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Tennessee Governor’s Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives Releases Guidance on Reopening Houses of Worship

Tennessee Governor’s Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives Releases Guidance on Reopening Houses of Worship - If you have a church or place of worship in Tennessee here are some guidelines in order to reopen.

Tennessee Governor’s Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives Releases Guidance on Reopening Houses of Worship – If you have a church or place of worship in Tennessee here are some guidelines in order to reopen.

Tennessee Governor’s Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives Releases Guidance on Reopening Houses of Worship

Tennessee Governor’s Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives Releases Guidance on Reopening Houses of Worship - If you have a church or place of worship in Tennessee here are some guidelines in order to reopen.
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Today, the Governor’s Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives released guidance for faith communities on gathering together in houses of worship.

“Tennessee’s faith leaders have been incredibly innovative in finding alternative ways to worship that incorporate social distancing so they can continue to provide spiritual guidance, fellowship, and service to their neighbors during these challenging times.”

Tennessee Governor Bill Lee

“Religious liberty is important and must be protected, and that’s why the State has always deemed religious services as essential gatherings throughout this pandemic. As we look to reopen our economy in a safe fashion, the decision on in-person gatherings will be up to each individual faith community. We’re confident in their ability to determine the proper time and how to incorporate these guidelines to worship in a way that protects the health of their congregation.”

Tennessee Governor Bill Lee Continues

Some of the guidelines

  • A phased approach to resuming in-person gatherings is recommended.  Vulnerable populations (everyone 65 years and older, people with disabilities, people with serious respiratory or cardiovascular conditions, people who are immunocompromised, and others) and children’s activities/nursery programs should not gather in person until a later time.
  • Consider solutions to minimize close personal contact that may be part of your services, such as handshakes or sharing food and drink.
  • As the phased approach begins, limit the size of attendance in your sanctuary and other confined spaces to create seating arrangements that provide at least 6-foot distancing between families. It is recommended not to exceed 50% of maximum capacity of the room and should enable full compliance with CDC recommendations for social distancing and hygiene.  
  • Wear face coverings.
  • Encourage members of the community to stay at home if they are symptomatic, have a fever, have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive, or have traveled internationally or to a domestic hot spot in the past two weeks.
  • If a member of the congregation has tested positive for COVID-19, consult CDC guidelines and local health department recommendations to determine whether in-person gatherings should cease immediately, the building should close for additional cleaning, or other protocol changes are required.

View the full guidelines here. Or see below …

Tennessee is stronger because of our citizens and communities of faith.Governor Lee is thankful to the houses of worship and faith communities that have played a large part in Tennessee’s success to slow the spread of COVID-19 through social distancing and other means of worshiping together without physically gathering.

The First Amendment to the United States Constitution and Article I of the Tennessee Constitution protect the right of Tennesseans to worship and freely exercise their religion in every aspect of their lives according to the dictates of their own consciences. Additionally, the Tennessee Religious Freedom Restoration Act (T.C.A. § 4-1-407) provides additional protections for religious liberty. Thus, state and local governments must ensure these core constitutional and statutory rights are protected.

This resource is an aggregation of suggested protocols from various faith communities across Tennessee. Not all suggestions will be appropriate for each faith community. These suggestions are included as a courtesy for your convenience. These suggestions are not, and should not be construed as, mandates or requirements by the State of Tennessee, the Governor’s Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, or any other entity of federal, state, or local government.

Moving forward, people should continue to exercise caution while COVID-19 remains present in Tennessee.To minister to vulnerable populations while also protecting those populations and continuing our state’s progress to contain COVID-19, faith communities are strongly encouraged to continue offering online services and other creative methods of worship and ministry. Faith communities should conduct as many activities as possible remotely and should follow the recommendations in this guidance when deciding to begin gathering in person once again.

Decisions about when to resume in-person gatherings are serious and should be made by each house of worship and its leadership based on the unique needs of its faith community, and in consideration of preserving and protecting health and safety to the greatest extent practicable.Governor Lee’s executive orders have been clear that religious services are essential, rather than social gatherings. Caring for the elderly, disabled, and immunocompromised is incredibly important to faith communities, and gatherings that include these vulnerable populations uniquely put them at risk. As such, faith leaders should evaluate the specifics of their congregation, community, and facility when determining when and how to gather in person. Due to the potential high risks of potential widespread transmission of COVID-19 in houses of worship, faith communities are encouraged to continue alternative worship options.

When faith leaders determine it is time to begin gathering in person again, faith communities should recognize that meeting in person should be different from meeting in person before the COVID-19 pandemic.It is likely that certain changes to in-person gatherings should remain in place until a vaccine for COVID-19 is available.Governor Lee hopes that all Tennesseans will continue to make responsible choices to protect themselves and their neighbors from COVID-19.

Here are some guidelines for your faith community as you determine when and how to offer in-person gatherings:

  1. Evaluate how you can provide for your congregation spiritually and emotionally, while continuing to protect vulnerable population sand reduce the spread of COVID-19.
  2. Wear face coverings. Social distance by staying 6 feet away from others. Consult the CDC guidelines and guidance from your local health officials to determine the risks of gathering in person. This should include thinking about the percentage of your community classified as vulnerable, how conducive your facility is to allowing social distancing, the size of your community, and more.
  3. A phased approach to resuming in-person gatherings is recommended. Vulnerable populations (everyone65 years and older, people with disabilities, people with serious respiratory or cardiovascular conditions, people who are immuno compromised, and others) and children’s activities/nursery programs should not gather in person until a later time. Consider solutions to minimize close personal contact that may be part of your services, such as handshakes or sharing food and drink.
  4. As the phased approach begins, limit the size of attendance in your sanctuary and other confined spaces to create seating arrangements that provide at least 6-foot distancing between household units. It is recommended not to exceed 50% of maximum capacity of the room and should enable full compliance with CDC recommendations for social distancing and hygiene. Over time, as Tennessee continues to see the successful containment of COVID-19, it will be appropriate to gradually increase capacity.
  5. Encourage members of your community to stay at home if they are symptomatic, have a fever, have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive, or have traveled internationally or to a domestic hot spot in the past two weeks.
  6. If you learn that a member of your congregation has tested positive for COVID-19, consult CDC guidelines and local health department recommendations to determine whether you should immediately cease in-person gatherings, close for additional cleaning, or otherwise change your protocols.
  7. Stay informed of updated safety protocols and recommendations as the COVID-19 situation in your community develops.

Press Release Compliments of the Tennessee Governor’s Office.

Check out Kentucky’s Church Reopening Guidelines.

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