I was pretty surprised to read the new Church guidelines on re-opening Church, although perhaps I should not have been surprised. Utah, by my reckoning anyway, has done a pretty good job with testing. My own (neighboring) state has done an abysmal job at it. In AZ, our Governor has lifted the official restrictions, but places like movie theaters are choosing not to open up yet, and weirdly, I’d be more comfortable going to a movie theater than to Church right now. That’s mostly because our local Harkins theater is 100% stadium seating, and we always sit up front where nobody else sits.
I was also surprised that the local Catholic Church around the corner from my house pretty much opened for business last weekend. I wouldn’t say it was packed, but there were a lot more people than I expected, and not a lot of social distancing from what I could see.
Our ward was not quick to adopt Zoom as a group. The Elders Quorum did one Sunday meeting on Zoom which was more of a casual “check in” with each other and not so much a lesson. The Relief Society utterly refused to even consider a Zoom meeting of any kind, although the teachers posted notes from lesson topics in an email attachment. The Youth did some Zoom meetings and a few virtual activities. Today, for the first time since March, there is an in person seminary graduation party at the teacher’s house with shared food. Hopefully we don’t die.
For the purposes of today’s quick post, I’ll assume you’ve read the guidelines for yourself. If not, here’s a link. Go read them, then come back to discuss.
Generally speaking, I’ve found the Church’s response to the pandemic to be very conservative and reasonable, in stark contrast to Evangelical congregations boasting of licking the floor for Jesus, etc., and in contrast to a handful of my fellow congregants who are essentially taking a “Come at me, bro!” stance toward the virus. To each his own.
Quite rightly, and in keeping with all the epidemiological advice I’ve heard (which is A LOT), funerals are to remain online. The increased risk is that when people are sobbing, they draw their breath, taking in more droplets than they would normally. I can hold by breath for several seconds while people pass in my space at the grocery store, but at a funeral, it’s tough to stand back and actually look sympathetic when someone is grieving.
There are a few things I found concerning in the guidelines they released:
1) They should probably not just scrap choirs, but all singing, if they want to be cautious. When you sing, you draw your breath in much deeper which is probably one reason choirs were so hard hit. I grant you that most congregants barely mumble their way through the hymns, but there are always a few who belt it out like they’re at the opening game of the World Series. While I don’t think Church would feel much like Church without singing, maybe someone could play a musical instrument before the sacrament, or if needed, play recorded music. It’s lame, but so is Covid.
2) As per usual, they are deferring A LOT to local leadership discretion. That’s fine if local leaders are thoughtful, intelligent folks who know what the heck they are doing, but that is by no means a given. In my own stake, I really have no idea what the background of most of our leaders is. On a spectrum of Michigan protester to mandatory masks for all, I don’t really know where they fall. Will they make good decisions for the hundreds of people in their charge? Beats me. As to encouraging these local Church leaders to “follow government regulations,” that’s probably a good idea, except that likewise, a bunch of local Governors haven’t behaved in a very responsible manner or haven’t been doing a good job actually addressing things. I’ve been mostly OK with our governor’s response, but some of these states seem to be run by idiots. I guess we can’t all be led by winners like Jacinda Arden or Angela Merkel.
3) We are relying on the priests to practice good hygiene. Cuz that’s totally in their wheelhouse. Right. Maybe I’d feel a wee bit safer if adults were in charge of the sacrament. Or if they just poured out croutons into the trays instead of using their fingers to tear the bread apart? Crouton sacrament doesn’t sound great either. I am not used to the body of Christ crunching. Basically, there should be some kind of individual packaging option here, maybe some ketchup packet water servings. The thought occurred to me that maybe that’s how the host was invented in Catholicism: a way to prevent spread of disease by having individual serving sized communion wafers. Having the priesthood holders personally pass the sacrament to each person rather than passing it down the row is not necessarily a great preventative technique either. We are putting a lot of weight on these guys’ presumed hygiene. I just have never seen the priesthood kids as any kind of golden exemplar of hygiene, even my own amazing sons, but much less the amazing sons of other people.
4) We are still relying on local leaders to clean the buildings using untrained voluntary labor. Quelle surprise. Not to gross anybody out, but it was several years of volunteering to clean the Church before I realized that as volunteers we were also supposed to clean the bathrooms. I know that’s a strange thing to admit, but I assumed that professionals were still coming in to do the real disinfecting work, and we were just doing a “touch up” clean. There is basically no training and no quality oversight for the cleaning that takes place in my experience. I have also seen questionable chemical mixing at times (e.g. not enough product to water). I don’t recall seeing any cleaning products that meet CDC disinfection requirements (although again, I didn’t think we were supposed to clean the toilets, and I basically never volunteer for that task, so maybe it’s there and I haven’t noticed).
5) As early as Phase 1, we can have meetings with up to 99 people in attendance? No offense, but we might as well mouth kiss strangers. With tongue. OK, maybe that’s hyperbole. Still, 99 people in our chapel = nothing resembling normal social distancing. And we can possible hold Primary during Phase 1?! So where are the adults during that time? In a crowded Sunday School or Relief Society room? Maybe if everyone is spaced apart in the gym… I dunno. As wide open as Phase 1 looks, Phase 2 looks like business as usual, cats and dogs living together, mass chaos, real wrath of God stuff. Basically there should probably be more phases here, or so I think.
The only other thing I will mention is that again, we are putting men in charge of making decisions about disease and hygiene when, on the whole, men have worse hygiene than women and take health care concerns less seriously than women. I’d at least like to know that someone in this decision making process is a doctor, although that’s by no means a sure way to avoid risks. A few docs have been pretty eager to poo-poo the risks where I live.
What are your reactions to this news?
- Are you confident in your local leaders’ ability to make the right call for your area?
- Were you surprised or skeptical about any of these guidelines or do you think they got it just right?
- How would you administer the sacrament to minimize risks?
- Did your ward do Zoom meetings during the crisis?
- Will you be returning to Church soon or do you want to wait a couple weeks to see if there’s an outbreak first?
 Slightly kidding. *laughs nervously*
Are you confident in your local leaders’ ability to make the right call for your area?
