The Re-Opening Task force has continued to monitor the public health data which shows that there has been a small but persistent increase in the number of new COVID-19 infections in Massachusetts, mostly due to the Delta variant. (COVID-19 Response Reporting | Mass.gov) The situation is not as dramatic as in many other states, but this variant is considerably more infectious than the original strain and has spread extremely rapidly in areas with low vaccination rates and weak public health practices. We have also been guided by recommendations from the CDC, the MA and Wellesley Boards of Education, the MA Council of Churches, the UCC conference, and the practices in other churches in our area.
Based on this information, the Re-Opening Task Force is recommending that we continue to follow our present protocols for in-person services and meetings through Sunday, 9/19. This means that we will not be fully ‘re-opened’ for Rally Day (9/12) as we had hoped, which is disappointing to be sure. However, we will still gather in the Sanctuary and have a modified Ice Cream Social on the church lawn after the service with an ice cream truck serving a variety of individually wrapped frozen treats.
Just to remind you, the current guidelines for worship and meetings that will remain in place through the service on 9/19 are as follows:
- Attendance in the Sanctuary will remain at 100 (worship leaders and congregants) and 50 in the Chapel.
- Sign-up will be required for the services of 9/12 and 9/19.
- Masking is mandatory.
- Congregation may recite responses and prayers (masked) but may not sing.
- Soloists, clergy, and lay readers must be masked except when reading/speaking/singing.
- Seating will be distanced (every other pew) and the first row of pews will also be roped off.
- Collection plates will be placed by the doors.
- Modified Communion on 9/5.
- Modified Community Hour on the lawn.
- Meetings (any number of attendees) must be masked.
We will continue to live-stream the services at 10:00 am on Sunday mornings and make recordings available via the website, YouTube, and Facebook by Sunday afternoon.
Childrens’ Ministries, including Church School, Confirmation, and Youth Groups, are also making detailed plans for the Fall which will be communicated separately.
We plan to provide opportunities to meet the new interim ministers (Richard and Jill Edens) during the outdoor Community Hours following the services on 9/5, 9/12, 9/19, and 9/26, which will be mask optional. For those members who are less comfortable with in-person gatherings, the church will also be hosting opportunities for members to meet the Edens via Zoom.
Although we had been hoping to get back to ‘normal’ by Rally Day, the persistence of the Delta variant in MA argues that we should continue to be cautious from two standpoints. The first is that our congregation includes un-vaccinated people (mostly children under the age of 12) as well as people who are immuno-compromised, both of whom we want to protect. On a broader level, it is in the interest of all of us to minimize the number of new infections in our community. Every new infection is an opportunity for the virus to mutate into a more infectious or more virulent new variant. It behooves us to continue to use the combination of vaccination and good respiratory hygiene practices (i.e. masking, distancing, etc.) that we know to be effective in limiting COVID-19 infection.
The Re-Opening Task Force intends to meet again on 9/9 to review the situation and re-assess the risk/benefit balance between the needs for community and safety.
We are looking forward to seeing you in the Sanctuary!