Returning to Church

4 Phase Plan for Bethany Lutheran Church


  • Bethany Lutheran Church will hold worship online with recordings of music and streaming of services created by 1-3 people in person following safety protocols.
  • Bible studies, small groups, etc. meeting online.
  • Service ministries such as FISH Food Pantry, Go-Bags for Hungry Kids/Youth, and Buildings/Grounds are using safety protocols and only addressing essential needs.
  • Minimal, drop-in staffing from pastor, secretary, small outside maintenance crew, treasurers, and financial secretary sufficient for essential operations (deposits, mail processing, streaming worship, etc).

WORSHIP (All dates and plans may change if there is a resurgence within our county)


  • Bethany Lutheran will continue holding online worship services, with plans for an outdoor worship service (rain or shine) to be held June 28th, July 12th, July 26th, August 9th, August 23rd, per Governor Inslee’s May 27th, 2020 press release. Wednesday evening prayer services may begin in person in the sanctuary beginning July 15th. All of these services will include health and safety protocols, if health and safety protocols cannot be met by members and visitors, services may be moved to online only and the building services will be suspended:
    • Attendance list with all individuals present kept at the church.
    • Wearing face masks while at church will be required, as is recommended in public spaces.
    • Offering Communion safely will continue to be a challenge, as touching a face mask (to remove or shift it) contaminates it. Proximity to the communicant is a risk to the communion minister and those receiving. Communion will continue to be offered for online services, and for outdoor worship services the communion liturgy will be shared at the close of worship for members to either use elements that they have brought from home in their vehicles and a small number of prepackaged communion elements will be available to be dispersed by Pastor as members and friends leave so they may take communion inside their vehicles.
    • Singing is among the riskier behaviors when it comes to spreading droplets/aerosols which can carry the virus a significant distance and remain suspended in the air. A mask is unlikely to be enough to protect you or your neighbor. Singing will be invited for online services, and may be possible for outdoor services with soloists, humming, and quiet singing outdoors with masks on. We continue to watch for more information on this piece.
    • Use no-touch alternatives for passing the peace, collecting offering, and liturgical resources. Bulletins will not be passed out during in-person services, but the services will be available on the PowerPoint screen. Plastic wrap will be placed over power-point keyboard and wiped down along with other touched points at the computer area. Announcements are available online or mailed out to members without internet access.
    • Distancing: People will spread out in sanctuary or outdoor space with one family unit per side of each pew; keep empty pews between families or chairs 6ft apart between family units.
    • There will not be an in-person fellowship/coffee hour during this phase. We encourage people to leave the location rather than mingling and to connect via phone call etc. later in the day.
    • Life rituals (weddings, funerals, confirmations) could take place in a more traditional way, with careful attention to guest lists so as to keep under the 50 person limit, and physical distancing plans.

Beginning in September:

  • Worship services to continue to be available online and in person weekly worship services to begin inside sanctuary following protocols put in place during the summer.


State stay-at-home order only allows essential travel, no social or spiritual gatherings

  • Continuing minimal essential drop-in staffing and volunteering from Safer At Home.
  • Bethany Lutheran will continue holding online worship services only.
  • Funerals will be kept to less than 10 in attendance.
  • Bible studies and small groups continue to meet online.
  • Church office phone continue to be forwarded to secretary’s cell phone and secretary is working from home except for essential operations (mail processing, printing and mailing bulletins for those without internet, necessary bookkeeping activities, etc.) Those in the building should follow protocols sent out March 17th, 2020)
  • Bethany Lutheran Church Council and leadership teams continuing to meet online or via phone.
  • High risk individuals (people over 60 and those with underlying conditions), whether staff or volunteers, advised to continue sheltering in place.


State’s model allows limited non-essential travel, gathering with no more than 5 people outside your household per week

  • Bible study or small groups may choose to meet at the church if they are gathering with 5 people or less, following safety protocols (wearing masks, maintaining 6 ft physical distance, etc.), note the state’s model requires that you not gather with more than 5 different people outside your household each week.
  • Any activity at the church must have clean-up following the meeting per protocol.
  • Re-opening Subcommittee along with Bethany Lutheran Council will develop cleaning protocols, signage, and additional re-opening plans.
  • High risk individuals (people over 60 and those with underlying conditions), whether staff, volunteers, or program participants, advised to continue sheltering in place.


State’s model allows non-essential travel, gatherings of 50 or less people

  • Regular office functions could resume more or less safely while maintaining social distancing and wearing masks. Continue to attend to cleaning and sanitizing the office. Pay particular attention to high-touch surfaces and cleaning hands after dealing with the offering.
  • Church council and leadership teams of less than 10 may choose to meet in person while wearing masks and maintaining social distancing. They may also continue meeting online.
  • Bible studies, groups, and committees may meet in person if they choose with masks and appropriate physical distancing. They also may continue to meet online. We recommend maintaining some online options for high risk individuals and those who do not feel comfortable being in public.
  • Allow Girl Scouts & Boy Scouts to resume operations with a plan to address cleaning needs and agreement to observe gathering and distancing protocols.
  • High risk individuals (people over 60 and those with underlying conditions), whether staff, volunteers, or program participants, should continue to shelter in place during Phase Three.  Hospitals and care facilities are recommended to continue limiting visitors. This has implications for church program, pastoral care and business.


State’s model allows non-essential travel, gatherings of 50 or more people

  • High risk populations may resume public interactions with physical distancing.
  • Worship will continue to be offered online as well as in person with physical distancing and hygiene practices continued until recommendations are updated for churches regarding communion and communal singing.
  • Office functions could resume as normal, with attention to cleaning.
  • Groups, teams, and committees could meet in person.

It is possible that conditions will not improve, but infections will increase again. In that case, physical distancing recommendations would need to be tightened temporarily in order to get back on track. Progress will not necessarily be linear. You can help by encouraging careful hygiene, following of the physical/social distancing recommendations, encouraging people to stay at home if they have any symptoms of illness, and to cooperate with contact tracers if they are diagnosed.

Based on the Wisconsin Council of Churches Article “Returning to Church”

Guidance from ELCA Churchwide & Bishop Richard Jaech of the Southwestern Washington Synod

Washington’s Phased Approach from the governor’s website: