Thoughts on Returning to Our Building

On Sunday, March 21, the UUC Board of Trustees invited congregants to join them after the worship service for our monthly Conversation with the Board, this time to share on the topic “How do you feel about a gradual return to in-person church?”

Four board members and 17 members and friends participated via Zoom. Here’s a summary of what we heard:

  • For some, interest in engaging with the church has been waning as the “virtual only” worship and meetings drag on. The long experience of enforced isolation has created a real need to be with others. Are we being overly cautious in our delay in re-opening the church building? Some other churches have been meeting in person for months already.
  • We also heard that everyone is looking forward to returning to church and to seeing everyone, but that we shouldn’t rush it. Most are glad to know that remote participation will continue to be available for those who are still reluctant to be in physical gatherings. Meetings outside on the church grounds are already welcome, and some have been scheduled, with safeguards including masks and distancing.
  • Public health authorities have issued guidelines for how a mixed group of vaccinated and non-vaccinated people may or may not interact safely. Various local companies and organizations are already adapting their own re-opening practices accordingly. Masks and physical distancing remain important. Reopening will require planning based on public health benchmarks and the needs and realities of the UUC community, including children and families.
  • It was noted that two primary challenges must be considered: safety of congregants and safety of staff. Most staff members haven’t been vaccinated, given restricted access to vaccines so far.
  • It’s clear that we’d like to continue offering options for online participation even when we come back to the building, including sermon discussions and other conversations after Sunday services. This will require additional staff and equipment.
  • What is the current status of building systems and technology, and how are improvements being addressed? What’s the current status of UUC maintenance staff and their activities on site? Surveys and more conversation with congregants ought to be part of planning.
  • If reopening the building will be gradual—that is, not at full capacity right away—how will it be determined who comes back? Maybe prioritizing those without good online access? What support can be offered to people as we enter this transition—Care Team, tech help, etc?

Our conclusions are that staff and the board need to communicate a reopening plan, and how we are gathering information that supports a thoughtful and compassionate reopening timeline. Watch the UUC website and the weekly newsletter for regular updates on this topic.

2 Responses

  1. Carol Greenough says:

    Everyone who works at the church should be eligible for the vaccine soon. There is no reason for fully vaccinated people to avoid gathering. We need human contact, not screen time.

    • Janine Larsen, UUC Director of Ministries says:

      Thank you for your comment. We are finding that people are responding to reason and emotion around their safety – understandable after a year+ of isolation. As we begin to welcome small groups and eventually larger gatherings in the building, we will respond with both compassion and caution, honoring individual and family decisions and continuing public health recommendations including masking and distancing. Like you, we’re looking forward to the expanded availability of vaccines, including for our UUC families with younger children and youth, who will likely have a longer wait to be fully vaccinated. We’ll be celebrating continued advancements that allow all ages to feel safe and welcomed in returning to church gatherings!