White House Task Force Report and Outdoor Worship at Good Shepherd

Prepared by Pastor Amy and Good Shepherd’s COVID-19 Task Force, September 4, 2020

Good Shepherd takes seriously the White House Task Force’s recommendations for Iowa and Winneshiek County given the major increase in COVID-19 cases in our area. According to the Task Force’s state report dated 8/30/2020, Winneshiek County is in the red zone. Recommendations for counties in the red zone are to limit social gatherings to 10 or fewer people. https://www.iowapublicradio.org/ipr-news/2020-08-31/read-white-house-covid-19-task-force-report-for-iowa

On September 2nd, Good Shepherd’s COVID-19 Task Force deliberated about whether it is wise to continue to offer short outdoor prayer and communion times as outdoor worship is a social gathering. Also, the White House Task Force does not stipulate that their recommendation about social gatherings refers only to indoor gatherings. However, research is showing that the risk of transmission is greatly reduced by being outdoors. The CDC notes that “Activities are safer if:

  • You can maintain at least 6 feet of space between you and others. COVID-19 spreads easier between people who are within 6 feet of each other.
  • They are held in outdoor spaces. Indoor spaces with less ventilation where it might be harder to keep people apart are more risky.
  • People are wearing masks. Interacting without wearing masks also increases your risk.”

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/deciding-to-go-out.html

Our outdoor gatherings are limited to 100 people. Iowa’s current guidance for faith communities simply mandates that physical distancing be maintained. Some other states limit outdoor worship gatherings to 250 people or fewer. The important thing is to maintain physical distancing and we are doing that.

We are speaking in unison together at the service. Speaking does increase the chance of viral spread. We deliberated about this as a task force as well. We are speaking while masked and asking worshippers to speak softly. If we chose not to speak in worship, we would also need to ask people not to speak before or after worship. We don’t feel that is necessary given that we are maintaining a physical distance of at least 6 feet, wearing masks, and speaking softly. We are not singing at these services.

The length of time for a gathering is also important and we are keeping our outdoor prayer and communion services short.

Because many people are not able to attend outdoor gatherings at this time, most of the resources for worship at Good Shepherd are focused on online worship in order to be an inclusive community. If you would like to receive Holy Communion and cannot attend an outdoor gathering, please be in touch with Pastor Amy.

Prioritize outdoor spaces where people are wearing masks and keeping 6 feet away from others​.