We have a good bishop and a good SP, but we’re also near DC and our numbers are still really high, so I’ll be surprised if that decision happens soon. Even if we partially opened, I can’t see many people attending. Our family won’t.
Were you surprised or skeptical about any of these guidelines or do you think they got it just right?
Frankly I was very surprised. The church was pretty proactive about bringing missionaries home and closing temples/meetings. I didn’t expect them to be so laissez faire about opening again. Nothing has changed. We don’t have better treatment, we don’t even fully understand what it’s doing besides respiratory damage—we only know it is. People are going to unnecessarily die because of this.
How would you administer the sacrament to minimize risks?
I’m not going. But if I were, I’d bring my own. No way am I taking bread or water handled and passed from multiple hands. Absolutely no.
Did your ward do Zoom meetings during the crisis?
Will you be returning to Church soon or do you want to wait a couple weeks to see if there’s an outbreak first?
Totally waiting there are multiple autoimmune issues in our home and we don’t have anything to prove. We’ll sit tight.
I’m not going back for a long time – I was already doing the slow fade
I’m with you on the professional cleaning – many business in Utah County are keeping their workers at home – I think partially for fear they’ll have to scour the entire building over and over when cases arise. For the church not to scrub everything professionally is awful and very miserly of them
Admittedly my testimony was already waivering, the lack of action by the church has cemented that I’ve made the right choice to step away
They really had an opportunity to do serious good locally in Utah and elsewhere and beyond the random PR blips refused.
I never go to church anyways. I have really enjoyed sacrament in my home with my husband, and the online anti-Sunday School association I helped organize, and the online devotionals organized by the mission. I’m going to miss it all when everybody goes back to church, but I won’t be going with them. Not because of COVID-19, but because I didn’t go before.
I was completely appalled at what the church sent out today. What got me the worst was the photo of a family holding masks in their laps, with the caption indicating they had done so in order to sing a hymn. What?! Do they not know the problems with viral transmission through singing? For goodness’ sake, put the mask on specifically to sing if at no other time! Plus masks should not be handled so much. Put it on, leave it on, wash your hands whenever you have to touch it, all that. I feel like a bunch of uninformed amateurs came up with the whole document from the church.
That and I am deeply worried about those who think that sacrifice for church attendance will assure their protection and health. I spent much of my life playing transactional games with God, and I know the temptation to think that if I do “A” to show my faith to God (e.g., go to church as normal despite the risks), then he will be bound to do “B” to bless me (e.g., will keep me healthy). Riiiiiiight…..
So many ways to handle sacrament, not even worth listing them. It doesn’t take a whole lot of creativity to come up with ways to minimize the disease transmission risks there. But since it is all about maintaining rigid control over priesthood ordinances and access to them, creativity doesn’t seem to matter.
I am all riled up, for many reasons. No, I do not trust my local leaders to be wise in this, not one little bit. My own brother is one of those local church leaders and he refuses to shop at stores that require masks and is almost literally WANTING to get infected – he basically thinks the whole thing is not-quite-a-hoax but almost.
I am really enjoying the reprieve from the constant pressure to attend church even when it doesn’t work for me. I think sacrifice for church attendance will show up culturally again as a mark of faithfulness very soon, even when an individual is staying away for very good reasons. Makes me want to swear up a storm to think about it. I have not missed that element one bit.
My sons and I all have possible complicating factors were we to be infected, due to an inherited heart problem. My husband is going to want to drag our boys to primary and YM over my objections – we see church and the virus quite differently. I wish it weren’t even an issue – can’t they just keep the doors shut until we see the effects from loosening restrictions play out in the larger world? Church members in general are too black and white in their approach to be able to exercise wisdom in this pandemic – they need the Church to do the thinking for them, but it seems there is little thinking going on behind the guidelines. Recipe for trouble.
There is a major flaw in the picture included in the information link. They have a helpfully masked deacon passing the sacrament but have not considered what that would actually entail. Proper mask use is more than just slapping on a face covering. It includes proper hand washing so as to not cross contaminate yourself or the mask.
In brief, hands must be washed (20 seconds soap and water) or sanitized (enough hand sanitizer that the hands remain wet for 10 seconds) BEFORE putting on the mask, BEFORE removing the mask and AFTER removing the mask.
Assuming the deacons will also get to partake in the sacrament, the order of service now looks
No longer in brief-
1)The deacons all clean hands (10-20 seconds depending on cleaning method of choice). Masks are put on. Bread is passed.
2) deacons clean hands. Remove mask.
3) deacons clean hands. Partake of bread.
4) deacons clean hands. Place on new mask (no they cannot just put on the previous mask. Even cloth masks must be washed before reuse). Water is blessed and passed.
5) deacon clean hands. Deacons remove masks.
6) deacon clean hands. Deacons partake of water
7) deacons clean hands since we will be in a confined space for 15 plus minutes together so they will need to reapply a new mask now to wear for the remainder of the service.
This is what it would look like if there was to be proper mask use while having 11 year old boys pass out the sacrament.
Afterwards we can just say closing prayer because our time slot it finished since we can’t overlap with other wards sharing the building and have to have to clean the building high touch areas before the next ward comes in.
I couldn’t believe they had made little to no change to the administration of the sacrament. That was the one thing on my mind during the entire quarantine: surely they won’t go back to the traditional ways of everyone putting their fingers into a tray.
I’ll start with the same comment here that I made at BCC: I’m very concerned for my elderly and at-risk relatives, who should stay home, but will probably hurry back to church as soon as possible.
Also, in Utah, there is a supposed limit of 50 people in any group, but doesn’t apply to religious services. That makes no sense to me.
I cannot see how the church can be cleaned in between services, as is required by the instructions. That will be interesting.
I am NOT confident in local leaders ability to make these decisions. I think they’ll follow guidelines and recommendations, which is good, but the problem is in the details. Local regulations don’t cover how 12-year-olds should pass bread to the congregation, or what surfaces need to be cleaned in between meetings. Who is going to stop the primary from singing? How are you going to get 10 primary kids in a tiny room for 30 minutes to keep from breathing the same air? My 90-year-old grandma still hugs her bishop when he brings the sacrament to her house each week; it’s going to be so much worse going to actual-church.
