Last September we sent out a letter outlining the plan we had drawn up to enable a return to in-person worship on Thanksgiving Sunday. Well, the second wave intervened and it never happened. Here we are, a year later, hoping to try again. We have set September 26 as the date for the first service back in the church.
The Task Group for In-Person Worship has met and made some revisions to the plan in light of changing circumstances. It will go to the Board for adoption at its September 21st meeting. If it is necessary at that point to make further revisions which would change some of what is in this letter, we will let you know by phone.
Here’s what you might expect for a typical Sunday:
Before attending worship you will be asked to use the Manitoba COVID-19 Screening Questions. If you are online, the link is https://www.gov.mb.ca/asset_library/en/coronavirus/covid19_screening_checklist.pdf. If not, the questions have been included with this letter. If you haven’t had an opportunity to do this, a greeter will put to the questions to you at the door. These questions will help determine if it is safe for you to be near other members of the congregation.
Parishioners often give rides to church to persons not of their household. When this happens persons should sit as far apart as possible in the vehicle, travel with the windows partially open for ventilation, and wear masks for the duration of the trip.
All worshippers are asked to come into the building at the church entrance. Physical distancing will be observed in the vestibule as people take their turns using hand sanitizer and placing their offering into a basket placed there to receive it. Your attendance will be recorded by the greeter for contact tracing purposes. You are asked to keep track of your contacts for the most recent two weeks.
Public health orders are now mandating that, in an indoor public place, persons must wear masks in a manner that covers their mouth, nose, and chin, without gapping. If you should forget to bring your mask one will be provided for you.
As you enter the sanctuary, you will find that the chairs have been placed at least two meters apart, again as mandated by public health orders. A few will be side by side to accommodate folk from the same household. An extra chair will be placed directly behind each configuration to accommodate such things as such things as personal belongings and the communion elements. To ensure physical separation we ask that, as much as possible, worshipers seat themselves from front to back in the sanctuary and, conversely, upon departing, to leave from back to front.
There will be a number of changes to the service itself:
It will be shorter to reduce the amount of time we spend together in an enclosed, not thoroughly vented space.
Hymns will not be sung as singing multiplies droplet and aerosol emissions many times. The words to the hymns will be printed in the bulletin for you to follow along as Charmaine plays them. You will be able to hum along if you wish.
Speaking also multiplies droplet spread, so spoken responses will be reduced.
As microphones are easily contaminated, only the minister will use it and the practice of having lay readers will be put on hold for the time being.
Conversation in the sanctuary will not take place before and after worship. However, it we will be able to visit outside on the patio afterwards with appropriate social distancing.
Physical distancing means that events in which people congregate close together and share food, such as Birthday Sunday lunches, will have to be put on hold for the time being.
The plan that has been created contains a number of other features designed to increase safety and comply with public health recommendations, including protocols for:
Cleaning and sanitizing the spaces we will use and surfaces we will touch.
The safe counting of the offering which, for the time being, will be done in the sanctuary.
Ensuring that our ventilation system is operating optimally.
What to do if a worshipper becomes sick during a service. (We feel that, not just in times of COVID, but at all times it would be wise to have the name and number of a person who we could call upon to provide transportation home for you should it become necessary during the service. If you would consult with family or friends to come up with a contact name, that would be greatly appreciated. You could give that information to the greeter when you come to church and we will compile a list.)
When in-person worship resumes, printed worship materials will continue to be made available to accommodate folk who would not feel comfortable attending at this time.
Thank you for giving your attention to this.