Safety Team Policy on Church Building Use

September 3, 2020

Safety Team Policy: Church Building Use During the COVID-19 Pandemic

 

Follen’s Safe Congregation Group, the President, Vice President, Co-chair of Lay Ministry, the Director of Religious Education, and the Minister, is charged with responding to safety issues that arise under the Follen Church Policy on Safety. 

Our covenant, from that policy:

“We, the congregation of Follen Community Church, wish to be a welcoming and inclusive congregation that is a safe and life-affirming place for the people who trust Follen to be their spiritual home. We respect the worth and dignity of every individual. It is ultimately the responsibility of the entire congregation, not just those in leadership positions, or formally signed Members, but all community participants, to create and maintain a climate that supports the growth and welfare of everyone in the congregation. Consistent with this spirit, we covenant to work to develop policies and practices that promote safety in congregational life and to provide training and guidelines for handling unsafe situations. We strive to take steps to promote a safe environment and covenant to address whatever problems arise with courage, equity, compassion and the thoughtful application of our Unitarian Universalist values and principles.”

This policy is subject to change and will be revisited and revised as needed. Our policy will be guided by state rules and regulations, current science, and Unitarian Universalist values. 

As a team, we wish to note that any in-person interaction during the Covid-19 pandemic carries some level of risk. There is no perfectly safe policy or procedure that can eliminate the chance of contracting Covid-19. That said, we have tried to find ways that our community can have some meaningful in-person interaction, while minimizing the risk as much as possible. It is each individual’s responsibility to decide if they wish to take the risk.

The building, including sanctuary and Marshman Center, will remain essentially closed: no casual, informal gatherings or drop-ins by members, friends, or renters. Sunday morning Worship will be on Zoom to maximize the safety and accessibility for all members, friends, and newcomers. Some supplementary worship gatherings may be offered outdoors in the fall, following the below safety guidelines. The Religious Education program for children and youth will be virtual until further notice. Church- sponsored extracurricular RE activities and events must follow the same safety protocols as outlined below. We will prioritize building use that helps meet the spiritual and religious needs of our community (worship, covenant groups) and our justice work.

Public health professionals have agreed that outdoor gatherings are less likely to transmit COVID-19 than indoor gatherings when basic guidelines are met. As such, the safety team encourages your group to consider the possibility of meeting outdoors rather than indoors. Church-sponsored adult gatherings may be scheduled to meet outdoors on Follen grounds and elsewhere if the requirements and recommendations below are met. Accessibility is a priority.

As groups consider whether to hold in-person gatherings (indoors or outdoors), we strongly encourage reflection as to how this decision may impact more vulnerable members of our community and the wider community. Inclusiveness and accessibility are justice issues core to our mission. If any member of the community is uncomfortable with an in-person gathering, the group should continue to meet virtually. Likewise, Follen staff members will not be required to participate in in-person gatherings if they feel unsafe in doing so during the Covid-19 pandemic. 

If someone attends an event at Follen and later is diagnosed with Covid-19, we will rapidly alert attendees. Events may have to be cancelled with short notice.

 

For All Events:

 

  1. Every gathering should have an appointed Safety Observer (as we have Timekeepers and Process Observers) to remind folks to maintain physical distance and to wear masks. Anyone refusing to observe physical distancing, wear a mask or continues to wear a mask improperly will be asked to leave the event.
  2. Attendance must be kept with full names and contact information for any future contact tracing. An exception may be made for Alcoholics Anonymous.
  3. Where an event has a known group of attendees, before scheduling an in-person event, every member of the group must be given the opportunity to safely, and with confidence, state that they are uncomfortable with an in-person event, and therefore continue or implement the events virtually.  To accomplish this, each member of the group should e-mail or communicate by some other means with the event leader, who will hold in confidence the responses of the group members, and make a determination about whether or not the event should be held in-person or virtually.
  4. Proper mask-wearing is mandatory for all those present over the age of three. 
  5. Maintain a physical distance of a minimum 6 feet apart for each household.
  6. All minors attending events must have a parent or designated adult with them on site.

 

Indoors:

 

  1. We follow the state guidelines, keeping indoor use to a minimum.
  2. We are allowing use of three rooms that are large enough to allow for meaningful social distancing: the Sanctuary, the Sonin Music Room, and the Community Center. The main kitchen will be available for food preparation. Note that the three rooms, the Sanctuary, the Sonin Room, and the Community Center / Kitchen are on separate ventilation / air recirculation systems.
    1. Sanctuary: maximum of 23 people
    2. Sonin Room: maximum of 8 people
    3. Community Center: maximum of 15 people
    4. Kitchen: maximum of 2 people
  3. The maximum number of event participants is 23.  If two separate events are scheduled, the start and end times must be staggered to avoid too many people entering or exiting the building at the same time, unless used by the same group..
  4. No live vocal or wind instrument performance is permitted (audience present).
  5. The creation of recordings of vocal or wind instruments are allowed when musicians not in the same household are 25 feet apart. (no audience present)
  6. Instrumental performance that is not wind or vocal is permitted, but only with musicians masked and 6 feet apart (unless musicians live together).
  7. No food or drink will be allowed at indoor events..
  8. Individuals preparing food for consumption by others must be masked and gloved, use hand sanitizer and wash hands frequently. While the kitchen may not be used to prepare food for indoor or outdoor gatherings, it may be used for example to prepare food for a shelter.
  9. Hand sanitizer must be available for usage at several locations, readily available to those in attendance.  We recommend use of hand sanitizer or hand-washing immediately upon entering the building.
  10. Specific bathrooms will be designated for usage during the event.
  11. Event participants are expected to clean up after themselves.  A more thorough cleaning of all areas used will be conducted by Follen’s sexton following the event.
  12. Windows must be opened during events in the Sonin room to allow in outside air, and closed at the conclusion of the event.  Other rooms incorporate outside air automatically and opening windows is optional, but recommended.  Ensure all windows are closed at the conclusion of the event.
  13. Staff working from the church building should maintain proper mask-wearing except when alone in their offices.
  14. We recommend using the open stairway to access different floors. The elevator should only be used when necessary for accessibility or moving equipment.

 

Outdoors:

 

  1. We will follow the state guidelines, which as of 8/10/2020 allow a maximum of 50 people gathered outdoors.     
  2. To maintain attendance under 50, any worship or event planned will include a timed sign-up; this includes Follen’s longstanding East Village Fair. 
  3. Masks are mandatory, except while consuming food or drink.
  4. No food or drink may be served.
  5. Specific bathrooms will be designated for usage during the event. Entrance and exits to/from the bathrooms will be marked, and markers will be placed at 6 ft. intervals to help maintain distance while waiting.  For larger outdoor events, bathroom use will be controlled so that there is time between usage.
  6. If the event includes live music with wind instruments or vocals, a distance of 25 feet must be maintained downwind to any participants.