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Construction Project
Advance # 583633


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Advance # 583634


Native American Children’s Fund
Advance # 583581


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Spring 2021 Guidelines for Reopening

March 22, 2021

TO: Pastors and Laity of the Oklahoma Indian Missionary Conference Churches
FROM: Bishop Jimmy Nunn, Resident Bishop
Rev. David Wilson, Asst to the Bishop

SUBJECT: Spring 2021 guidelines for reopening

We are thankful for the many tribal nations in Oklahoma for offering covid-19 vaccinations for tribal and non-tribal members across the state. The tribes are working diligently in getting as many as possible vaccinated. This will enable all to look ahead to returning to an almost normal for our families, communities and local churches.

Many are asking about new guidelines in regards to the improving state of our communities. It is important to note that while we are making good progress, we must remain vigilant in keeping ourselves and our local churches safe.

The decision for your local church to re-open is local and should be made together with the pastor/Lay Missioner and your Administrative Council.  We expect and require that all leaders of our congregations/ministries remain vigilant in observing and responding to changes in the number of cases of COVID-19. This could mean, should infection rates rise, churches/ministries will need to close after reopening to protect the people in their care and reopen again at a later time.

Thank you for all you have done during this pandemic, and your continued commitment to keeping our Native communities healthy.

Common Expectations

If you have not already done so, create and implement a Reopening Team to guide the process of reopening for your local setting.

  • Keep up to date with all World Health Organization (WHO) and Center for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines and recommendations, as well as the state of Oklahoma’s OURS (Open Up and Recover Safely) plan. These should be the primary sources on COVID-19 and other health related issues. Recommendations change frequently in light of new data and information, so please check resources on a regular basis.
  • Keep up to date with your tribal leaders and their recommendations for your area as well. These will vary across the state.
  • Understand the risks involved in your context. Some churches/ministries have greater COVID-19 exposure issues than others.  It is also vital to seek professional medical, legal, and insurance advice to weigh the impacts of potential liabilities.
  • Follow any guidelines issued by your local municipality when those are stricter than either these guidelines or those produced by the State of Oklahoma.


Preparing for reopening
Determine which areas of the church need to be prepped, cleaned, and sanitized.
CDC Guidance for Cleaning and Disinfecting:

  • Develop a communication plan to help spread information quickly and efficiently to the congregation (phone chains, emails, social media, newsletters, etc.)
  • Determine what aspects of worship will be maintained and what will be not be possible until a later time. Communicate the reasons for these decisions.
  • Prepare to take attendance at all church/ministry functions for the foreseeable future so that you will be able to inform those present should anyone in attendance test positive for the virus.
  • Test HVAC systems and prepare them for use whenever people are present to provide ventilation and comfortable temperatures.
  • Train ushers and other hospitality staff about how they will deal with those who do not follow the church’s expectations regarding wearing masks, seating arrangements and any other expectations a church may impose on those worshipping during the reopen phase.
  • Post Signage Throughout the Facility
  • Post a sign at every entrance reminding congregants that they should not enter if they are a member of an at-risk population.

CDC Poster: Stop Germs! Wash Your Hands.

CDC Poster: Handwashing and Hand Sanitizer Use

  • Complete this Checklist
  • Determine who will be responsible for the cleaning and disinfecting of the church after each use.
  • Ensure you have a 1-month supply of cleaning/sanitizing products; have a system in place to reorder items before they are depleted.
  • Information was sent to every pastor earlier this year with information on free items to OIMC churches such as cleaning/sanitizing products, masks, etc.  There may still be products available. Email Brian Horton at the Southern Plains Health Board at bhorton@spthb.org.
  • Eliminate places to congregate (e.g., store chairs, eliminate coffee stations).
  • Thoroughly sanitize all surfaces, especially those in high traffic areas.
  • Develop a congregational seating plan for social distancing; ensure at least 6 feet distance.
  • Walk through each step of in-person worship multiple times.

