Over the past six or so weeks, the COVID-19 team has been working diligently to review guidelines and advice surrounding how we might “be the church” during this time. Here’s an overview of what we’ve been working on:
When am I going to be able to go back to church?
Having considered the advice of the leaders of the Southern New England Conference of the United Church of Christ, we agreed that it would be best to refrain from any in-person gatherings this summer. We agreed that, since September 13th would have been our usual “Welcome Back Sunday,” we would keep that date in mind as a benchmark to consider. As the summer months continue, we will be using this time to collect resources, create procedures, implement infrastructure, and make sure safety is in place for any kind of in-person meetings at church, including meeting for worship. There is no guarantee that we will be back on September 13th. This will be dependent on the number of COVID-19 cases at the end of the summer, and if there is a continuous downward trend in case numbers. At this time, case numbers are not decreasing within the county or state.
What will worship look like if we return?
We have also been asking ourselves the question, “does this aid us in our ministry?” No matter what, when we are able to safely meet together for worship, it’s going to look very different. There cannot be any kind of in-person singing (by a soloist, choir, and certainly no congregational singing). We wouldn’t be able to pass the peace the way we wish we could. We wouldn’t be able to gather for coffee hour afterwards. On top of this, we want to be mindful about how many people would be able to enter the space (and would want to discourage members of our community who are the most vulnerable to stay home). No matter what, worship just wouldn’t look the same. You can be sure, however, that whenever we do go back to meeting in-person, it will be a hybrid of virtual & in-person worship.
What about the Faire?
We are discussing ways the Faire might continue this year but using our collective congregational creativity so that it will definitely look different but still have the same spirit! Stay tuned for more information about Faire planning and questions. In the meantime, you can contact Betsy Schneider ( firstname.lastname@example.org) for more information.
Is the building closed?
We are limiting staff presence in the building, encouraging working from home as much as possible, to help reduce any traffic in the building. Additionally, we have been asking ourselves what it means to represent “love of neighbor” at this time. First and foremost, loving our neighbor means protecting the most vulnerable in our community and limiting exposure to the virus. However, many of our building users are beginning to inquire about returning to the space. After much discussion and working together with Creative Arts, we have decided to allow their summer programming to continue beginning July 6. Groups will be limited in number, meeting outside as much as possible, keeping 6-feet apart, and wearing masks at all times. Creative Arts and the COVID team have come up with a procedure and protocol to maximize safety for any of their summer camp participants. We believe that “loving our neighbor” also includes meeting needs within our community, and in this case, this includes childcare and art as a healthy outlet for stress and trauma. Additionally, Creative Arts will be the only group allowed to use the building during summer weekdays, so that we can control sanitization and make sure that there are no overlapping groups. For this reason, we also ask that all church members to please check with the office if you need to go into the building. We also recognize this means that any of our gardening volunteers may need to only come to the church on weekends, especially while Creative Arts meets outdoors. This is obviously a challenging time for all of us, and we thank you for your patience.
If you have any questions or concerns, please reach out to any of the members of the COVID-19 Team:
Rev. Emelia Attridge, Barbara Philbrick, Betsy Schneider, Mark Johnson, and Anastasia Kidd