My ward did not do zoom meetings. I have had virtually no contact with anyone in my ward since the last time we had church. I’m sorry to say, it has been quite nice.
My vote in my family will be to wait two to four weeks to see if infection rates go up before we return to church. We are all low risk. If we were high risk I wouldn’t plan to go to church for quite some time.
I’ll just say, I do not expect professional cleaners anytime soon. Unfortunately.
I was quite amused by this comment, “I’d at least like to know that someone in this decision making process is a doctor, although that’s by no means a sure way to avoid risks.”.
After reading it, I had a vision in my head of world-renowned heart surgeon Russel M. Nelson asking if there was a doctor in the house.
There were some helpful recommendations for the sacrament breakers and passers (wash hands) and the seating arrangement (every other row, so the passers can go down the empty aisle and members don’t have to touch all the trays). But on the whole my impression is they aren’t going to make significant changes to the sacrament ordinance until they are forced to because members start avoiding it — either by getting there 25 minutes late or by just declining to take it every week.
Let’s give the locals a chance to show some initiative. Remember, bishops get direct input from the ten folks on the Ward Council and from anyone else in the ward who decides to share their opinion. So we local members have some control here. If enough people say “If nothing changes, I won’t take the sacrament until hell freezes over” — well, then they’ll make some changes. Sacrament meeting won’t make much sense if most people don’t take the sacrament.
And the whole story about how oh so important the sacrament is that we take it every week and with home church we should do it in our homes rings false when the big exception is “except for single moms and women living alone, then it’s no big deal, just read the prayer and think of Jesus for five minutes, same thing.” What if we only “renew our covenants” once a year? Do they expire after three weeks or something? People who go inactive for twenty years don’t have to get rebaptized. They haven’t “renewed their covenants” for twenty years, but it’s no big deal to just get started again.
I’m 70+ and asthmatic.
I’ll go back when the church takes responsibility for my safety and the safety of everyone else by, at the minimum, hiring professional and qualified people to clean and disinfect the premises before each group and not a second sooner.
I THINK my local leaders will make a good call, but they are going to error towards opening up some sooner as they want (or feel they need to look like they want) the meetings to come back. If we just need to socialize, then lets do that in the parking lot a few feet from each other.
I think they had to make it a bit locally adapted, both due to conditions being different world-wide and the higher ups don’t want to take the heat for any mistakes that cause outbreaks. I can’t say if they “got it just right” as so much is left up to layers of the management.
I would skip passing the sacrament in all but the safest areas (thinkNew Zealand).
My ward has done no zoom meetings other than a weeknight RS activity.
I personally am reluctant to return soon. I will probably be sitting out for a bit.
I had to laugh at the “don’t come to church sick!” Umm – right. Hasn’t it always been the case? I think so, but we have had kids show up with pink-eye and whooping cough (yep – the anti-vax family).
With two autistic grandkids living here, home church has reduced their mother’s stress level significantly. Due to anxiety issues, the 6 yr old won’t go to Primary class anyway unless a parent goes with her. The 4 year old goes, but I bet his Primary teacher wishes he wouldn’t, lol. He has the attention span of a gnat. (In one on one situations he is a hoot to chat with, because he is crazy smart, but he has a hard time when there are too many bodies involved).
Our ward doesn’t have 100 people most weeks so that isnt going to be hard. I sit at the organ, so I will just come in the side door and make a lovely arrangement of garlic on the organ to keep everyone away.
We have had Zoom church every other week. But the bishop counselled us to do what works best for our family, and not to feel pressured to attend. Two of my BFFs, one a widow, the other the only member in her household, say that they appreciate the time to connect with other members. Its usually 30-40 mins, so not long.
Our Stake Pres was taking precautions before our state did, so I trust him to make some solid choices.
I agree that someone actually trained in cleaning needs to be cleaning our church buildings. Our building is usually ok, but the Stake Center bathrooms are always kind of…um…not exactly disgusting, but making me wish for hand sanitizer even when its not a pandemic.
As for the sacrament, it appeared in the slides that hand sanitizer will be on the table and they will be expected to use it. We use Cheerios in our home because of GF issues, maybe Cheerios in individual cups would be a better idea than breaking bread.
That was rambly…sorry.
With regards to Zoom meeting, I’m quite frustrated with them. Our weekly zoom meeting is Sunday at 10:30. Then my wife has zoom ward council every Sunday at 2:30. So basically Sundays are horrible because there’s no real opportunity to do something meaningful working around these time constraints. I’m quite jealous of those who have been able to enjoy nature Sundays. Because yes, I do feel guilty asking my wife to skip these meetings to go explore Laguna Caynon with me.
With regards to going back to Church, here in CA we still cannot gather with groups outside those we live with. I think Governor Newsom said we can start having gatherings again when there are no covid deaths, or his term is over. So we at least get more time to figure out Church since it’s probably still months away.
Unless the same deacon is the only person handling the sacrament tray, I won’t take the sacrament. Even if the priest and deacon was their hands, it doesn’t help if the tray goes through 20 other families’ hands before it gets to mine.
My wife is Primary President and I’m primary chorister. Lucky our primary is quite small so I do think we can make it work somehow, but it will be tough. I would have though that discontinuing Nursery was obvious. But I guess it was only obvious to me. Glad my youngest is 4 and we don’t have to deal with that.
My biggest concern is that, after weeks apart, I just don’t see the members not embracing one another when we re-convene. So you can tape off the pews, you can cancel Sunday School, but I still think the members will struggle to be distant, adults and kids alike.
Given that the two largest culprits worldwide for spreading COVID are churches and bars, you would think the Church was have tried harder.
I have told my father and step-mother to wait at least one month before going back, so that they can see what happens. Both have multiple risk factors. Step-mom might be a “transaction with God” type person, tempting fate…
In my opinion ABSOLUTELY NO ADOLESCENTS DOING THE SACRAMENT YET! Sorry for screaming that out, but this needs to be done by the most mature folks in the ward (and sometimes that isn’t adults…) One other thing: are they actually going to mix kids from different families to do the sacrament? Two weeks and everyone in the ward has the same cooties.
