The Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church is providing this phased re-gathering plan to guide local churches during the COVID-19 pandemic. The plan takes into account faith community recommendations provided by the Minnesota Department of Health as well as the phased plan released by the Office of Gov. Tim Walz. (Our camp and retreat ministry has developed camp-specific guidelines and protocols based on American Camp Association recommendations and the governor's guidelines for outdoor and small group gatherings.) The suggestions in the phased plan below are driven by our Three Simple Rules:
Our United Methodist faith communities can and must be first responders in caring for the spiritual, physical and mental health of all of God’s people all across Minnesota by actualizing these Three Simple Rules. We have come to understand, like never before, that the church is not a building. It is the expression of God’s love made visible through the actions of devoted followers of Jesus. We offer this plan as a framework to help church leaders make healthy and pastoral decisions, not as a fixed set of guidelines that will account for every circumstance. Although each church will need to make some decisions specific to its context and discernment, it is our expectation that every congregation will operate within each designated phase at any given time.
We are currently in the YELLOW Phase. Click on any of the headings below to learn more about the plan and how it was developed, and to obtain specific guidelines for each phase. Download dial graphics for use in your church communications.
Our plan includes five phases, each of which is named according to a specific color. A few important things to know:
The phases and related recommendations listed below are based on the following information about COVID-19, as shared by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and/or widely understood by infectious disease experts:
People are advised not to gather with anyone outside of their household, and there are restrictions on many businesses. The number of cases is high and rising, and hospital capacity is a significant concern.
Church buildings are closed. Specifically, this means:
Businesses can open with some restrictions. People are still encouraged to limit movement to essential needs, and remote work is still urged. Infection rates are high.
What we recommend:
Somewhat less stringent restrictions for businesses and gatherings are still in place, but remote work is still recommended. The infection rate is still a concern.
What we're asking: When your county surpasses a 5 percent positivity rate (check your county’s current rate here), reinstate social distancing, indoor masking, and no congregational singing. Specifically and additionally, we recommend the following:
COVID-19 is still circulating but the infection rate is decreasing or low, and larger gatherings can take place.
Churches can open with no capacity limits but social distancing is still highly encouraged and masks are recommended for anyone unvaccinated. We would offer these considerations as you determine your requirements in this new phase:
COVID-19 is no longer considered a risk, and there are no limitations on group size.
Churches can gather with no restrictions. What we recommend:
Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church