Returning to In-Person Worship
September 13, 10 AM!!!
Dear friends and church family, greetings to you all!
It has been a rather surreal summer as we continue to live through the challenges that the COVID-19 crisis has brought to our families, our community life, our church, and to society at large.
For our church, those changes came in the form of the cancellation of all in-person worship, programs and committee meetings in the church building as of Tuesday, March 17 when we moved all of those activities and programs onto the Zoom live-streaming video platform. I don’t think any of us expected that the crisis would continue to impact our lives in the way it has for these many months. And yet, here we are.
“When will we be able to worship in the sanctuary?” It is a question that many have been asking me!
On June 16, the Church Council appointed an ad hoc committee to develop a proposed plan, protocol and schedule for returning to in-person worship and resuming certain in-person programs and meetings in the church building. The “Return to Church Protocol and Planning Committee” (RCP Committee) met three times before submitting its report and recommendations to the Council on July 21. The Church Council approved those recommendations and charged the church’s Board of Deacons and that same RCP Committee with the job of implementing the plan, monitoring the COVID-19 status, and communicating with the congregation and wider community.
Those recommendations included a TENTATIVE date of September 13 for our church returning to in-person worship. There are a number of additional protocol and planning issues included in that report that I would like to share.
First, it is important for the congregation to understand that the date of September 13 for returning to worship is contingent upon the continued low new COVID-19 cases that Vermont has thus far been able to maintain. Any spike or surge in the cases in Caledonia County or the surrounding region will mean a return to live-stream only worship. The Committee will be monitoring the reported virus cases on a weekly basis, and reporting by Friday at noon, the status of Sunday’s planned in-person worship service. It is absolutely possible, perhaps even likely, that circumstances will mean the cancellation of in-person programs, and require a return to “live-stream only” worship at some point in the future.
Second, following recommendations by VOSHA, the United Church of Christ “Returning to Church” guidelines, and by order of the Governor of Vermont, all activities held in the church building will require;
- proper mask wearing (covering mouth and nose);
- 6 foot social distancing;
- no singing (either choral or congregational);
- no formal fellowship time after church;
- each person attending any activity in the church will have their temperature recorded by a volunteer using a no-touch infrared thermometer, and…
- …will answer “NO” to the VOSHA COVID-19 pre-screening questions. Those questions are:
- “Have you traveled to an area with a known local or interstate spread of COVID-19 in the past 14 days?”;
- “Have you, or anyone in your family, come into close contact (within 6 feet) with someone who has a suspected or confirmed COVID-19 diagnosis in the past 14 days?”;
- “Do you currently have a fever (temperature greater than 100.4 F or 38.0 C) OR symptoms of lower respiratory illness such as cough, shortness of breath, or difficulty breathing, or chills, muscle pain, sore throat, new loss of taste or smell in the past 14 days?”;
- “Are you unable or unwilling to wear a cloth mask as recommended by CDC and the Vermont State Department of Health?”
Volunteers will be serving as “Greeters” and filling out the questionnaire for each person attending programs at the church.
Third, we will continue to live-stream our Sunday morning worship services via Zoom for those who, for any reason, cannot join us for in-person worship.
Fourth, there will be no hymnals or Bibles in the pews. You are encouraged to bring your own Bible! I will be working with our Music Director, Emily Wiggett, to design a new order of service given how the current service depends so much upon the structure of hymns and congregational singing!
Finally, it is very important that individuals feel clear about making their own decisions about attending in-person worship. While we are doing the best we can to minimize the risk of COVID-19 being spread as a result of our worshipping together, the CDC continues to recommend that certain high-risk community members avoid indoor group gatherings. It may well be prudent that some members of the community continue to participate in our worship via the Zoom live-stream video format.
If anyone has any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact the church office. (802-684-1151 or firstname.lastname@example.org) We will respond to any inquiries as soon as possible.
I miss so very much seeing you all and I am excited about being together again in our beautiful sanctuary!!! I pushed all of my vacation time to the end of the summer in the hopes of being able to get to my cottage in Ontario, but as I am sure you are all aware, the Canadian border remains closed to non-essential travel. I will be back in the church office on Tuesday, September 8. I will be available by phone or e-mail in case of a pastoral emergency.
I am so grateful for the faithful support and encouragement of the members of the church during this incredibly stressful time. God bless you all!
Greetings in the name of Christ.
Our mission as the Danville Congregational Church, United Church of Christ is to embody God’s love within our local community and throughout the world.
We are eager to meet you and to share the faith and fellowship of our spiritual community. Weekly Worship and Sunday School begins at 10am.
“No matter who you are or where you are on life’s journey, you are welcome here.”‘
–Reverend Douglas Carter