I really wish that the FP had specifically said: “Do not come to Church if you have risk factors. God understands your situation, and we can nurture you spiritually from a distance for a while longer”. People are more likely to follow specific instuctions like that from leadership. Otherwise, it’s COVID roulette all over the place…
I am surprised by the announcement today. And I agree singing should. not. happen. Here in Utah I haven’t yet seen any directive from our Area Presidency so I think (and hope) that it may still be awhile before services resume. I thought the example photos of congregants, few in number, spaced far apart, wearing masks except to take the Sacrament, looks like it could be appropriate and reasonably safe. But no no no no no to congregational singing!
I’ll add that no, I generally don’t think local leaders should be trusted. I don’t get the impression that most people, regardless of good intentions, really understand much about how to minimize risk with infectious diseases.
It is true that, in general, as a group, men have worse hygiene practices than women.
(Amen Jeremiah S)
At a minimum, I don’t think I will be taking communal sacrament at least until there is a vaccination for Covid. Why can’t people/families bring and hold their own broken bread while a priest says the Sacrament prayer?
I have one devout friend who stopped going to church before church was suspended—because she has had several bouts of pneumonia in recent years. Another friend, even higher risk, will probably go back to church as soon as it resumes just because—obedience, faith (?) etc. I do agree that the FP should encourage those at high risk to stay home.
I have a family member, father of 2 young children, who is at high risk. and since I do some babysitting of those children I don’t plan on going back to church anytime soon.
Our ward has been having a Zoom meeting every Sunday, consisting of an opening prayer, one talk/message, closing prayer. Some, but not every week Sunday School follows the first meeting.
Frankly, I think it is our duty to protect ourselves and exercise upmost caution. Because, when we don’t, and we get sick we are not just putting loved ones at risk, but also risking the lives of those charged with caring for us.
Here’s what I wonder:
1. who are the 99 that are allowed to attend given that most wards I’ve attended have at least twice that attending each week. Will there be a first-come first-serve on-line sign up sheet? Will there be an alphabetical rotation of members (A-H week 1, I-Q week 2, R-Z week 3)? Will there be a ban on 75 and over?
2. is the 2nd hour gone forever? It’s one thing to argue that the sacrament is necessary. It’s another to argue for SS and Priesthood/RS. Especially when you consider the full hallways are a menace (although I guess we could exit sacrament meeting one row at a time like the temple).
3. sacrament logistics: It’s one thing to sit and listen. It’s another to participate in an ordinance where people (young men) are touching food that we eat. That sounds like a big no go.
4. sick / sniffling kids: If I recall from my earlier years as a young parent, there’s always someone with a runny nose. I think we’ll see a lot of single parent attendance.
I live in the state of Queensland in Australia. We have a population of 5 million. We have had 1038 cases, and 6 deaths. There are 13 active cases, with 2 in icu. 4800 tests done yesterday with 1 positive. No positives yesterday. So say 1 in 5000 infectious people at most.
Schools partially went back this week, and fully next week. Only 10 people can gather inside, restraunt for example, or church. No travelers from interstate allowed, no travelers from overseas, except returning locals, and they are quarantined in a hotel for 2 weeks.
So we will not be going back to church this month. State won’t allow it. My leaders will do whatever their leaders tell them to.
Utah with 3 million people, does look to be one of the better states in the US, but you have 3247 active cases( compared to our 13). Cant find how many tests it took to find your 134 new cases yesterday, but would be surprised if it were 4800 a day. But there must be so many more infections per head, than we have. We have 6 total deaths Utah has 88, and 8 more yesterday.
If you are opening up at the peak of the virus, and if our experts are right, you will have a second wave. You know of about 1 case/ 1000 people but if you can have 134 new cases in a day that suggests more like in 50 people asymptomatic in the community( a guess). Does anyone know how many tests / day in utah? Would you go to church if you thought there were 2 carriers going to be there?
The other point to note is that less than 1% of our cases die, 2+% in Utah do, but of a much higher (7 times) infection rate. So you have say 15 times chance of dying from covid as I do. The death rate for the whole US is 20% of concluded cases.
I would not be going to church in America, even Utah. I’m not sure I will be here yet a while. I have only spoken to 2 died in the wool members, and they both said they were enjoying not going to church.
Sorry about the figures, I like to have the facts.
Maybe we ought to worry as much about the local members as the local leaders. I picture many taking the sacrament no matter how it’s delivered more so than avoiding it. We all know people who believe the pandemic is a hoax and overblown.
Some members and leaders have magical thinking. A fair number have sincerely held medical beliefs in “orthomolecular medicine” (megadoses of vitamins), portable wearable necklace air purifiers, healing crystals, etc. etc. etc. No masks needed! (/s)
These overlap with the type of people who consider novel corona-19 protections a violation of their civil rights, a huge gathering at a park (in violation of state guidelines) for a Colin Raye protest concert is free speech, and YouTube removing “Plandemic” is a conspiracy by the Deep State.
If a ward/stake is lucky enough to have reasonable leaders, some members will be pressuring them to resume church with minimal safeguards.
Words of encouragement? Hopefulness? A prayer for success? Nope; not in this post or comments!
It almost seems like pessimism is a requisite for expressions on Church matters. So many of you don’t like decisions made by SLC. Now, local regulations are determining procedures by local church leaders, and you don’t like that either!
Are you happier waving your “Hell no, we won’t go!” banner? Then stay home. Don’t condemn those who truly desire to be back in Church. It’s very much like those who wish to return to their livelihood.
Aside from what leadership determines and how spotty the cleaning is there’s the question of who else will be in the rooms. How many will be of the masks-are-trampling-on-my-precious-personal-freedoms tribe? So far as I can see, they’re going to be the Typhoid Mary’s to avoid at all costs from this point on. Not knowing if any such folks are present is another reason for me to wait for the vaccine.
Thanks for the information and ideas here. It appears that regular church is a perfect recipe, cooked up by the virus itself, to ensure its rapid and efficient spread.
That’s the thing, Mark: It’s not that we don’t want people to go to back to church. For me, I want to reopen once, not five times.
And when we’re dealing with people who think the virus is some kind of left-wing conspiracy, people make bad decisions that have consequences for others who are trying to be careful. I miss church. I miss my fellow congregants. But I’m not going back until I see what happens for a month or so… I hope nothing happens. But I think that’s overly optimistic.
