ESUMC’s Response to COVID-19 Coronavirus

[UPDATED 22 July 2020 at 13:05]

With the rise of new COVID-19 infections in Vienna, I issue the revised ESUMC’s COVID-19 health and safety guidelines.

With immediate effect, our revised regulations require:

  • Nose and mouth protection (face masks or protective face shields) are required when entering and exiting the building or when moving around in the church building.
  • Face masks and face shields do not need to be worn during Sunday worship when you are seated 1 meter away from people outside your household.
  • However, nose and mouth protection must be worn during congregational singing.
  • Worship leaders and song leaders do not need to wear nose and mouth protection as they lead worship.
  • Attendees must keep 1 meter distance from people outside their household.
  • Please do not congregate in the entry, hallways, or fellowship hall. When entering the church for Sunday worship, please sanitize your hands and then move directly to your seat in the sanctuary.
  • Windows and doors should remain open as much as possible to allow the free flow of air throughout the building.
  • Coffee and tea fellowship may be held outdoors in the garden (weather permitting); attendees must keep 1 meter distance from people outside their household.




[UPDATED 3 JULY 2020 at 12:20]

Thank you for your patience and flexibility as we gather for in-person worship as well as care for the health and safety of all who attend. We are relieved that many of the COVID-19 restrictions have abated. However, we must remain vigilant as the number of new infections in Austria has risen this past week, especially after an infectious cluster appeared in a Pentecostal church in Upper Austria.

We are grateful that we can now sing during worship in the church building. In a revision to our health and safety guidelines, we ask that you wear a face mask when singing during worship; you need only wear the mask while singing. If you are seated more than 2 meters from another person (an empty row of chairs in front of, behind and next to you), this rule may be omitted.

As a reminder, you should maintain a 1 meter distance from people outside your household, both inside the building and in the garden during coffee and tea fellowship. As long as you are not singing, a face mask is not required in the church building, though we recommend wearing a mask as your enter and leave the building. You do not need to wear a face mask while seated as long as you maintain a 1 meter distance from people outside your household. Worship leaders do not need to wear masks while leading worship as long as they maintain proper distance.

Thank you for your cooperation. May God guide and protect us in the days and weeks ahead.


[UPDATED on 24 June 2020 at 14:15]

I continue to pray for all of you during this time. We continue to look to God during these trying times, asking God for protection and safety and wisdom and guidance. Cautiously, we continue to slowly ease restrictions for public worship and church building usage.

With immediate effect, I issue these new guidelines for Sunday morning worship and church building usage.

  • Worship attendees must maintain a 1 meter distance from people outside of their household. Households and family units may sit together during worship.
  • Singing during worship is now permitted as along worship attendees maintain a 1 meter distance from people outside their household. Worship attendees are asked to sing at a moderate level.
  • Face masks are no longer required. However, we still recommend that worship attendees wear masks whenever they are not seated in the sanctuary.
  • Tea and coffee fellowship will be offered after worship in the back garden if weather permits; attendees should maintain a 1 meter distance from people outside of their household in the back garden.

Additionally, several existing guidelines remain in place.

  • Worship attendees must sanitize their hands upon arrival.  
  • Children attending worship must remain with their parents during the entire worship service.
  • Doors and windows will be opened to allow the free movement of air.
  • Worship attendees should refrain from shaking hands, hugging, or kissing others.
  • Worship attendees are asked to not congregate in the entry corridor, atrium, or fellowship hall. When arriving at the church, worship attendees should move directly to their seats after they sanitize their hands.

Groups or committees wishing to use the church building should first contact me before planning meetings or gatherings.

For the foreseeable future, our Sunday morning worship will continue to be broadcast online via Zoom. You are welcome to stay at home and join worship online. 


[UPDATED 27 MAY 2020]

On Sunday, 31 May, the church building will be reopened for Sunday public worship, meaning you may attend worship in the church building beginning Sunday at 11:15. It will be the first time that we hold in-person Sunday morning worship in the church building since 8 March. We give thanks to God that the pandemic situation is abating in Vienna and that we can slowly return to previous ways of communal life.

In accordance with revised government regulations, we have developed clear health and safety guidelines for worship attendees in order to minimize transmission risks and protect those attending the service.

  • Worship attendees must wear facial masks in the church building at all times except when seated in the sanctuary.
  • Worship attendees must sanitize or wash their hands when arriving at the church building.
  • Doors and windows will be opened to allow the free movement of air.
  • Worship attendees must maintain a minimum 1 meter distance from people outside of their household. Worship attendees may sit only with members of their household.
  • Worship attendees should refrain from shaking hands, hugging, or kissing others.
  • Chairs, door handles, and surfaces touched by worship attendees will be sanitized before and after the service.
  • Singing will not be permitted. When we sing, we emit small saliva droplets which easily spreads the COVID-19 virus. Worship attendees may hum along to music.
  • Worship leaders do not need to wear face masks as they lead worship.
  • Worship attendees are asked to not congregate in the entry corridor, atrium, or fellowship hall. When arriving at the church, worship attendees should move directly to their seats after they sanitize their hands.
  • Children attending worship must remain with their parents during the entire worship service.
  • There will be no nursery, Sunday School, coffee and tea fellowship, or choir rehearsals on Sunday.
  • The church building is open on Sunday mornings for public worship but remains closed to small group meetings. Pastor Matthew can assist small groups organize online meetings.
  • Worship attendees do not need to register to attend worship.

