The experience of these last few years has taught us many things, one of which is the importance of being flexible.
We are so grateful that our congregation has been patient and willing to work with us to find a time when it is safe to come back together. We know this is hard and many want to return. However, we are seeking to balance the health and well-being of our members as well as staff, who have multiple contacts with others. The arrival and powerful contagiousness of Omicron necessitates that we pivot yet again from our previous plans. Here is our current thinking about how the rest of the church year may unfold..
Return to Worship in the Sanctuary
The COVID Task Force and other experts believe that this current spike in new cases should dissipate in the next few weeks. If that happens, it may be safe to return to the building for worship and programs sometime in February.
We do not, however, know exactly when it will be safe to gather together in person in larger groups. And even once the current wave recedes, people’s individual comfort levels and risk assessments will vary. We propose that as early as February 13th, we begin with smaller services for which people will sign up ahead of time. Forty spaces will be available for sign up for services at 9:00, 11:00 and 3:00 on Sunday. Services will be short, around 30 minutes, and will contain music, a sermon, candles, and testimonials from members. If these fill up we can add another service or two, but we will begin with these options.
For all FCB programs, we will require vaccinations (for those who can be vaccinated) and masks. We will provide surgical masks for folks to wear over cloth masks and encourage folks to wear KN95s or equivalent.
There will be no coffee hour following the services. People who would like to connect right after the service may linger in the sanctuary, but we will not channel folks to another spot to connect. There will be no food or drink.
Families with Children
We will provide childcare downstairs for children who would rather not be in the service or for parents who would rather worship without them. As always children and youth of any age are welcome to be in the worship services. Families will drop kids off on their way into the building. Children will be welcomed by staff for games, play and fun, grounded in our UU values and First Church traditions. Since the services are small, there will be smaller groups of kids than usual and a larger age spread. It will be an opportunity for kids to reconnect to the community and to each other and for parents to get a bit of a break.
We will begin an exciting new RE program, the Imagination Station, as well as Spirit Play for the littler kids and other programs in April. For now, for kids, we will lean into the new Story Pod podcast (coming soon) and will also host in person events for both middle school kids as well as families tUUgether in March.
The Road Ahead
We aim to return to larger services without sign ups at 9:00 and 11:00 once it is safe to gather in larger groups of people for a longer duration, perhaps in April.
We will also have outdoor services, one in April on Easter, another in May and one more in June. These will be open to all with no sign ups like the services in the fall.
We will transition to summer services June 19th.
The Home Stretch
This has been a difficult time for so many of us. We have had so many people sick in the congregation. So many of you have made it through so much.
And it is hard to imagine that we are not yet done with this. But here we are. Still needing to rally, still needing to change plans, still needing to muster flexibility and creativity.
I am so grateful for all of you. So grateful for our staff team, for all they have done to get us this far and all they are doing now.
I am so grateful for our leadership, for their clarity and steadfastness, for their continuing to show up and dig deep to serve this community and all her people, for their continuing to seek ways to serve this hurting world around us.
We are so blessed to have this community. Even and especially now in this challenging time. So blessed to have this vibrant community and the clear and compelling mission we serve.
As always, feel free to reach out to me with any questions. You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call or text me at 603-842-9111.
Please come to the town hall on Sunday January 23rd at 2:00. It will be an opportunity to ask questions of the staff, members of leadership and the COVID Task Force.
So much love to you all,