During this past year a committee of church members have met bi-weekly to discuss Pandemic topics and to forward advice and recommendations to the Church Council, Diaconate, etc. The resumption of in-person worship has been a constant topic during our discussions. Contemplating a return has been problematic due to a number of items mentioned in the UCC guidance on this topic:
- Our congregations are comprised of the populations most vulnerable to Covid-19.
- In person worship in sanctuaries is one of the types of gatherings that is most likely to spread the infection.
- In an enclosed room over a length of time the airborne viral particles can reach every corner. 6-foot or 12-foot physical distancing will not prevent this.
- Speaking, praying and singing aloud propels the virus even further than just breathing.
- Using masks limits but does not prevent the transmission of the disease.
- Common surfaces abound.
- We know that people can be carriers of the virus without any symptoms.
- There is no way to ensure the overall safety of our congregations and communities until there is a trusted vaccine widely distributed.
One of the concerns expressed during our meetings over the past year regarding fashioning safe return protocols was whether the resulting “product” would be recognizable “worship” at all and desirable (distancing requirements, no singing, no coffee hour, etc.)?
This is still a relevant question but can be envisioned happening in a safer environment now due to a better understanding of how the Covid-19 virus spreads, vaccination protection, testing availability, etc. Over the next several weeks we will continue to track local positivity and vaccination rates. A list of suggested criteria for re-opening in-person worship, based on State and Conference guidance and requirements has been developed and circulated.
the Pandemic Task Force