Geoff – Aus: I’m really not sure how you arrive at a 20% case fatality rate in the US. Currently, the % of known cases that have resulted in death in the US is 6%, and most experts believe the actual case fatality rate to be around .5%. Nowhere near 20% of Covid-19 cases in the US result in death.
alice: There are some Mormons I know of who are in the “won’t patronize any establishment that encourages mask wearing,” so yes, it’s become a real political symbol for some.
Wally: Let’s hope not. One thing is, I assume those who are immunocompromised or have known co-morbidities will not return immediately, which will reduce overall risks by reducing the numbers in attendance. 99 people is crazy, though. There are no guidelines I’m aware of that allow 99 people to congregate indoors using the same air conditioning and ventilation system without being essentially totally open. How is this in any way cautious? It’s a huge number. A phased approach would be more like 10 people at a time, or 30 people, or 50 people (depending on the size of the space). 99 is pretty much business as usual.
Mark: Your message makes zero sense. Nobody is condemning others for desiring to attend Church. To each his or her own. If you are really reading the comments and post, you’ll see that people are trying to determine whether they think it’s safe to return or not, whether these guidelines are sufficient or not. I’ll wait to see what my local leaders say (since that’s really all the church’s guidelines are doing), but I have no idea what that will be. If they aren’t addressing the gaps I outlined in the post, I will probably conclude they aren’t taking the pandemic precautions seriously enough and will wait and see what happens when others go back. While I don’t think I’m high risk, I really don’t want to get sick either. By all accounts, Covid 19 is a terrible thing to get even though it’s unlikely to kill you.
As a business owner, I definitely want things to open back up, but I’m not going to restaurants that I think are being unsafe (still not quite ready to dine in either). I will look for things like how many people are in the restaurant and is outdoor seating available. I already only go to restaurants that practice what I consider to be good hygiene. Hygiene at Church has always been a blind spot in my experience. It always smells a little like rotting animal crackers in the bathroom, and I frequently see my fellow congregants doing things that give me pause. Perhaps we’ve all learned a few things since the pandemic. It remains to be seen.
I was horrified to see that they were already considering going back. In California we’re still in the middle of covid with some opening up but nothing where we’re in a crowded room.
Meanwhile, we’ve been loving home churching.
Meeting starts with a prayer, family business, I bless the sacrament, watch the video from Come Follow Me, small discussion, close with prayer. It’s been a hit.
It’s shown us what’s truly necessary and how church can be less of a burden and more enjoyable.
I won’t be going back because I’d already stopped going before but my bishop is an actual infectious disease specialist who’s been working with Covid so I think he’ll be cautious. He started having the Aaronic PH boys use sanitizer when he was YM president a few years ago. There’s always hand sanitizer under the sacrament table. When I was still cleaning the chapel, I noticed.
RS has done zoom meetings on weekdays.
I was surprised that this came so soon. I’m a cynic so I think it’s financially driven. Contributions must be down and I’m aware that some local leaders were panicking at the loss of control over members’ lives. “They’re not doing Come, Follow Me; we’ve got to get them back in the building!”
My husband and I are in our 80’s……..we will stay home until…….well……we feel very safe! If that’s all summer so be it!
OK Angela; define “safe”. If someone thinks it’s safe to attend and you don’t, are you critical? When is our attendance risk-free?
After Hurricane Katrina, there were several reasons that made church attendance unsafe; yet we did.
What I fear may be an outcome is a prevailing attitude of “if it can’t be done online, it’s not worth it”. Already suggestions are being made that the majority of school requirements should be conducted as they are now. Some might favor that for Church, and that’s not good.
I’ll never understand the outrage machine to announcements like this. Yes, there are a lot of details that need to be filled in, but that’s sort of the point. Different regions will require different specifics, which is why a member of the Q12 and the Area Presidency have to sign off on a plan before meetings begin. I can guarantee they are communicating with doctors and other experts in making those decisions. It may seem ridiculous in your particular part of the world to have a gathering of up to 100 people, but that really depends on the size of the building and the prevalence of the disease. Australia and New Zealand face a very different set of circumstances right now than Tuba City, Arizona. The way I see the announcement, the Church Public Affairs Department is letting people know what to expect. Specifics plans will likely have a lot more detail as well as nuance.
Martine: I’m dubious that local leaders had any say in the announcement done by the newsroom. I don’t think Church HQ typically gives a fig what local leaders think. I thought everything was supposed to be “top down” according to Lynn Robinson.
Mark: “If someone thinks it’s safe to attend and you don’t, are you critical?” If they think it’s safe, they should attend, and I’ll attend when I think it’s safe. Part of my calculus will be seeing what happens when Church attendance (not just LDS) goes up. That’s the experiment, and I’m more curious than critical. All humans are critical to some degree of decisions that differ from their own, but I’m not someone who sees it as my business if someone else feels differently (I am, however, privately most critical of both the extreme partisan responses).
Attendance was never risk-free, and doesn’t have to be risk-free. Good heavens, if I traced every cold I’ve ever had to its original source, I’d bet most of them DID originate at Church! But this illness is more dangerous than any cold I’ve ever had, so I’m not keen to get it. I would like to go to places that are roughly on par with the risk of going to the grocery store. I feel OK about that, using the precautions I can. There is greater risk, though, due to sitting in a room together, indoors, still, than there is in zooming through a store, holding my breath when I walk past other shoppers. I’m simply going to be cautious about it. I am not a fan of online Church so far, mostly because as I said in the OP, my ward is completely unwilling to try it for the RS. I’m OK with reading a good book by the pool as an alternative, but that was always an option, and even that gets old eventually.
I hope this was done to give those who really want to get back to church some hope. Where we live, there are no gatherings of more than 10 people allowed, and I imagine that order may stay in place for some time. Like most, we’ll go back when we feel safe. Like most, home-church has been a spiritual feast. Like most, we’re mature enough to make our own grown-up decisions about our spiritual lives and our physical lives. If that means the duties of my calling are in conflict with my decisions to protect my health, I will certainly choose to protect my health. I won’t have an issue stating that to whomever is requesting my attendance. Like most, we’ll try to let the spirit guide our actions.
