How are churches to conduct their services now that the governor has eased the COVID-19 restrictions? 

From May 4 through May 31, the rule limiting gathers to ten people will be relaxed for churches in Nebraska.  The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services has issued guidelines for how churches should conduct services while still practicing social distancing.

Changes to Church Services

Churches are to conduct the services in such a way that attendees maintain proper social distancing.  This includes coordinating arrival and dismissal procedures to prevent interaction between attendees and offering multiple services.  Seating, doors, restrooms, and common areas are to be sanitized between services. Greeters are encouraged to hold the doors for attendees to prevent the touching of common surfaces.

Churches are not permitted to pass an item to collect tithes and offerings.  Churches can use a centralized item for purposes of collection.

Churches that desire to engage in communion are prohibited from using a common communion cup.  For churches that require attendees to move to receive communion, the attendees are to move in single files lines while maintaining the proper social distance.  Churches are encouraged to use pre-packaged communion elements if permitted.

While the easing of the coronavirus restrictions will allow churches to once again hold services, the churches are not allowed to engage in any other form of fellowship or social gathering before or after the services.

Impact on Church Attendees

The guidelines allow for families to sit together during services but encourage families or parties to maintain six feet of social distance from other families or parties.  Children are not allowed to play with children of other families.  Nursery services are not permitted.

Attendees are not permitted to use communal sacred books, hymnals, missals, etc. that remain in the church.  Attendees are allowed to bring their own sacred books.  Churches are permitted to provide clean copies of sacred books, if the attendees are allowed to take the copies home after the service.

The elderly, the sick, those with medical conditions, and those who have been exposed to COVID-19 are still encouraged to stay home.  Churches are to continue offering video or streaming options for those who are unable to attend.

A Return to Normalcy? 

While churches holding services can appear to be a step toward life returning to normal, the Department of Health and Human Services stresses that the reopening of churches should not be interpreted as a lessening of the threat of the coronavirus.  Nebraskans should, therefore, continue to be wise in discerning what is best for them and their families.

If you have questions about this article, please give Attorney, Drew Engle a call at 402-397-7300.