Recommendations for Worship

  • Continue online worship and online small groups even if you resume in person worship.
  • Many of our churches have great outdoor spaces that can be used for worship and small gatherings. Utilize those spaces with good weather.
  • Record attendance of every person in attendance.
  • Masks should be properly worn by everyone over the age of 10.
  • Encourage people to bring their own masks/hand sanitizer, but also have an ample supply on hand.
  • Do not allow any person over 10 to enter or remain in the building without properly wearing a mask.
  • All worship participants and leaders must wear masks, except when speaking or singing.
  • Cloth masks have been sent to many local OIMC church by the office. These were made possible by the Korean United Methodist Women’s organization. The district superintendents have been delivering those and will have them if needed quicker.
  • Maintain a distance of 12 feet from anyone singing or leading.
  • It is clearly documented that singing spreads the virus due to the heightened risk of droplet spreading, no choirs or congregational singing should take place at this time. This includes while wearing masks.
  • If possible, use separate entrances and exits for the facility.
  • Leave as many interior doors open as possible to limit personal touch to door handles, etc. and to help provide better air circulation.
  • Mark clear pathways on the floor to maintain social distancing and prevent congestion.
  • Clean and sanitize every room used by the public after each service.
  • Clean all surfaces with soap and water followed by a disinfectant.
  • Churches/ministries offering multiple worship services should have congregants wait in their cars until every room used by the public has been properly sanitized.
  • Encourage parishioners to arrive no earlier than 15 minutes prior to or leave no later than 15 minutes following a service.
  • Train staff/volunteers to keep people from entering the facility until public spaces are sanitized.
  • Seating should be limited with six feet of social distancing enforced except for family household units.
  • Ushers should seat people in the sanctuary from front to back and recess the people from back to front.
  • Congregants should not be allowed to sit where they wish, but instead be directed to the next available row, beginning with the front row.
  • Remove all writing supplies, hymnals, Bibles, etc., to prevent them from being touched by multiple people.
  • Written orders of worship or bulletins are not recommended. If possible, screens should be used as alternatives. If bulletins are provided, DO NOT take up or reuse them.
  • If you plan to do a baptism or Holy Communion, please refer to further guidance documents found at the conference website.
  • No offering plate should be passed. Instead use online giving, a stationary giving box or mail. Counters should wear gloves/masks.
  • All indoor gatherings including weddings, funerals, and support groups should follow these guidelines.
  • Please take great precaution if there is a meal. Sanitizer needs to be available and avoid the use of using the same utensils for all for serving and potluck meals.
  • Have greeters encourage people to leave the building rather than mingle.


Procedures for handling COVID-19 cases in your church

  • Notify local health officials and district superintendent if a person diagnosed with COVID-19 has been in the facility and communicate with staff and congregants about potential exposure while maintaining confidentiality. An example letter can be found at okumc.org.
  • Inform those with exposure to a person diagnosed with COVID-19 to stay home and self-monitor for symptoms and follow CDC guidance if symptoms develop.
  • Ensure safe and correct application of disinfectants and keep disinfectant products away from children.
  • Close off areas used by sick persons and do not use that area. Wait 24 hours to clean and disinfect to reduce risk to individuals cleaning.  If it is not possible to wait 24 hours, wait as long as possible before cleaning and disinfecting.
  • Advise sick staff and congregants not to return to the facility until they have met CDC’s criteria to discontinue home isolation.

Travel Guidance

    • Postpone mission trips or any other trips.
    • Regularly communicate that anyone who travels outside of the area should refrain from participation in in-person activities at the church for 14 days.


  •  Cleaning Service – We have identified a company that is owned by members of the OIMC that disinfects churches and buildings. Jon and Jill Peters own the company and are offering great prices to OIMC churches. Please contact them if you are interested. They travel all over the state of Oklahoma and North Texas.


Contact Information

Conference Headquarters
602 SW 35th
Oklahoma City, OK 73109
Office: 405-632-2006
Fax: 405-632-0209


Resident Bishop:

Bishop James “Jimmy” Nunn
1501 NW 24 Street
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma 73106


Conference Superintendent:

Rev. Margaret Johnson


Director of Connectional Ministries: 

Rev. Donna Pewo


Administrative Assistant:

Linda Draper



Northern District Superintendent:

Rev. Mike Svitak



Southern District Superintendent:

Rev. Sharon Yeahquo