This just in: https://www.ksl.com/article/46755370/utah-area-presidency-approves-utah-latter-day-saint-wards-to-meet-again?fbclid=IwAR196woNMONJfOZeeR0TwD9R4CPjnspKMulks9eJihsvmUNBCCOXpv6P3D8
Looks like the guidelines in Utah are that they will (effective immediately) allow up to 99 congregants per meeting to attend. They are letting local leaders figure out how to schedule that to prevent more than 99.
The article covers quite a few changes:
– discouraging those over age 65 or with medical conditions from attending in person (LOL, there goes my ward! We’ll have about 20 people left!)
– no use of hymn books (will we have to look up the words on our phones? or will we scrap singing? Or just sing “I am a child of God” ad nauseum?) and no printed programs (we went to a texted program a long time ago, so no loss there).
– no youth gatherings over 20 people (ours aren’t that big anyway) and follow social distancing. This should be OK as youth are less at risk anyway.
They’ve also highlighted these changes to the sacrament administration:
– visible use of hand sani while prepping the sacrament (a little bit of theater for us)
– more trays so bread pieces aren’t touching (just how many trays are we talking about???)
– more water trays so nobody will accidentally touch someone else’s cup (again, that’s a lot of trays)
– no passing the trays down the row, just the one person offering it to them (presumably a deacon, but not specified here)
My daughter is an ICU nurse. Folks in her large metropolitan hospital have been stunned since the beginning of the year by the number of young adults and people under 30 having sudden fatal heart attacks and strokes. To this point these deaths have not been counted among the Covid-19 fatalities. There is also now a concern that the increasing number of cases of the once-rare pediatric multi-system inflammatory syndrome may be an age-related expression of the novel coronavirus.
Since doctors and researchers are still very much in the learning phase of this new virus I don’t think it’s wise to conclude or rely on children and young people being at less risk. They may simply be at different risk.
alice: Good point. Yes, I was concerned about the stroke / blood clot risk, especially since I have had two DVTs and my daughter has inherited a genetic clotting factor from me.
The Utah area guidelines do not necessarily allow 99 participants. ““The size of chapels and the need to carefully follow social distancing and safety procedures may dictate that a smaller number of participants is more appropriate, ..”
I see the linked article from ksl shows a picture of an organist wearing a face mask. It reports no instructions on disinfecting the organ keyboards, stop and other controls, the bench where it is normally touched/adjusted for various organists.
I wonder if the instructions as to building cleaning and disinfectant are not just hopelessly inadequate.
I forgot about your DVTs, Angela. I’m glad that much is behind you and hope you will take all the precautions and avoidances necessary to ensure your continuing good health.
Our family enjoys sacrament at home better because we use real bread. There is something about the GMO-artificially-bleached-white-bread used in so many sacrament meetings that disrupts the symbol for me.
We look forward to re-attending Children’s Primary and Children’s Sunday School at our home ward church building.
We will still avoid attending “adult” classes because (1) unconscious priestcraft and (2) institutional dogma have become intolerable.
More than Covid19, I am concerned with protecting my family from the unhealthy culture of the institution.
“More than Covid19, I am concerned with protecting my family from the unhealthy culture of the institution.”
Agreed. Having church at home has made this much easier. In my ward in particular, the right-wing cranks and other difficult people haven’t shown themselves in our Zoom Sunday School lessons or ward social media posts. If someone does say something objectionable, I can easily block them, mute them or otherwise keep them out of my home and out of my life. And having no testimony meetings does my introvert heart a world of good. I’m not in any hurry to go back.
Camacho: “I’ll never understand the outrage machine to announcements like this.” How can you possibly imagine this post is fueled by an ‘outrage machine’? People discussing on line what their views are about re-opening our specific type of worship service, what the guidelines should be, and whether or not we think the announcement is adequate to all the variation that exists among local leadership is not knee-jerk “outrage.” Some folks seem to think that anything less than fawning adulation of every stray word coming from Church HQ is anti-Mormon. Hopefully you are not one of those extremists, but your comment certainly gives me pause on that score.
I wish the LDS church would come out with a set of minimum guidelines and procedures for safely conducting all of its meetings. For example, safety procedures for administering the sacrament that would be required as minimum precautions globally (or at least in the US). If a local government requires something more stringent, then they can go with those in that jurisdiction. The Church also ought to discuss their procedures, how they were developed, who they consulted, and why they’re sufficient. This would give members more information and certainty in deciding for themselves when to return to meetings.
It’s ridiculous to defer this to local governments, who have widely different views on what’s appropriate, and who have politicized their responses. The Church should stake out a position and stick to it, unless a particular jurisdiction requires something more. By it’s silence, the Church is basically saying that it’s leaving it up to local governments to decide, and if not for government requirements, we’d be back to the way things were. Also, are we going to end up in a situation where members in Utah have a totally different (and less safe) experience than members in, say Washington?
Well, it is not just Camacho who senses an “outrage machine” in some of the posts and comments on Wheat and Tares. I enjoy reading W and T and enjoy the free-wheeling back-and-forth exchange of ideas, but have long felt that there is a lot of anger against the Church on W and T.
That’s okay. I thought the point was that W and T is a place where a variety of views are welcome. Are people who are willing to give the Church the benefit of the doubt on a given issue —how it should re-open, for example—not welcome on W and T? Can we only preach to the choir?
Does my pointing this out make me one of those extremists who insist on “fawning adulation? “ phrases like “how could you possibly” poison discourse. Dark suggestions that “Hopefully you are not one of those extremists” are a rather neat smear that are designed to silence unwelcome voices.
Taiwan Missionary: *shrug* “Outrage machine” feels like a liberal smear to me (usually leveled at the media), although I’m not personally a liberal. I’ve certainly seen things that are concerning to me that are coming from a place of knee-jerk outrage that would qualify from my perspective (“They are trying to kill us all!” and “I don’t understand why anyone is out walking their dog without wearing a mask!”) It’s generally true that any group in power is subject to critical discussion of their actions and words. There’s nothing to discuss if a post isn’t asking any questions, and this post points out several things the Church has done right in this process, then discusses potential concerns. This post was not even remotely fueled by outrage, although I’m sure some have been.
