Re-Gathering Chart also on last page of May eNews

Re-Opening: Step-By-Step

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not
to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. ~ Jeremiah 29:11


Even in the midst of this time, it is important to think ahead.


Many of our congregations are 10 weeks into the “Stay-in-Place” guidance of the CDC and our local and national health care professionals.  We’ve been engaging in worship, and faith formation and spiritual care and community connections through a variety of online and physically distanced means – seeking to remain spiritually and faithfully close. 


We will open our buildings to gather together again, some of us sooner than others. There are many people and organizations asking about re-opening and offering resources. Your Montana – N.Wyoming Conference UCC seeks to share best practices and provide as many resources as possible as you and your congregation begin to consider what is next.


Our thanks to the Southern New England Conference UCC for organizing the following questions and considerations into categories so that, step by step, we can consider the transition forward for each aspect of church. We will continue to link resources to the questions as they are created.



Spiritual Practice and Resources for Now and Moving Forward


  1. FAITH - How can prayer and a life of faith speak to this current situation?  How can our relationship to God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit support us in this time of trouble?  How is faith informing our decisions moving forward?  Consider joining or dropping into the Conference book study, Wednesdays 4 pm – 5 pm “Faith in a Time of Pandemic” (Bruce Epperly) led by Rev. Dwight Welch.

  2. GRIEF - Grief is an ongoing experience, and your congregation will be in various stages of grief for a significant period of time - even as “Stay-in-Place” ends.  How can the pastor and leadership of the church support individuals and the corporate body as it processes its grief around death of loved ones, the trauma of the experience of COVID-19, and the loss of how things used to be?

  3. CARE AND COMPASSION - Even as we are socially distanced we remain spiritually together, and our members and communities are in need of care and compassion.  How have you been able to pastor to your congregation and community from afar, and what plans do you have as we move into the future?

  4. FUNERALS AND MEMORIAL SERVICES - Have you considered how the church will handle the backlog of funerals and memorial services when we can regather?  How will the church honor those who have died - and support those who have lost loved-ones.



Now More Important Than Ever


  1. SAFE CHURCH - Now is a time to revisit your safe church and preparedness policies to ensure they are suitable for such a time as this. The following questions are some important ones to be considering in this time.

  2. ESSENTIAL INFORMATION - Is there essential information (passwords, account numbers, organization memory) that would be helpful to have accessible in the event that key leaders become ill? Are there mechanisms to access all the information leadership and your pastor have in the event they become ill and/or incapacitated?   

  3. LOCAL GUIDANCE - Have you connected with your local Emergency Manager (check with the fire department) or Health Agent for their advice and guidance? Have you checked in with them to ask how you and your congregation can be helpful in this time?

  1. CHURCH MAINTENANCE - How were you maintaining your building in the time when it is not occupied? What needs to be checked for your building to be ready to receive visitors again?

  2. MENTAL HEALTH - Stay Home and Stay Safe polices have had implications for increased incidence of addictions, mental health issues and domestic violence.  What strategies have you considered for your congregation and  community?



Thinking Ahead


  1. INSURANCE - Have you consulted your insurance provider for the implications of returning to in person worship?  Those on United Church Insurance can check with Dan Antonietti, dantonietti@paynewest.com

  2. VIRTUAL - What have you learned from virtual online worship and midweek gatherings that you want to carry into this next chapter?

  3. FLEXIBLE WORSHIP - Have you considered flexible worship options for the possibility of future limited-sized gatherings? 

  4. SANITIZE AND CLEAN - What are you doing now to sanitize and sterilize your church building? What changes will need to be made to your cleaning and sanitizing plan to accommodate safe gathering?

  5. OUTREACH - How will pandemic precautions continue to impact your outreach programs, community meals, food pantry etc?

  6. PHASES - Have you considered phasing into ministry? This would be a blend on online meetings, programs and worship along with in-person phased in over time. For an excellent resource on this see: Returning to Church,  Wisconsin Council of Churches.


