As we take these next steps on our emergence journey, each of us will need to make our own best choices about how much risk we are willing to undertake. Based on the best available science and supported by the data we’ve collected from the emergence survey, we think we can move forward with our plans to re-gather in September. We are opening the church for in-person gatherings in recognition that there are those who do need to gather, for whom the benefits do outweigh the risks. We will keep offering our online worship experience for those who are not ready to gather in-person yet, for those who live far away, and those who just appreciate the convenience. As an intergenerational community, any plans to re-gather must consider the needs of our elders, our children, those who are vulnerable, and those who care for them. Here are a few things we want you to know:
- We don’t expect all of you to come back to in-person worship right now. We are putting things in place to make gathering in-person safer, but we want to support each of you in making the best decision for you and your family. We will be continuing with our plans to offer in-person worship watch parties in the sanctuary starting Sept. 5, and starting Sept. 26 we will offer both live in-person worship 10:00 am and digital worship streaming live starting at 5:00 pm.
- We are committed to offering digital worship and online ministry as an important part of our vibrant congregation. Many of you have shared how your virtual connection to church has been a lifeline in these challenging times. In our Emergence Survey, more than half of you said you would participate either online or in person, depending on your schedule and your health status. Another 12% said you’ll be part of our “online campus” with digital ministry being your primary way of engaging with UCUCC. We want to reassure you all that digital ministry is here to stay. For more on what we learned from the emergence survey, click here.
- The sanctuary is a large, well-ventilated indoor space with upgraded air filters. With everyone masked except vaccinated worship leaders, the science supports gathering indoors for an hour of worship. We are working on testing protocols so that unmasked worship leaders will also have a recent negative Covid-19 test. We also encourage folks to social distance by family groups in the sanctuary.
- Our Covid-19 Action Team has met and recommends no congregational singing in worship while local transmission is high. We will revisit this recommendation regularly and keep tracking local case rates and hospitalization rates.
- The Covid-19 Action Team is also recommending that we will not have the choir sing live during September and October. We are considering ways that the choir might safely rehearse in person (masked, distanced, in larger indoor spaces or outdoors). We will still have worship grounded by music—organ, piano, instruments, and soloists.
Passing the offering plates, pew pads, and unmasking briefly to receive communion are all low risk for Covid-19 transmission, as is passing the peace. We know everyone will have a different level of comfort as we return. Please treat everyone with compassion and support healthy boundary setting around these shared activities. Ask before entering anyone’s personal space. Ask before offering a hug or a handshake.
- For more on our Covid-19 guidelines for in-person worship, click here.
- The library will be furnished with extra filters as a place where adults who feel more vulnerable can watch the worship live-stream together, with socially distant seating. If you want to participate in-person but feel that the sanctuary is too crowded for your comfort, the library is the place for you.
- The lounge will be available as a family-friendly viewing room, for children and families who want to watch worship together (projected on one of our screens). We are holding this space for families who don’t feel comfortable in the sanctuary yet, but still want to participate in-person. Parenting during Covid-19 is a unique challenge, and while kids under 12 are unable to be vaccinated we want to be extra thoughtful about ways to foster connection and community while giving families a choice about their risks (especially as they also navigate back-to-school challenges and the approach of colder, wetter weather). The lounge will not be a “drop-off zone” with teachers/staff looking after kids, but a space for parents and kids under 12 to gather and watch worship in a different environment than the sanctuary.
Starting September 26, we will be offering outdoor drop-off childcare (rain or shine) for littles through elementary age kids from about 9:50 – 11:45 am.
How ever we are feeling as we take these next steps, we know that God is with us no matter what. As a congregation, we trust that our call to “love our neighbor as ourselves” is a core belief that we must live into as we emerge. Let us emerge cautiously, with compassion for ourselves and others, with trust in science, and faith in the love of God and the support of this community.