Updated Guidelines Regarding Church Gatherings

Dear UU Churchers,
We write as Board President, President-Elect, and Minister to update you on decisions around the use of our church building as we continue to discern how to best “be church” in this global Pandemic. At its June 18 meeting, your Board of Trustees spent most of its time together discussing various questions around in-person gatherings. We were informed by the work of the Unitarian Universalist Association in their recommendations, our best understanding of the science, and the emerging policies of sister congregations.
We seek at all times to draw our focus back to our church’s mission, asking ourselves how we can best, “In the spirit of courageous love, forge a community of radical welcome and deep connection that moves us together to heal the world” during a pandemic. Particularly at this moment, we recognize the tension between our need for deep connection and our mission to create a space of radical welcome that is accessible to those most vulnerable. 
We are proud of the ways that our ministry teams and staff have found to creatively maintain and even build our connections online in this time of physical distancing, and we recognize the desire to find safe ways to experience in-person connections. We know that our best wisdom about this will continue to evolve, and we invite your participation in this unfolding discernment. In this moment, here is what we have decided:
  1. Because of the rapidly changing nature of the situation and the continually emerging science around this novel disease, we need a dedicated team of folks discerning where our risk tolerance and our church’s mission meet. The Board will establish a Pandemic Response Team charged with consistently assessing best practice around all kinds of in-person gatherings and advising the Board and Minister with recommended changes in procedure. 
  2. In agreement with our Worship Associates, we affirm the UUA’s recommendation that all member congregations plan to continue worshiping together online-only through May of 2021. While we dearly await the day when we can safely gather in person, we believe that our mission of radical welcome and deep connection is actually better served by focusing our efforts on high quality online worship rather than offering a severely limited in-person option that would necessarily exclude more vulnerable populations. If the situation unexpectedly changes for the better before May 2021 and our Pandemic Response Team recommends it, we will certainly consider joyfully regathering at that time. 
  3. Church small groups are permitted to gather on church grounds outdoors and are strongly encouraged to wear masks and maintain a distance of 6 feet or more. We encourage groups who are considering an in-person meeting at any location to openly discuss the needs and risk tolerance of the group first and to make clear agreements. What are the needs of the most vulnerable person in your group, and how can you assure those needs are fully met? One way to avoid “group-think” on this matter may be for a group leader to chat one-on-one with each group member before holding a larger conversation with the full group, so that everyone can comfortably express their needs. 
  4. The church building remains closed to all church and community groups at least until the Pandemic Response Team can thoroughly research questions about cleaning procedures, room capacities, and other best practices. The board and ministries will then assess our capacity to execute the recommendations of the Team.
  5. Any individual entering the church building will be required to wear a mask. Masks will be provided for those who do not have their own, and exceptions may be made in the case of physical or mental health needs. Staff working in enclosed offices may remove their mask while alone inside their office.
  6. Staff may work on site in their enclosed office spaces if desired. Staff will maintain at least six feet of distance from other individuals in the building, will wear masks when not alone inside their enclosed offices, and will frequently wipe down high touch surfaces. Staff who prefer to work from home exclusively are very welcome to do so.
  7. An individual or family unit may enter the building to complete church business, but will limit their time to the needed purpose, will wear masks unless they are certain no one else is using the space, will maintain appropriate distance, and will wipe down high touch surfaces they may have used with provided disinfecting wipes, before leaving. 
In Faith,
Mindy McPherson, Board President
Rebecca Graves, Board President-Elect
Rev. Molly Housh Gordon, Minister