Almost 2 months ago the Re-Gathering in Worship Committee (RGC) was formed. Since then we have read guides from the Diocese, the governor, and the Department of Health. We have attended webinars put on by the Diocese and Pierce County. We have formulated a plan to address what needs to happen before we gather, during our in-person inside gathering, and how we will monitor and mitigate COVID-19 exposure. The plan has been submitted and approved by the Vestry and has been forwarded to the Diocesan staff for their review. Once approved, the Vestry will recommend when we will return to worshipping indoors. Together, we will decide to actually return after questions and concerns have been addressed, and the congregation is ready to move forward. A copy of the plan will be available to all. In Phase II our limit is 25% of our building’s capacity (about 50 people), and in Phase III 50% (not including staff). We will continue to offer online live or recorded worship services even after we return indoors. 

Thank you to all of you who responded to our recent survey. The RGC hears your concerns. The positive COVID-19 tests in Pierce County appear to be plateauing, after the rise from advancing in Phase II. However, as we head into Fall (and cold and flu season) we want to ensure that the ripples in numbers now do not become a tsunami later on. Our positive test results continue to rise as our testing increases. Still, there are glimmers of hope. Every day people recover. The number of people in the hospital with COVID-19 is 4.6% of the population, which has gone down, and is well below the goal of less than 10%. Our hospital beds are 81% of hospital capacity, which is nearly the goal of 80%. All our hard work is paying off. 

One of things many are concerned about is how to know if one has been exposed? For those who don’t know, when some one is ill, they contact their doctor who orders a COVID-19 test. If the test is positive, the doctor contacts the Health Department (HD). The HD contacts the person who tested positive, collects information (which is kept confidential), and helps to determine who has had close contact (less than 6 feet distance for more than 15 minutes). The HD then contacts those who may have been exposed, and keeps in touch (by text message, often) for 14 days to see if any symptoms present. 

The RGC has gone to great lengths to prevent close contact when we are in the building. Signage has been posted in the front window with mask requirement, social distance information (staying at least 6 feet apart), and symptoms of the virus that would suggest a person stay at home. Inside we have mapped one way traffic, requested limited people in the restrooms at one time, and the pews will be marked in alternating rows and 6 feet increments to serve as a visual aid. There are masks available for those that forget, hand sanitizer dispensers, and a cleaning crew to wipe down frequently touched areas between services. (Speaking of cleaning, would anyone care to join our new Health & Wellness group?) 

And yes, we will still have music. Music is vital to worship, in my opinion. We have the blessing of Naomi’s ministry, our Glory & Praise musicians, and several talented soloists. We will likely not be singing indoors for awhile. According to the HD, masks are probably not adequate protection from the force of air expelled while singing. Hang in there. Phase IV will happen someday, and we will raise our voices in shouts of joy. 

Moving forward to Phase III is more complicated than moving to Phase II, and it will be slow. We look at our overall rate of cases, weekly hospitalizations, and many other things to determine when we are ready, as a county. If you would like more information go to www.tpchd.org, especially the FAQ section. One of the best suggestions I saw on the web site, to help us feel less isolated, was to choose 5 friends or non-household members and visit with them regularly. In the meantime keep doing what you know – protect yourself with masks, social distancing, limiting travel, eat well, sleep well, exercise, spend time with your family, and worship as you are able. The church is still as present as ever. The building will be ready. God bless you all. 

Getting ready to gather indoors by Mary Boyce, Parish Nurse