FAQ about the new executive order and forthcoming guidance for re-opening places of worship

Q: When does the executive order (EO) take effect?

A: The EO takes effect Wednesday, May 27, 2020.

Q: How many people does the new executive order allow to gather inside a church?

A: The EO states that in indoor settings occupancy must not exceed 25 percent of the normal occupant capacity as determined by the fire marshal, with a maximum of 250 people in a single, self-contained space.

Q: How many people does the EO allow to gather outside?

A: The EO allows outdoor worship services and gatherings of up to 250 people who are properly socially distanced.

Q: What types of faith-based activities does the EO allow?

A: Mass, baptisms, weddings, funerals, Scripture studies, prayer meetings and other “rituals”

Q: What else does the EO require?

A: Churches must implement a COVID-19 preparedness plan in accordance with guidance developed by the Minnesota Department of Health.

Q: What are the key requirements and elements of that guidance?

(Note: In some cases, the protocols of the Diocese of Saint Cloud are stricter than the state’s guidance. Please see the diocese’s updated protocols/guidelines.)

  • That the preparedness plan be developed under the supervision of a designated plan administrator within the church (the plan administrator could be a pastor, business administrator or diocesan official — anyone who regularly ensures compliance). That plan must be posted in an easily accessible location.
  • That the church ensures sick staff stay home through screenings and other practices
  • The church must promote and enforce social distancing measures (meaning at least 6 feet between those who do not share households)
  • That the church promotes proper hygiene for staff and attendees
  • That the church monitor building ventilation and controls to minimize the risk of COVID-19 spread
  • That it has regular cleaning practices for gathering and work spaces
  • That it implements communications and training protocols related to mitigating community spread
  • Encourages, but does not require, the use of masks by attendees and clergy.
  • Encourages, but does not require, Communion in the hand
  • Discourages congregational singing and directs hymnals to be removed from pews
  • Discourages hand-to-hand greetings, and the passing of collection baskets.
  • Maintain at least six feet between family groups in pews

Q: Do the diocesan protocols for re-opening already provided to my parish and me comply with the new guidance?

A: It is possible that some slight modifications may need to be made to your guidance, including ensuring the occupancy mandates. Consult the relevant diocesan staff person for direction: Aaron Carpenter in the Office of Worship at (acarpenter@gw.stcdio.org; (320) 255-9068. Or Father Robert Rolfes (rrolfes@gw.stcdio.org; (320) 251-2340; ).