I don’t wish to shut down conversation on this topic, so I thank you for your caution. I don’t desire an echo chamber. I strongly object to this post in specific being characterized as fueled by outrage which is definitely not so. I am continually bemused by the partisan nature of the response to the pandemic, on both sides. Personally, I fall somewhere in the middle.
I’ll second Angela C’s observation that “there’s nothing to discuss if a post isn’t asking any questions.” It just doesn’t work to do a post that says “Went to church — it was wonderful. The Sunday School lesson was the same old stuff, but people were nice. Came home and had casserole and a piece of pie.” Write that every week for a month and no one will visit your blog again. You have to have some sort of issue or question to energize the post and prompt discussion.
Recognizing this bias to focus on problems and failings, however, I do go out of my way every few posts to do a self-consciously positive post that tries to focus on something good about the Church or the culture or the membership. And it’s worth giving the Church the benefit of the doubt in some cases because it is such a lightning rod for criticism. Voicing an accurate and justifiable criticism of this or that about the Church isn’t really fair if the larger culture or media or Christendom generally trumpets LDS flaws but ignores all their own. If we Mormons don’t throw in some good comments about the Church, no one will. So I try to throw in an “on the other hand” response in my posts. So: “LDS manuals for adult Sunday School are just terrible.” Followed by: “On the other hand, there is often a lot of participation and, despite all the complaining, most people enjoy teaching Gospel Doctrine class.” And if that doesn’t happen in a W&T post, commenters are always welcome to give that more positive response themselves in the comments. I honestly can’t think of a single instance where an LDS group blog I have been in has deleted a comment for saying something too nice about the Church.
I’m a single childless female. So at home church is basically a crock of crap for me. I can’t go back any time soon as I am high risk and the primary caregiver for a high risk parent. There is something hurtful to me with all of you saying how great at home church is and you hope to never go back.
Lily, I’m very sorry for your situation and the stress it brings. Hopefully it will be safe again soon.
I’m an EQP. Never missed more than one consecutive Sunday my entire life. I don’t miss church at all. My life is considerably better with what we do at home.
Received an email from our bishop just yesterday. We are continuing home church and sacrament, with weekly Zoom meetings with each auxiliary taking turns at a lesson, through the end of summer. I live in North Utah County. I’m wondering if it’s because we have a large percentage of retired people in our ward. But really, I’m not complaining. I love home church. I would prefer to never go back to the ward bldg. And, yes, I’m an introvert. Haha
I’m with Gregggg, it is considerably better not going to church but having my teenage son bless and pass the sacrament in our home for our family, with a short lesson or video and discussion. It has led to some great testimony sharing in the home.
My guess is that it is not so sustainable to only worship as a family, but as we phase back to regular church again, I will sacrifice the ease and convenience and closeness with home worship, with the community connections we will ease back into. I’m just not eager for that..but long-term…realize it will need to happen. There is strength in numbers and opportunities to serve others at church.
It has been a nice break from that for a while.
Lily’s point is a good one, well made. I grew up like that and church saved me. Thankyou for the corrective Lily, but I do have to help those I love to stay safe. I’m not sure at this point what the solution is, only that my heart goes out to the many people in similar situations. We need to reach out to you.
Whatever concerns we may have about how Church ramps up once again, whether we agree or disagree with what has been decided— that is not my biggest concern. My biggest fear is what members will do, regardless of guidelines.
I am glad that the Church is urging members not to gather in foyers and corridors, but I am not going to hold my breath waiting for this to be followed. People like to mingle, and Corridors are narrow and people get impatient, and push through.
That is why, before Church closed down, we started using a wheelchair for my wife, who walks, but with difficulty. There were several times she was nearly knocked down by children AND adults who simply would not wait. Angry looks from me, forcefully saying, please do not knock my wife down—met with looks of incomprehension or impatient unwillingness. So the wheelchair better ensures her safety, but people get impatient with that, too. Most people are helpful, but a significant minority are not. Another person in our ward has MS in his 30s, and he has the same problem we do. The Bishopric has asked ward members to be mindful of those with disabilities, and nothing changes. Don’t get me wrong—this is a good Ward. But people are people.
With Covid 19, in our geographically compact Ward, most people are good about wearing masks in public, but again, many do not. When I ask them, they say that they simply do not like the feel of the mask on their face.
I am hoping that in addition to what has already been announced, local leaders will insist on wearing masks—but I don’t think it will cut much ice if they do.
I miss church. I miss my fellow ward members. I’m an introvert and have a number of barely-grown children at home whose company is enjoyable, so it’s relatively easy for me. I feel for people like Lily — we have a number of them in my ward. I clearly get more from them than they get from me, so I’m going to miss not seeing them when we do go back. I really wish my government had some sort of coordinated contact-tracing/testing plan to give me some sort of hope that we won’t just be back in this position in a couple months, but it’s clear that our society is so divided and everything is so politicized that as a society, we’re unable to manage crises in a coherent and cohesive manner. This is a bad disease, but it’s not THAT bad a disease. The government’s throwing money around that it either doesn’t have or has created out of thin air (the fed), but if it simply performed the one task of coordinated contact-tracing ( Apple and Google pretty much have it figured out!) and very wide-spread testing , we could live pretty close to how we did before. As it is, the old, infirm, and compromised are going to be so isolated — they have to be, because odds are good we’ll have a second wave in a couple of months. It is just so discouraging.
Martin: Your comment reminded me of the adage “Absence makes the heart grow fonder,” but my dad used to sometimes say “Absence makes the heart go wander.” I think both outcomes are possible in this type of situation. Perhaps it just reveals what the underlying stresses are in the relationship between individuals and their wards.
I agree about a contact tracing app being very promising and a quicker path to safely reopening, but already I’m seeing friends on FB doing a cut/paste post saying “Unfriend me now and delete me from your contacts if you are going to download a contact tracing app because PRIVACY.” The American libertarian streak rears its head again. I think my time in Singapore wore down my skepticism about privacy and governmental intrusion. This stock post that’s going around specifically says they are made more uncomfortable knowing Singapore’s use of contact tracing, which is ridiculous, IMO. Singapore has been far more transparent and on the ball than the US. Don’t get me started.
