After 14 months away, we're reopening the doors of our sanctuary this summer as part of our new hybrid worship. If you're interested in coming but don't know what exactly to expect, read on!
What Covid-19 safety precautions will be in place? We've come up with a list of protocols that will keep us safe while we're together, which should look pretty familiar by this point:
Social distancing: we'll be maintaining 6 feet of distance at all times, and opening at 50% capacity (half the pews will be in use, and half will not).
Registration: We're asking everyone to register for in-person worship, so we can keep an eye on capacity, and so that we'll have emails in case we need to do contact tracing.
Cleaning/sanitation: The church will be deep-cleaned before each use of the sanctuary, and we'll have hand sanitizer stations set up around the sanctuary and our check-in station.
Air filtration: We'll be keeping the doors open as much as possible during the summer and also be adding HEPA filters soon.
Will we be required to wear masks inside the church? Yes. Anyone who is reading, speaking, or leading worship will take off their masks while they're using the microphone, but for the most part, everyone will be wearing masks throughout the service.
As you're probably aware, the CDC recently announced that it's safe for vaccinated individuals to be inside without a mask on, which puts us in the position of either asking congregants for their vaccination status, or asking that everyone wear a mask. At our last vestry meeting, we had a long discussion about what to do, and how to best act out of an abundance of love--a phrase that's been our guidepost as we've discerned our way through this pandemic season. We know that the vaccine is not yet an option for our youngest members, and that the immunocompromised may continue to be at higher risk. Rather than single them out, we've decided to join in loving solidarity with them by continuing to wear masks while we're indoors together
How do I register to attend in person? You can use this link here! And if you show up and you've forgotten to register but there's still space inside, don't worry--we'll have a QR code handy so you can do it on the spot.
How will we pass the peace? We now have wifi in the sanctuary, so we'll continue to pass the peace and ask for prayers of the people via the YouTube livechat.
Will we use bulletins? For the summer, we'll be using digital bulletins where you can follow the order of service on your mobile device. We know that they don't pose much of a transmission risk, but the ease of using a digital bulletin enables us to focus our energies towards the more significant moving pieces of reopening. We will have a few printed copies available for those who prefer a paper bulletin.
Will we be singing? For the time being, we'll hold off on singing indoors. This was a tough decision--we love singing together!--but the current recommendation is to sing masked 12 feet apart, which we can't guarantee at this point. We'll start out by erring on the side of caution on June 6 and build from there.
Will we celebrate Eucharist? We will! In May, we began celebrating Eucharist outdoors on the church steps after service, and we'll continue to do so throughout the summer. At the close of service, greeters will dismiss the congregation row by row to go outside and people are welcome to stay and join us for a brief celebration of the Eucharist in the courtyard. Masks will not be required for this portion of the service (though if you'd like to mask, you're welcome to). The Eucharist will be served "in one kind," which means that only bread will be served to those gathered.
Can I bring my kids? Yes! We'll have several options for families:
Weather permitting, we'll have a children's ministry area set up in the courtyard where kids will be invited to come for children's worship after the gospel reading and parents can meet them outside afterwards. If it is raining, we'll meet in the rectory.
We're setting up a quiet play area in the back of the sanctuary with a comfy rug and chairs, books, and coloring pages.
We'll also have a "decompressing" area set aside in the rectory for any families that want or need a break and quiet space. There will be a glider and diaper changing station set up for new parents.
Can I continue to watch from home? Yes, you can--you'll still be able to view our service livestream from our YouTube page, as usual. We continue to use Zoom as our platform, so even though the cameras will be sharper and you'll be seeing the front of the sanctuary, the format for the livestream will look similar to what it's been throughout the pandemic. You can even participate from home: we are always looking for readers! Email firstname.lastname@example.org if you're interested.
Is this our new normal? The short answer is: we aren't sure! We're trying out worship this way for the summer, but we're still learning. We're also keeping a close eye on the context as it changes, and as we receive new guidelines from the Diocese and the city and state governments. We probably won't get it perfect at once, and it's likely we'll need to change some things as we go along. We're really grateful for your patience and your flexibility as we figure this all out together!