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First Unitarian Church Reopening COVID-19 Plans and Policies

On Sunday, August 29, members and friends of the congregation met after service to hear about the results of the survey that recently went out two weeks ago, asking the congregation about their plans and hopes for returning to the sanctuary this fall, vaccination status, RE needs, and other issues.

Over 140 people responded to the survey.  Some of the key takeaways from the survey include 
  • There is a reported high level of vaccination - over 95% of respondents reported being fully vaccinated
  • At least a quarter of respondents will remain virtual this fall.  About 10% of congregants hope to attend exclusively in person.  A majority of respondents plant to attend in-person sometimes, and virtually other times.
  • There is a desire for outdoor RE
  • There is a preference for small group autonomy in making decisions about how to meet
  • There is strong support for moving slowly and incrementally
  • There is also a strong need for some people to get back in the building together as soon as possible.
Based on this survey, and considering public safety guidelines and advice from the UUA, the COVID Response Task Force has shaped the following plan for moving forward in the next month.

First Unitarian Sunday Morning Reopening COVID-19 Plans and Policies
 

First Unitarian is preparing for a return to in-person Sunday Morning Worship after many long months apart during the pandemic.  

Our plan is to do a phased reopening.

On Sunday, September 12, we will have a virtual return to the sanctuary, where worship will be led from the sanctuary, and we will have a chance to experience it together as a community from home.

Then in the following weeks, we will be able to invite small groups of congregants into the sanctuary each week while we continue to worship mostly from home. 
We are working out how to open these invitations in a way that supports the people with the greatest need to be back together in person, and shares this opportunity with as many people as we safely can.

Once this current wave of the Delta variant recedes, we will be able to open the sanctuary more fully.  We don’t know when that will be, but we are probably talking months, not weeks.

Thanks to the investment of the congregation, our Sanctuary has been technologically upgraded to be able to provide a meaningful worship that is dual-platform (simultaneous in-person and virtual).  

Even when we are in person, virtual worship will always remain an option for members and guests going forward. 

While it is impossible to provide 100% guarantee against transmission of any air-born illness, we believe the policies below will provide reasonable safety for the greatest number of members, and they will be frequently re-evaluated and adjusted as needed. The policies have been presented by the COVID-19 Task Force, and are being considered by our Board and Leadership.  

  • We continue to urge all eligible members, friends and visitors to get vaccinated and receive boosters as indicated to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

  • All members and visitors who exhibit any symptoms possibly related to COVID-19 should stay home and participate online.

  • Due to the possibility of breakthrough infections and possible transmission of the virus, even by fully vaccinated people, we will continue to ask everyone to take masking and distancing precautions for the time being.

  • Wearing of masks for all indoor gatherings, including Sunday Worship, is required, including for fully vaccinated individuals.  Only children less than 2 years of age are exempt from continuous mask wearing.  If you seek an exemption, please speak with Rev. Abbey.

  • Worship leaders speaking from the pulpit may remove their masks.

  • Full Choir and larger band performances will be pre-recorded (video and audio) from rehearsals. Several safety protocols will be in place for music volunteers who participate in those rehearsals including masks (outdoors and indoors), limited singing times and social distancing between singers. 

  • Small ensemble singing (3-4 singers) will occur for the live & virtual congregation. Live singers will be masked and individually amplified so they may be separated from the congregation and each other yet still provide meaningful leadership to both communities of congregants. 

  • There will be no in-person congregational hymn singing at this time.  Hymns will often be the music director or small ensemble singing a hymn in the sanctuary.  We may supplement live hymns with pre-recorded hymns at times. 

  • Instrumental music will occur live as much as possible. Including piano, organ and other instrumental ensembles as needed. 

  • Staff, Worship Associates and other worship leaders, RE & childcare staff will be required to be vaccinated.  Anyone singing together in a shared space with others (choir or band rehearsals or performance) will be required to be vaccinated or show a negative COVID test from the previous week.

  • A socially distant seating arrangement is being developed consistent with CDC guidelines.

  • The Order of Service and hymns will be shown in the sanctuary on our new video monitor. This will limit communal contact.

  • Outdoor RE will be held on Sundays, aligned with Sunday Worship. 

  • Currently, no parents with children less than 2 have requested nursery availability.  Please contact acting RE director Jean Wiant if that changes.

  • No food will be served at indoor gatherings.

  • We encourage all small group gatherings to return to virtual or outdoors until cases decline again.

  • If, following an in- person visit to First U, you are diagnosed with COVID, please contact the pastoral emergency line and let them know.  Our care team can offer support, and also let other people know they may have come into contact with a person who was infected without revealing your identity.  You can reach them at 267-499-4239

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