I recognize that our Sunday morning worship will feel different than before COVID-19. Some of you may believe that our guidelines are too cautious, while others believe that they are not strict enough. I care deeply for all of you and our guidelines seek to protect each other as best as possible. Our guidelines were developed with the superintendent’s office in light of ever-changing government regulations. It is my hope each week that we will have fewer and fewer restrictions in worship.

Furthermore, some of you are not comfortable yet to return to worship in the church building. I completely understand. Our Sunday morning worship will continue to be broadcast online via Zoom like it has been these past three months. You are welcome to stay at home and join worship online. On Sundays, some people will gather in the church building and others will join online; we are calling this in-person and online combination ‘hybrid worship’. We will continue to offer online access for the foreseeable future.

Lastly, Holy Communion will be offered to 31 May and 7 June for worship attendees in the church building. Regretfully, those attending online will not be able to receive Holy Communion.

I continue to pray for all of you. I look forward to seeing you on Sunday online or in-person.

In Christ,
The Reverend Matthew A. Laferty


[UPDATED 15 MAY 2020]

On Thursday, 21 May 2020 at 18:00, Pastor Matthew will lead a short 30-minute service of Holy Communion in the church building in celebration of the Ascension of Our Lord. You are invited to attend this in-person worship service. There will be no online service, only in-person. This service will be the first time that we will hold public worship in the church building since mid-March.

Attendees must bring and wear a mask during the service except when receiving Holy Communion, wash their hands when they arrive, and maintain a 2 meter distance from people outside of their household. Additionally, there will be no singing during the service and shaking hands is not permitted.

Only 20 people will be able to attend the service due to current government restrictions. Those persons wishing to attend the service must register in advance by Wednesday evening, 20 May. To register to attend the service, please email Pastor Matthew. You will only be permitted to attend if you pre-register by Wednesday evening.


[UPDATED 24 April 2020]

As many of you know, Chancellor Kurz announced the reopening of churches on 15 May under certain conditions. On Thursday, the government in cooperation with the heads of state-recognized churches and confessions agreed the details and conditions of reopening of houses of worship. We give thanks for the change and the possibility of reopening church buildings under clear restrictions.

The government restrictions as announced on Thursday are severe (20 square meters per person, wearing face masks during worship, sanitizing, etc.) and impossible for us to properly implement. Additionally, the new government regulations would only allow 10 people or less in the church sanctuary at one time.

Therefore, the church building will remain closed through 31 May. There will be no in-person public worship in the church building during the month of May. We will continue holding online Zoom morning devotions on Sunday as well as providing written home prayer services. All meetings and Bible studies will be conducted online.

We will reevaluate the situation towards the end of May. I will share with you decisions about worship in June as they come available.

Over the past two days, I have spoken with ESUMC lay leader Oscar van Rooy and delegate to annual conference Doreen Ighama as well as the superintendent and my pastoral colleagues about the new regulations. We all lament that we are unable to gather in the church building in May. I am sure many of you are disappointed too. However, we remain committed to the congregation’s health and safety as well as finding creative solutions to today’s challenges.

May the joy and hope of the resurrection fill your hearts this day.

Yours faithfully,
The Reverend Matthew A. Laferty


[UPDATED on 13 April 2020]

On 13 April in a congregation-wide email, Pastor Matthew wrote:

After Chancellor Kurz’s announcement last week about easing restrictions in May, several people asked about our ability to gather for worship in the church building again. The chancellor and his government have not specifically addressed the situation related to religious institutions including churches. Under the plan issued last week, public gatherings are banned until the end of June. Like many of you, it is my hope that we can gather for worship and community life again in the church building sooner rather than later. Of course, we will continue to follow government directives related to public gatherings. Heads of state-recognized religious confessions which includes The United Methodist Church in Austria (Evangelisch-methodistische Kirche in Österreich) are seeking clarity from the Chancellor’s office about the timing of re-opening churches. I will let you know any information as it comes available. The simple answer – I don’t know when we can worship in the church building again.



[12 March 2020]

Dear ESUMC members and friends,

With the advice and consent of the superintendent’s office, I issue the following notice with immediate effect:

  • All public worship services in March including Sunday morning services are cancelled. There will be no Sunday morning worship services on 15 March, 22 March, and 29 March.
  • The church building will be open on Sunday, 15 March from 09:00-13:00 for individual prayer. People may come to the church during this time to pray and/or speak with Pastor Matthew or Pastor Stefan. No one is obligated to come. Information about the church’s opening for individual prayer on successive Sundays will be posted later.
  • All ESUMC ministry group and committee meetings scheduled for March are cancelled and will be rescheduled to a later date.
  • The Waermestube (winter daytime shelter) is closed for the season as previously noted in my 11 March communique.

I am available by telephone (+43 664 466 9475) or email (matthew.laferty@emk.at) to provide pastoral care or to speak with you. As a general rule, I am not making house or hospital visitations at this point.

