“Back Together Again” Plan

This version was approved by SOTH Church Council on July 19, 2020


Utilizing recommendations set forth by St. Louis County and the CDC-Faith based environments, as well as the guidelines of the ELCA and Central States Synod, Shepherd of the Hills church council adopts the following 3-phase approach as a plan to move forward during the COVID-19 pandemic. As information and situations may change rapidly during this crisis, the plan may change as needed.

Current research shows the COVID-19 virus transmits through the air and through droplets on commonly touched surfaces. The virus is emitted as an aerosol and is spread by breathing, talking, and singing. Research also indicates that peak contagiousness is strongest before the onset of symptoms. For these reasons, we will proceed with caution, keeping in mind the health and safety of those most vulnerable in our congregation and community.

Each phase will be evaluated by certain criteria in order to mitigate against resurgence and protect the most vulnerable: a moving average of a certain number of days of declining new cases and hospitalizations, availability of both COVID-19 testing and protective equipment.

As we move to new phases, 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.

SOTH will be encouraging careful hygiene, following the physical distancing recommendations, encouraging people to stay at home if they have any symptoms of illness, and cooperating with contact tracers if they are diagnosed.

Phase 1:

  • Online worship services only.
  • Bible study and small group meetings are online for the time being.
  • Little Free Pantry remains open, using safety protocols (6ft distance, masks, handwashing).
  • Minimal, drop-in staffing sufficient for essential operations (counting and deposits, mail processing, etc).
  • Weddings, Funerals as needed, following small group gathering limitations of no more than 10 people.
  • No Fellowship activities, Sunday School
  • High risk individuals (people over 60 and those with underlying conditions), whether staff or volunteers, are encouraged to continue to self-isolate.

Phase 2:

The shift from Phase 1 to Phase 2 is based on a moving average of 21 days of declining new cases and hospitalization in St. Louis County without resurgence. We might expect several weeks of improving conditions to pass before this shift. This will require careful observance of physical/social distancing recommendations on an ongoing basis. We will stay in Phase 1 until this occurs.

Groups larger than 10 may begin meeting again. Those gathering will continue to maintain 6ft distance and wear masks. Groups may also choose to continue to meet online.
May begin in-person worship services, maintain 6 feet spacing between family groups/household (online option will also continue)

Changes to in-person, inside worship will include:


  • Before entering the church building, each person will have their temperature taken by a screener. Anyone over 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit cannot enter.
  • Worshipers will complete a registration form in person on Sunday. This will give a record of who is attending, and contact information for tracing, should someone get sick. These forms would include a list of symptoms, and individuals who have had any two of the listed symptoms should not attend.
  • Printed copies of registration forms and health forms will be filled out by a screener who asks the questions and marks down responses. Others can print out at home and bring form with them.

This information will be communicated to the congregation ahead of time and posted on-site for guests.


  • Masks must be worn at all times.
  • No singing or unison speaking indoors
  • No bulletins
  • Hand sanitizer at entrance to building, entrance to sanctuary, and by exit of building
  • Block off pews so that there is six feet of separation between seating areas.
  • Only allow 50% of sanctuary capacity, per the St. Louis County guidelines.
  • Prop doors open before/after service so everyone doesn’t have to open the doors
  • Allow only one-way travel in hallways, one way in and another way out. This would mean using the restroom either on the way in or on the way out, no back-tracking. Only the family bathroom will be open for use.
  • Worshippers are dismissed by ushers from back to front to maintain distancing and prevent two way traffic at sanctuary doorway.
  • One person at a time (or family group so adults can assist children) in the family restroom. Wipes available for each person to clean all surfaces touched before leaving the restroom. (There is some work to be done on this bathroom door to improve ease of use.) Direct individuals to use a paper towel when opening and closing the door. Hand sanitizer will be available outside the door.
  • Drinking fountain will be tastefully barricaded, and the fellowship area, cry room, and classrooms will be off-limits.
  • Remove all toys, books, blankets, as well as all hymnals and Bibles from the sanctuary to minimize contamination.
  • No outside food or drink allowed. Communion elements will be provided in ready-made containers.
  • Wipe down pews/door handles with Clorox wipes after each service
  • Volunteers will need to be trained for hospitality, hand hygiene, and physical distancing procedures and protocols
  • Worshippers will be instructed to remain in their seats at all times during the service, unless there is an emergency. This information will be included in initial communication to congregation.
  • Offering will be collected in the back of the church, will not pass the plate
  • High-risk individuals (people over 60 and those with underlying conditions), whether staff or volunteers, are encouraged to continue to follow recommended St. Louis County guidelines.
  • Signs will be posted with social distancing and hygiene reminders, as well as describing symptoms and urging people to stay home/seek medical attention if they have symptoms.
  • Clean the building regularly and between user groups, paying extra attention to high-touch surfaces.

Phase 3

The shift from Phase 2 to Phase 3 is based on a re-evaluation of the situation using St. Louis County and Federal Guidelines and will occur once St. Louis County has a moving average of 35 days of declining new cases and hospitalizations in St. Louis County without resurgence. We might expect several more weeks of improving conditions to pass before this shift.

  • May see relaxed guidelines when it comes to gathering for worship services
  • Less worry about 6 foot distance between family groups
  • Propping doors open and so forth.
  • More specific details will come as we approach this stage.
  • Fellowship activities may resume.

Phase 4

Too soon to be determined.