COVID-19 Advisory Task Force Report, May 18, 2020

by | May 18, 2020 | Uncategorized

This is the first report to the congregation from Wilshire’s COVID-19 Advisory Task Force. We are seeking to keep the congregation informed as we continue our work of evaluation and recommendation.

In these unprecedented times, the COVID-19 Advisory Task Force was formed at Wilshire Baptist Chuch to give counsel to the senior pastor and other church leadership about when it might be safe to return to in-person gatherings and how to prepare for the adjusted reality of this time.

To give wise counsel, we are gathering and reviewing as much scientific, medical and social data as possible, listening to what other congregations are doing and engaging in robust discussions via Zoom meetings.

Several realities have become obvious to us initially and are foundational to the approach we will recommend:

  1. We cannot depend on government agencies to provide clear and consistent criteria for us to follow. The conflicting information between federal, state, county and city authorities offers little clear guidance. Particularly as it relates to houses of worship, a certain view of religious liberty that prioritizes individual rights over community good has taken hold and made it more difficult — not easier — for churches like ours.
  2. We will not be an early adopter. We must promote community engagement in a safe environment. Wilshire’s historical pattern has been to live out of faith rather than fear. But we also have a long history of acting with prudence while gathering facts and evaluating
    risks. We reaffirm the statement of Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins: “Just because we can do something doesn’t mean we should.” It is our intent to observe and evaluate every new development in the city, county, state and nation toward reopening and learn from them.
  3. We must prioritize the community over the individual. Because we are a multigenerational congregation, and because our church body includes people with various kinds of heightened risk factors, we need to advise for the good of the whole, not for the wishes of any subset of the congregation. We believe it will be important when we come back to come back together as much as possible. Therefore, we do not envision recommending any strategy that would deliberately create winners and losers in a reopening scheme.
  4. We will follow the science. As Wilshire has declared multiple times before, we believe there is no inherent conflict in being people of faith and people who believe in science. God has created all things and is the source of all knowledge, and we act most wisely when we pay attention to factual knowledge that comes from trained medical and scientific and social scholars who use their God-given gifts to lead us into truth.
  5. Churches are not like businesses. Most businesses that are reopening with success have the ability to serve customers in one-on-one or very small group settings, thus limiting the risk of exposure. Churches do not operate that way. We are about group functions and large-scale gatherings, where the known risk of accidentally spreading
    infection is exponentially higher. We are relational in our work, not transactional, and this makes a fundamental difference in how and when we can reopen.
    With these realities guiding our thoughts, the task force is now working on a matrix of decision making that considers aspects of the church’s work and how we might adapt in several possible environments that will emerge. The first of those environments is the present moment of stay-at-home orders. The ultimate environment will be when we reach some “new normal” of daily life. In between, we are envisioning a time when very small groups might be allowed, then medium-size groups being allowed, then larger groups allowed. We are evaluating each of these environments for things like worship, Sunday School, offices, committee and team meetings, food service, missions engagement.
    In the meantime, we also are advising staff and the Building and Grounds Committee to make every possible adaptation to our facilities while the building is closed that will allow us to reopen safely. We are looking at automated entry doors, hand sanitizer stations,
    improved automated soap dispensers in restrooms, touchless light switches, cleaning protocols and more. We want to be prepared for that day when we can reopen the building to in-person gatherings as safely as possible.
    When will Wilshire reopen?
    We know the question on everyone’s mind is this: When we will we be able to come together at church again? The short answer is, we don’t know.
    For now, all in-person gatherings have been cancelled through the month of June. We are reimagining how to do things like Vacation Bible School without being physically together. We continue to create excellent worship and Bible study experiences using technology.
    When we do begin to reopen the building, expect several things to be true:
  6. We will reopen in stages. For example, it is likely that we can invite staff back to work in their offices before we open the building to walk-in traffic. And it is likely that we will be able to host small group meetings before we will feel comfortable having in-person
  7. We will evaluate every aspect individually. One of the sad realities of the spread of coronavirus is that singing creates a significant risk. Likewise, we know that shared food service items that get touched by multiple hands create higher risks of spreading infection.
    We are seeking to learn everything we can about these and other unique risk factors.
  8. We will remain a church for “every body.” Our decisions will be guided by the common good and finding ways to welcome back the largest possible numbers of our members and guests. We will not deliberately prioritize by age group or income or gender
    or any other isolating factor.
  9. We will honor your decision about what is best for you. We know that when the church building reopens, not everyone will immediately feel comfortable returning.
    Everyone will have their own schedule. We will not shame or exclude anyone because they want to exercise even more caution.
    We welcome your input, your suggestions, your questions. We are now meeting weekly, with additional tasks being done between meetings.
    Send your comments or questions to
    Mark Wingfield at
    The COVID-19 Advisory Task Force
    George Mason, senior pastor; Mark Wingfield, associate pastor; David Nabors, director of business administration; Heather Mustain, minister of missions and advocacy; Doug Haney, minister of music; Darren DeMent, minister to students and young adults; Linda Garner,
    parish nurse; Cory Anderson, chair of Risk Management Committee; Rob Banta, chair of deacons; Debbie Meripolski, chair-elect of deacons; Bill Jernberg, health ministry team; Christy Tabor, chair of Weekday Education Committee; Gayle Lawson, chair of Building and
    Grounds Committee; Barbara Gass, chair of Finance Committee; Kenton Keller, facilitator of strategic planning.