Practices & Guidelines
Worship is central to the life of Immanuel Presbyterian Church.
The congregation is currently worshiping virtually at 10:00 on Sunday mornings.
The building is closed for in-person church activities.
Go to the main Immanuel webpage
for all the current links for virtual worship and other church events.
Recordings of past services can be found here.
(updated for website publication)
December 30, 2021
We are pausing in-person worship for at least the next three Sundays -- January 2, 9, and 16 -- in light of the omicron surge in our community. Worship services will continue to be live streamed from the Sanctuary at 10:00 every Sunday morning.
The Session was convened last evening to discuss a recommendation from the Covid19 Advisory Team and unanimously decided that this pause in congregational gathering is faithful to the "safer" guidelines adopted at the onset of this pandemic recommended by the Wisconsin Council of Churches. The Milwaukee County metrics that we monitor showed a 60% surge in just the last few weeks, far outside those guidelines.*
The health and well-being of our members and our neighbors is paramount as we exercise an abundance of care as well as caution in these next weeks. Omicron is highly contagious, and the cases that were reported to us from members who worshiped at the 5:00 Christmas Eve service involved persons who were vaccinated and/or boosted. The mitigation protocols put in place when we "reopened" last summer are conscientious, but at this time, we believe that pausing in-person worship will make a greater contribution to the health of our community.
The Covid19 Advisory Team continues to meet weekly to monitor community health conditions and make recommendations to the Session about the impact on church life. The Session has been on-call for special meetings all along this long way and will decide mid-month if this three-week pause needs to be extended.
This decision was made with both resolve and sadness; we all regret the setback of this latest variant. And yet we are grateful for the Christmas worship services we were able to enjoy together this year, and for having the live stream technology in place for a temporary pivot to virtual-only services.
In-person church school will also be paused; parents will receive an email with more information.
Thank you for the support you have given the leadership of Immanuel Church during these difficult months. Your good spirit sustains us. The elders and ministers welcome your questions and concerns.
We work and pray for a healthier new year!
Deborah A. Block
on behalf of the Immanuel Session: Elders Matt Carlton, Margaret Crowley, Nancy Debbink, Mike Gillard, Kristi Leswing, Kate Lewis, Laurie Michalak, Allyson Nemec, Sharon Rose, Jim Schleif, Tom Scott, Leslie Smart; Sue Rennane, Clerk; Ministers Robert Ater, Teresa Larson, Susan Stoll.
* Please see the August 22, 2021 update below for a description of the Wisconsin Council of Churches "safer" guidelines and the "guideline sources" at the bottom of this page for up-to-date links to the current data for these three guidelines.
In-person worship guidelines include registration (for capacity monitoring & contact tracing), required masking, and distanced seating in the Sanctuary. Click here for a more details explanation of the current guidelines!
COVID-19 Update and steps toward fuller re-opening - October 22, 2021
Meeting this past week, both the Session and its COVID-19 Advisory Team continued to monitor area health metrics in taking steps to resume practices and programs that have been paused or modified by the pandemic. The Session has approved returning to in-person Christian education programs for children and youth in the “Peaceable Kingdom,” pending the installation of new air filters. The lower level is relatively new construction, and the HVAC system there meets current codes, providing a “safer” environment that will be further mitigated by classroom occupancy and masks.
All teachers and youth advisors are fully vaccinated, and we look forward to the soon-arriving vaccination for children under 12. Also under consideration are the eventual return of traditional sacramental practices for both Communion and Baptism and choral singing. Our careful, caring behaviors at church and everywhere else contribute to a healthier community.
Reopening Update - August 22, 2021
A gradual reopening of the church for worship began earlier this summer, with protocols for weekly pre-registration for in-person worship, required masking while in the church building, and spacing for pew seating. Livestreaming and recorded access continue for those who choose to worship from home.
The recent surge in the delta variant has delayed plans for fuller reopening. The Session and its Covid-19 Advisory Team are considering how to best move forward with the “safer” criteria we have adopted (as compared to “not safe” and “safest”):
Vaccination rates to reach 50-70+% of the population
New COVID-19 cases to be between 5-10/100k
COVID test reporting to be less than 10% positive
Many factors are involved, including local health metrics, the particular geographic and age demographics of this congregation, an obedience to the commandment to love our neighbor as ourselves, and a commitment to being an inclusive church.
As we move into another season shaped by the pandemic, Immanuel members and friends are invited to join those serving as elders, deacons, and trustees to hear a presentation by the executive director of the Wisconsin Council of Churches, the Rev. Kerri Parker, on ministry in the era of Covid variants. This virtual presentation will be the first part of the annual church leadership event on Tuesday, September 14 at 6:30 p.m. The meeting for church officers will follow. The WCC has provided wise and credible guidelines and resources to Wisconsin churches as well as to congregations across the Presbyterian Church (USA) https://www.wichurches.org/2021/01/14/returning-to-church/.
Returning to In-person Worship
On Thursday afternoon, May 20, Immanuel's Session (governing board) announced plans to slowly return to in-person worship beginning, Sunday, June 6, 2021.
The information below shares the guidelines that will continue to help lead this process.
Guidelines for Reopening the Church Building
The Session (church leadership board of elders and ministers) has established the COVID-19 Advisory team (CAT) to provide guidance and recommendations for reopening church facilities. Because the disease progression is imperfectly known, guidance and recommendations may need to change from time to time, and movement back and forth within the reopening plans should be accommodated for the purpose of preserving public health and safety and mitigating transmission of COVID-19 within church facilities that could be disruptive to Immanuel's mission. Criteria for resumption of activities and precautions taken will be reassessed as the COVID-19 situation evolves locally, nationally and around the world.
With these qualifications and conditions, the COVID-19 Advisory team recommended and the Session approved the following:
adoption of the Wisconsin Council of Church’s January 14, 2021 Holding Our Plans Loosely: Returning to Church 2.0 document as a guide for reopening, including the Wisconsin data for the “safest” reopening to watch for before resuming any indoor gatherings:
Vaccination rates to reach 70-85+% of the population
New COVID-19 cases to be less than 1/100k
COVID test reporting to be less than 5% positive
direct the CAT to move forward with an air quality analysis in the church building to determine if updates are needed to the HVAC system,
direct the CAT to produce occupancy diagrams incorporating best practices for socially distanced group assembly, and update the same as occupancy limits, spacing parameters, or other COVID protocols are updated by the source data (below), CDC, and the City of Milwaukee.
Wisconsin Council of Church’s With One Body and One Spirit: Returning to Church 3.0: https://www.wichurches.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/Returning-to-Church-v3-FINAL.pdf
Vaccination data: https://www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/covid-19/vaccine-data.htm
Daily new cases: https://globalepidemics.org/key-metrics-for-covid-suppression/
Daily positive COVID tests: https://www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/covid-19/data.htm#result
Questions or Comments?