of transmission of the Corona virus from contact with surfaces, but there is increasing evidence that COVID-19 is airborne in certain situations. With this information in mind we do not disinfect seats/hymnals/etc, between services but do keep the church sanctuary closed during the week to allow any virus time to settle from the air and break down.
You are encouraged to bring your own hand sanitizer, and we have several large pump bottles of hand sanitizer available at each entrance.
We discourage the use of the common drinking fountains at this time.
We have an offering basket at the back of the church, and continue to encourage members to use the on-line giving available at https://stjohns-wharton.org/giving. We are not passing offering plates at this time.
Communion is offered on the first and third Sunday of the month after the radio broadcast service is off the air. As family groups approach the altar, disposable plates with bread and wine for each member are assembled and given to the family for distribution. The plate and cups are then disposed of as members step to the side of the sanctuary and walk back to their seats.
As we anticipate the majority of our members to continue to participate by radio, we take that into account for the limited time we have to be on air each week.
Face Masks / Singing
We have disposable face masks available for those who do not have one. We strongly urge and request that everyone who is not fully vaccinated to wear a face mask for the entire time you are in the building.
The primary reason for this is to help stop the spread of the corona virus. While some studies indicate that a mask does help in preventing the wearer from contracting COVID-19, it definitely DOES help stop the spread of it from an infected person – even if that person is showing few symptoms and does not know that they are sick. I would ask that you go back and re-read that paragraph above that is in red. Wearing a mask is not primarily for your health – it is for the health of your neighbor and fellow Christian.
This may sound odd, but there is another risk that will be nearly unique to us as a church. Due to the deeper inhaling and exhaling involved in singing, singing in a closed building is considered a higher risk activity, as it more effectively generates aerosols from the mouth/throat/lungs. This information comes from multiple doctors, including virologists, ear/nose/throat specialists, and current studies being done on how the corona virus spreads.
And finally, there are some of our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ who dearly would like to return to the in-person worship they are most familiar with, but are not comfortable attending when we are not all following the same health protocols.