I did talk to my dermatologist yesterday to get his opinion (his office was handling this impressively), and he said he believes churches are well designed for social distancing if you just block off every other pew. We were speaking of a Catholic church, specifically, as they tend to be a little larger. He did point out choirs have to go, but he didn’t mention congregational singing, I assume since that isn’t a big thing in any of the masses I’ve attended. Our method of doing “communion” is much higher contact than a Catholic mass, so I’m not sure what he would have said about that. He probably would have been surprised to hear that teenage boys are preparing it with their bare hands and passing these hand-torn bread shards in a communal tray. It is the norm to us, but completely different from other sects. My doctor did recoil in horror at the thought of returning to his gym, though.
Taiwan Missionary: I had heard some were discussing requiring all corridor traffic to go one direction. That would probably help your situation, although I have to say, people are kind of pushy and impatient in the hallways at church, chasing kids, etc. My elderly mother tripped over a primary child and sprained her wrist a few years ago. I guarantee you, she wasn’t the one that was rushing around in this scenario.
Re: your mother spraining a wrist because of a heedless primary child.
I warned our Bishop, a kind and tolerant man, thank goodness, that a certain 10-year old boy was next in line for human sacrifice, on the Chapel sacrament table, after he nearly took out my wife. The Bishop laughed, said that many in the Ward would like to participate……
Corridor traffic going one way would work only with big, beefy ushers, I think.
If that 10yo had a pattern of being obstreperous why didn’t the bishop tell him and his parents that he could be the first one into the sacrament meeting or the last but he was not allowed to enter while there was other traffic in the halls until he could control his speed and show respect for others’ personal space?
The announcement from the Church–followed by the statement from the Utah Area Presidency–made me nervous given the composition of my ward and stake. I have been pleasantly surprised, however, at the judicious and thoughtful approach being taken by the local leadership. They are not rushing to restart meetings; instead, they are putting together a plan–and soliciting input from people in the ward and stake, if you can believe it–for approval by the Area Presidency. Of course, that did not stop me from sending a three-page memo to my bishop regarding many of the concerns that have been mentioned here and elsewhere.
In our building, even one-way corridor traffic will not work whether or not we have big, beefy ushers, unless we make a fundamental change to meeting and building use practices. Handicap (stairless) entryways and automatic doors exist on only one side of the building. Each of the 4 wings contains either a bishop’s & clerk’s offices or stake offices. The hallways are too narrow to allow all to get from sacrament meeting to subsequent meetings in 10 minutes even in our thoroughly disorderly fashion. There is no time orplace for conversation except the hallways and small foyers, so we have people standing around blocking the hallways in groups of 2-5. There is no place to post any written announcements except on bulletin boards in the narrow hallways, so they cannot be read without blocking the hallway. All of that is a problem even when there is only one ward in the building. Any attempt at sensible hallway traffic and monitoring will require at least that the prior ward be completely out of the building before anyone from the next ward is allowed to enter. On my observation of behaviors in our building, I’d assess the likelihood of any such rules being followed as zero. Add to that mess any attempt to clean or disinfect between meetings (professional or otherwise), and the conclusion is necessarily that meetings in the previous style and schedule cannot resume even if meeting attendance numbers are limited. I’m glad my decision making on the subject is limited to whether or not I will go and how I will conduct myself if I do.
“but already I’m seeing friends on FB doing a cut/paste post saying “Unfriend me now and delete me from your contacts if you are going to download a contact tracing app because PRIVACY.”
You are so right about this. I’ve seen it too. The Apple/Google solution maintains pretty good privacy, in that the government can’t track you, but you can track whether or not you’ve come in contact with someone infected. But relies on people being good citizens (self-quarantining), which too many simply aren’t. The politicization has gotten to the point that everything’s become a conspiracy. Everybody and everything has got some evil agenda. The idea that people with philosophical differences can actually agree on data, disagree on policy, and both be motivated by a desire for the common good is completely absent. We can’t even agree on data (“fake news!”) And it’s not just the Trump people who think this way.
“Our method of doing “communion” is much higher contact than a Catholic mass”
Is it? The common cup has always struck me as a sure fire way to spread a virus. Further, when communicants receive on the tongue, it seems to me they are breathing any potential virus directly into the minister.
I know it’s easy to take digs at the ability of teenagers to properly wash their hands, but the priests in my ward take hand washing seriously, as has been the case in most wards. I’ve always used hand sanitizer prior to breaking the bread.
I’m sure Deseret Book is anxious for more business – their catalog arrived in the mail today with a “Welcome Back” message.
In attempted answer to your question: because the 10 year-old is NOT the real problem. The real problem is his parents, who say, “Oh, we can’t do anything with him,” and don’t try and let him run wild. And anyone who thinks Mormons are a bunch of blind sheep who blindly obey their leaders should try being a Mormon Bishop. I have learned over 40-plus years in the Church that parents are almost always NOT reasonable when someone tries to inform them of a problem with their child. A Bishop’s authority is more limited than we would like, sometimes.: just as a Bishop can be wrong-headed, so is he usually unable to change human nature in wrong-headed Ward members.
Camacho: Excellent point about the Communion Chalice. I forgot about that! It appears from my Google search that many diocese are simply suspending the use of the chalice altogether (no wine offered) and offering the host either still directly into the mouth or if the parishioner prefers, handing it to them. I will say I’m glad we don’t have deacons putting the bread into our mouths directly! Your point is well made. Interestingly, although to me it seems low risk, many Catholic Churches are eliminating the holy water as you enter and instead putting up hand sanitizer stations.
I know some of the YM are doubtless trustworthy with hand washing, but I know one of the YM in the ward I grew up in used to spit in the cups because he resented going to church. I don’t really know the YM very well in my current ward. I can’t imagine they would deliberately do something that’s poor hygiene, but most of them don’t have food handlers permits either.
Latest news from Germany courtesy of the BBC – cluster of 40 cases traced to German church service. A Baptist church in Frankfurt. They say they followed distancing measures, and the building was disinfected. So no, it really isn’t safe yet…