The Austrian Ministry of Social Affairs, Health, Care and Consumer Protection has established a website and a 24-hour hotline to share information about the COVID-19 coronavirus and preventive measures to protect yourself.

Updated information about ESUMC’s response to the coronavirus COVID-19 is always available on the church website at www.esumc.at/covid19.

I share with you a prayer from the United Methodist Book of Worship (page 616):

Almighty and everlasting God,
who can banish all affliction both of soul and of body,
show forth your power upon those in need,
that by your mercy they may be restored to serve you afresh
in holiness of living, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

May the peace of Christ be with you.

The Reverend Matthew A. Laferty
English-Speaking United Methodist Church of Vienna
matthew.laferty@emk.at
+43 664 466 9475 mobile

Issued on 12 March 2020 at 15:00

ESUMC’s Response to the COVID-19 Coronavirus [11 March 2020]

Dear ESUMC members and friends,

In the past two days, the situation in Austria related to the COVID-19 coronavirus has changed. I seek to update you about ESUMC’s continued response to the pandemic.

We will hold public worship on Sunday. Yesterday, the government restricted indoor gatherings to 100 people or less. Only 100 worshippers will be able to gather for worship on Sunday. Ushers will strictly enforce this government policy. We will hold only normal Sunday morning services and special-themed services like Music Sunday are postponed to a later date. There will be no fellowship time (coffee and cake) after worship for the foreseeable future. Worshippers are asked not to linger in the fellowship hall or atrium before or after the service. Hand sanitizer will be available on Sunday for you to clean your hands.

We continue to take the following precautions:

  • We discourage shaking hands, giving hugs, and sharing kisses. We have eliminated the passing of the peace from the worship service for the foreseeable future. The pastor will not shake hands before or after worship.
  • Individual cups will be used at communion only. There will be no sharing of a common cup.
  • The pastor and communion stewards will properly disinfect their hands prior to serving communion.

Additionally, several regular events/meetings are postponed or cancelled. The Wednesday Evening Bible Study is postponed for the foreseeable future. Additionally, our 8th Wärmestube season has come to an end and there will be no more Wärmestube openings on Tuesdays. We are seeking additional ways to support our Wärmestube guests.

It is advised that you:

  • Stay home if you are sick or in a high-risk demographic.
  • Wash your hands. Scrub with soap for at least 20 seconds.
  • Cough and sneeze into your sleeves.
  • Avoid touching your face including your mouth, eyes, and nose.

The Austrian Ministry of Social Affairs, Health, Care and Consumer Protection has established a website and a 24-hour hotline to share information about the COVID-19 coronavirus and preventive measures to protect yourself.

Please contact me if you have any questions.

“I hereby command you: Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9 NRSV)

Christ’s peace,

The Reverend Matthew A. Laferty
English-Speaking United Methodist Church of Vienna
matthew.laferty@emk.at

Update issued on 11 March 2020 at 22:00

Statement on ESUMC and the Coronavirus COVID-19
[07 March 2020]

The United Methodist Church teaches that the Church is “a redemptive fellowship in which the Word of God is preached… and the sacraments duly administered… Under the discipline of the Holy Spirit, the Church exists for the maintenance of worship, the edification of believers and redemption of the world” (Article V of the Confession of Faith). As such, our congregation provides a place for people to worship God, grow in Christian faith, and receive and share the love of God.

We take seriously our commitment to be a gathering place. Equally, we care about the health and safety of all who use our church building and participate in our congregational events.

There is much news coverage in the last weeks about the coronavirus COVID-19. There is no reason to panic. Austrian health minister Rudolf Anschober emphasized that there is absolutely no cause for excitement at the moment. Currently, neither church nor civil authorities have restricted public gatherings in Austria. In this spirit, we will continue to hold public worship on Sundays as well as our scheduled community events.

I have been in contact with the superintendent’s office who has issued general suggestions related to coronavirus COVID-19 for pastors and congregations. As a church community, we take a few simple steps to protect ourselves from the coronavirus COVID-19:

  • We discourage shaking hands, giving hugs, and sharing kisses. We have eliminated the passing of the peace from the worship service for the foreseeable future. Pastors should not shake hands before or after worship.
  • Individual cups will be used at communion only. There will be no sharing of a common cup.
  • The pastor and communion stewards will properly disinfect their hands prior to serving communion.

Additionally, it is advised that you:

  • Stay home if you are sick.
  • Wash your hands. Scrub with soap for at least 20 seconds.
  • Cough into your sleeves or cover your mouth.
  • Avoid touching your face including your mouth, eyes, and nose.

The Austrian Ministry of Social Affairs, Health, Care and Consumer Protection has established a website and a 24-hour hotline to share information about the coronavirus COVID-19 and preventive measures to protect yourself.

Don’t be afraid, God is with us. We pray for God’s wisdom, guidance, and protection as the world responds to the coronavirus COVID-19.

See you at worship tomorrow.

Yours in Christ,

Pastor Matthew A. Laferty
matthew.laferty@emk.at

Issued on 7 March 2020 at 15:55