From The Pastor
  • Salem Worship Re-opening Questions

    1. Should I be coming back to public worship?

    This is a personal decision for each of our members to make. If you are sick, you should not come back. If
    your doctor has told you that you are at high-risk for complications if you contract COVID-19, you should not
    come back. While we are taking every precaution we can to make our worship environment clean and safe, we
    cannot guarantee that there is zero risk of viral transmission when we gather together. You should only attend
    if you decide you are personally comfortable with the potential risks of being in the same building as 30 – 40
    other people.

    2. What should I do before I come to church?

    First, you should make sure that you have no symptoms of illness. If you have a fever, runny nose, cough, or
    are just not feeling well, please do not come to worship. Then, you should plan on taking precautions to
    prevent transmitting or receiving any illness while attending worship. If you have your own cloth face covering
    (mask, scarf, etc.), please plan on wearing it before you enter the building, and for the entire time you are
    together with the rest of the congregation. Similarly, be ready to sanitize your hands frequently, and to
    respect social distancing by maintaining six feet of spacing between you and the other people in attendance.

    3. What should I expect when I arrive at Salem?

    Be ready to greet each other and be friendly to one another—but from a respectful distance. As you enter
    the building, you’ll be asked to use hand sanitizer and make sure that your nose and mouth are covered (you
    are welcome to use your own supplies, but we will have both masks and sanitizer available on site for
    immediate use when you arrive). We’ll also ask you to be seated quickly, filling in the empty spaces from the
    front of the church first and moving backwards. Any personal conversations will need to take place outside, or
    from a safe distance once you have been seated in the designated areas in the pews. Please note that every
    other pew will be closed, and even the open pews will have “no-sit” zones to maintain appropriate distance
    between families throughout the service.

    4. What if I can’t wear something on my face?

    In keeping with our recommended state guidelines for re-opening worship, we strongly encourage that
    everyone wears some type of cloth face covering while in the building. If this is impossible for you (for health
    reasons or otherwise), we will have limited “no mask” seating available outside of the sanctuary, in the Sunday
    School area. Our normal live-audio feed of the service will be easily heard in this section of the building. For
    the time being, the Church Council has resolved that no one will be seated in the sanctuary itself without
    wearing some kind of face covering. We intend to monitor these needs and adjust as necessary over the
    coming weeks.

    5. How will the service be shortened?

    Several of the hymns, and most of the longer liturgical songs are being removed from the service. We will
    also only use our shortest liturgies until we can resume a normal worship length. Other smaller elements are
    being removed as well. Pastor will still preach a full sermon, although the length of this will also be shortened
    slightly. Our goal will be to conclude worship within 45 minutes every week (both communion and noncommunion

    6. What should I expect during Holy Communion?

    Rather than have our worshipers come forward table by table, the elders and pastor will come to families
    where they are seated. Those preparing and distributing communion will wear both masks and gloves to
    prevent the spread of contagions. If anyone does not want to receive communion, they can communicate this
    to pastor before the service, or at the time of distribution. Communion registration will take place by
    individual sheets of paper, instead of using a single sign-up sheet.
    (Revised 6/5/2020)

    7. What should I expect when the service is over?

    You will be dismissed from the sanctuary beginning with those seated in the back. This will avoid incidental
    traffic of families walking past or waiting next to each other during dismissal. Pastor will not be greeting
    individuals in a line on the way out, but everyone will be asked to exit the sanctuary and narthex immediately
    without any waiting. As much as possible, we will ask everyone to maintain a six-foot distance even when in
    motion in and out of the building.

    8. Will there be coffee hour and refreshments on Sunday mornings?

    The fellowship part of our morning remains suspended for the foreseeable future, and likely will not
    resume any time soon. This was another painful decision to make, but it seemed to be a necessary one.

    9. Will there be Bible Class on Sunday mornings again?

    Not for at least a month. After we feel comfortable with resuming worship, we will start to implement plans
    to offer study together again following the worship service. This will probably happen in the sanctuary, to
    allow proper spacing between families. Look for more information (and another survey) about this towards
    the end of the month of June.

    10. What other changes can we expect on Sunday morning?

    There will be no greeters handing out worship materials, but individual stacks of worship materials will be
    available on the tables as you enter the sanctuary (there will be no piles for multiple hands to touch, and
    everything will be set out ahead of time using gloves). We will not be using hymnals during worship, but the
    hymns will be printed in the service folders. In addition, we will not be shaking hands or hugging. As
    mentioned above, we are discouraging any gathering within the building immediately before or after worship.

    11. What about restrooms?

    Restrooms will be available as usual. However, we will ask anyone who uses the restroom to disinfect
    anything they’ve touched immediately after use (disinfectant wipes will be readily available for this purpose).
    If possible, it’s not a bad idea to take care of any restroom needs before you arrive at church, to minimize
    traffic and contact in these areas.

    12. What about mid-week classes?

    These classes are also going to be phased back in slowly. Pastor will begin with one-on-one classes (which
    have just started to re-open). Our group midweek classes will likely resume next month, following some direct
    discussion and surveying of those who typically attend.

    13. Is it legal for churches to hold worship?

    At both the state and federal level, churches have been defined as groups which provide essential activities.
    As such, there are currently no legal restrictions for congregations to resume worship. The Church Council has
    been carefully reviewing the guidelines provided by our own state officials as we have prepared for this reopening.
    These documents also place no restrictions on the number of people who can gather at one time
    (practically speaking, for Salem’s building, this will amount to 30 – 40 people evenly spaced out, not only in
    the sanctuary but also in the study areas as well). If the number of attendees is beyond what our separate
    seating zones can handle, we will begin to offer multiple services to keep our numbers within this range. Most
    of our other WELS churches in Phoenix have already re-opened; Salem is among the last to resume worship.

    14. What if I have a different question?

    Please contact Salem President Bill Knappenberger or Pastor Stahmann. We’ll get the answer to you as
    quickly as we can, and revise this document as necessary. We continue to pray that God keeps each of our
    members safe as we serve you in whatever way you are comfortable with.