We have heard a lot of advice about reopening houses of worship in the last week. You may have heard that Governor Baker is allowing houses of worship to reopen for worship services immediately, in phase one of the Massachusetts reopening plan. You may also have heard that the Unitarian Universalist Association is recommending congregations stay online-only through May 2021.
We will be making our own decisions about how and when to reopen, taking into consideration these guidelines and the thought, feelings and safety of our members. The Prudential Committee of First Unitarian Church has decided that worship services will remain online-only through Labor Day 2020, and has tasked the Buildings and Grounds Committee and Rev. Sarah Stewart to present policies and practices for reopening safely when we can.
Although houses of worship are now permitted to hold worship services in Massachusetts, the limit for in-person gatherings in other settings remains 10 people. We believe that the safest course of action is to treat church gatherings like other gatherings and respect this limit. Waiting will also give us a chance to create and implement the policies which will keep us safe when we reopen.
What will the fall look like? We don’t know yet. We are thinking creatively about how to be together in our large spaces. We are thinking about the safety of singing, how to keep our building clean, how to serve our members who choose to stay at home, how to manage faith development for children, youth and adults, and how to host rites of passage. Waiting to reopen until the fall gives us crucial time to make these plans.
How will we decide what to do? We’ll consider the overall guidance from the Commonwealth and the City of Worcester, not only for houses of worship but for people and organizations in general. And we will want to hear from you. Stay tuned for opportunities to share your thoughts and feelings about returning to in-person worship in the future. In the newsletter, you’ll find regular updates about where we are in our planning.
What do we do in the meantime? Worship services continue to be broadcast on YouTube Live every Sunday at 10:30 a.m. This will continue through the summer, as lay preachers lead online summer services. Wiogora, our summer program for children, is considering how to proceed for the summer and will announce its plans on June 1. Small groups for children, youth and adults meet regularly online. See the weekly newsletter for details about how to connect.
“Where is our holy church?” asks the hymn. “Where equal persons search for beauty, truth and right,” comes the answer. Where is our mission? Everywhere we honor the sacred, connect with each other, and serve justice. Where do we live out our covenant? Wherever we love truth, follow the spirit, worship the sacred and serve others. We are the church, even when we can’t gather together in person.
We are thinking of all of you with love. We know these are hard times, and we miss you all. We look forward to being together again when we are properly prepared and the time is right.
Ellen Foley, Moderator
Sarah Stewart, Minister