To ensure a safe re-entry for this fall:

  • We ask that all who are eligible be vaccinated, for the safety of all.
  • We will continue multiplatform services and that will introduce multiplatform SEEK classes.
  • There will be capacity limits in the sanctuary. A seating chart has been prepared for parishioners seated on pew cushions that are a minimum of 6 feet apart. Twenty available cushions seat 1-3 people which enables 20-55 attendees, depending on the number of people per cushion. The plan allows for an additional 3 staffers and up to 4 musicians/choir loft participants, for the highest possible total of 62 people in the sanctuary.
  • We are implementing a “register in advance” approach, using an online system. This will allow one individual to register for a pew that seats 1-3. If anyone appears on a Sunday morning who has not signed up in advance, we will designate a small, overflow seating area, explain the protocol for sign-up, and capture their information for contact tracing. In communications, we will ask people who attended the prior week to wait until Saturday to sign-up.
  • We are requiring all staff who work onsite to be fully vaccinated.
  • In accordance with UUA guidelines (June 1, 2021) regarding masking, we are requiring that everyone (with the exception of speakers, who will be distanced from the congregation) be masked for indoor large group activities, including services. This policy is consistent with CDC guidance, which currently urges residents to wear masks in public indoor spaces, regardless of their vaccination status. Beyond the many good points in the UUA guidelines on masking, a June discussion with First Parish parents indicated that they would not be comfortable having their children in the sanctuary if adults would be unmasked and the children under 12 (who would not be vaccinated) would still need to be masked. Parents felt it would send a mixed message to children about masking. Masking also makes the environment safer for those whose immune systems don’t produce a strong antibody response because of immunosuppressants (e.g., those who have experienced an organ transplant).
  • We will not open the nursery at this time while young children cannot be vaccinated and transmission is substantial.
  • There will be no unmasked indoor eating or drinking. Initially, we will not be serving food or beverages. In lieu of Coffee Hour in the Vestry, we will begin the year with outdoor “Community Time,” weather permitting. Even outdoors, we urge people to maintain social distance, mask at personal discretion, and respect one another’s comfort levels regarding masking, hugging, handshakes, etc.
  • The same protocols for Sunday Services apply to Supporter Memorial Services and Weddings.
  • We are putting a hold on indoor rentals (excluding the pre-school) and non-Supporter Memorial Services and Weddings.
  • We will post pertinent COVID-19 information on our website in the coming weeks.
  • We are initiating an air exchange testing program. A sub-committee of the Task Force explored air exchange issues in First Parish facilities and learned that while FP ventilation generally falls considerably short of current standards, the extent of the deficit is highly variable from space to space. In the meantime, we will keep windows in the sanctuary open for services for as long as weather allows.

In crafting these protocols, we have been guided by our desire to follow good science, to protect the most vulnerable in our community, including children who cannot yet be vaccinated, and to maintain our welcoming philosophy and love of being together. Realistically, despite all good faith efforts to be as safe as possible, we cannot reduce the risk of infection to zero. We support individuals and families as they choose how they feel most comfortable engaging in Services and other First Parish activities.  As a team, we remain committed to ongoing conversations and research about the best protocols for the congregation as the shifting context and knowledge evolves.

Respectfully submitted,
The Re-Entry Task Force:
Lynne Cavanaugh
Barbara Heffner
Kate Holland
Jim Kitendaugh
Rev. Stephanie May
Chauncey Wilson