Thinking Ahead... In More Detail



  1. Are there changes in staff or volunteer job descriptions you need to consider? Do door greeters do their jobs differently, or at all?

  2. What is your plan when volunteers wish to temporarily step down out of health concerns?  Some of your volunteers may not want to be back in public yet, including faith formation teachers and deacons?

  3. Because people may return very slowly to church, how will you count attendance and effectiveness? 

  4. Is there need to consider a staff or volunteer who is technologically skilled?

  5. What if your pastor gets ill or remains ill as the church re-opens?


Financial Considerations and Building

  1. Should you be investing in new digital equipment right now? Have you considered the potential costs of worship and social distancing including digital equipment to eliminate paper, sanitation equipment and supplies?

  2. Are there precautions or policies you need to put in place for building renters and outside groups?

  3. How has this pandemic impacted your budget thus far and how will you calculate your budget projections?

  4. Are you prepared to supply your membership with masks and other necessary things to attend worship responsibly? Wipes, sanitizer, masks, etc.

  5. What’s your strategy to clean and sanitize your church in real time while people gather for worship or events or programs?


Practical Preparedness

  1. Are you prepared to supply your membership with masks and other necessary things to attend worship responsibly? Wipes, sanitizer, masks, etc.

  2. What’s your strategy to clean and sanitize your church in real time while people gather for worship or events or programs?



Important Communication 

  1. How will you communicate your plans for safe worship and onsite practices?

  2. How will changes to your safety plans be communicated?

  3. With privacy and pastoral care needs in mind, how will you communicate if someone in your congregation is ill with Covid-19?

  4. How will you communicate if there may have been Covid-19 exposure during a service or church activity?



  1. What if your worship gathering is initially limited to no more than 50 people, or no more than 10 people?   What if it is still encouraging 6-10 feet physical distancing space?

  2. What adjustments will you make to the Lord’s Supper, Baptisms, Weddings, Funerals, other rituals and your choir ministry?

  3. How will you ‘pass the plate’ for the offering? How will you accommodate ‘Passing the Peace”?

  4. Are there any adjustments you need to make to coffee hour?

  5. Do door greeters do their jobs differently, or at all?

  6. Will you check the health of those attending worship or using the building in any way? Taking temperatures, asking health related questions?

  7. What if the elderly and high-risk people are encouraged to continue social distancing longer than the rest of the population.


Faith Formation/Christian Ed/Ministry Programs

  1. How have you/are you/will you work with children and youth to understand and deal with this current reality through the eyes of faith? How are you explaining God in this time?

  2. Are you going to continue hosting special events and mid-week programs? Can you continue some of these online as you have done through this time? Bible Study? Children’s activities?

  3. Are you going to continue offering church school and faith formation gatherings?   Most Public Schools are closed for the remainder of this school year, what plan do you have?

  4. How else might you offer faith formation for individuals and families?

  5. Are you canceling vacation bible school, or delaying them until later this summer?


Closing Question and Appeal for Resources

Are there questions you are asking that we haven’t thought about here? Are there resources that you have found useful in addressing these, or any other concerns? Please share them with us. Contact Marc Stewart


MT-NWy Church reopening plans

Missoula University: assessing whether to phase forward with small group, outside later this summer.

Helena Plymouth UCC: slow phased in of woship leader re-gathering in mid-June with safety protocols, perhaps leading to "qualified" invitations to regathing in August

Great Falls UCC: will consider for Advent regathering (December).

Billings Mayflower UCCC: re-gathering in July with safety team writing protocols.

Big Timber UCC: open

Colstrip United UCC/PCUSA: open

Glendive UCC: open

Sidney People's and Savage UCC: open

Other Resources

Montana - N. Wyoming Conference, United Church of Christ

Montana-Northern Wyoming Conference UCC
2016 Alderson Avenue - Billings, Montana 59102
406-656-8688 /

Monday thru Friday - 9:00 to 4:00
Saturday and Sunday - Closed

National Holidays - Closed