Throughout the past five months of the coronavirus pandemic, one thing has been consistent: change. As Pierce County entered Phase 2, St. Andrew’s Re-gathering in Worship Committee — Fr. Martin, Sr. Warden Judy Nelson, Parish Nurse Mary Boyce, Linda Brice, Patty Mannie, and Pam Tinsley — began meeting via Zoom to develop protocols for opening our doors for worship. We met three times, and quickly confirmed that, with regard to this new coronavirus, things that may have been true one day sometimes change as soon as the next! As much as we all are eager to worship together again, the committee’s highest priority continues to be the safety and health of our congregation.
When we first met, the number of new reported cases in Pierce County had been stable and we were hopeful that we might be able to re-gather for worship as soon as this month. Within days, numbers had increased enough for us to recommend to the vestry that we not re-gather until the county enters Phase 3. In the meantime, interim steps include holding outdoor fellowship hours and trying out an outdoor worship service where people can easily socially distance (August 9).
The delay to Phase 3 has given us additional time to develop detailed protocols that comply with both Diocesan and State COVID-19 requirements for religious and faith-based organizations. These protocols include steps we must take prior to re-opening our doors for worship; during worship; and for on-going monitoring after re-gathering begins.
Before we re-gather we must undertake a deep cleaning of the entire building; provide safety training; design and post interior traffic guides and seating markers; post signage regarding masks, health, and reporting; find an effective way of video-recording worship to complement in-person worship; and then present our plan to both the Vestry and the Bishop.
We also drafted protocols for worship, which include sanctuary capacity criteria; registration processes for attending a service; guidelines for usher, greeter, lay-minister and clergy interactions during the liturgy; and plans for sanitizing the church between services should both resume. We currently propose holding one Sunday worship service each week as we begin re-gathering, alternating between 8 am and 10 am. Weather permitting, fellowship will take place outdoors after the service.
A third aspect of the worship protocols involves monitoring: temperature checks; registration information, in case someone reports testing positive, including the destruction of this information after two weeks; and ongoing review of the protocols’ effectiveness.
This article is only a summary of the three-page draft protocols. The final protocols will be made available prior to our initial re-gathering, and key information will be shared through all of our communication channels. Our new gathering protocols continue to evolve, as we learn more about the virus. And, as you might discern, changes to how we gather for worship also give rise to new ministry opportunities!
Our survey on Re-gathering has ended. The Regathering Committee and the Vestry will review the results, and you will hear from us soon.
Adapted from Pam Tinsley’s article
on behalf of the Re-gathering Committee,
which appeared in the August Tartan