Safety Team Update: Reopening and Covid

Safety Team Plan: Reopening our Church

Vaccination Criteria and Metrics:

We will reopen the church for indoor large gatherings when: 

  1. Safe and effective vaccines are widely available; all adults are eligible to receive the vaccine, and reasonable time has allowed all adults to receive the vaccine. Widely available means free to patients, at multiple accessible locations in the County, with readily available appointments. Minors under 16 are not currently allowed to receive a Covid-19 vaccine; when a vaccine for minors is created, we will update our policy.
  2. According to Covid Act Now, Middlesex County is at a “green” risk level for at least 30 days.

Expectations:

  1. We expect regular, in-person Religious Education and FUUY Youth Group meetings will not resume until September 2021, at the earliest.
  2. Sunday morning worship will continue primarily online at least through September 5, 2021. This includes summer services.
  3. All people using our space indoors will remain distanced and masked, even if vaccinated. Our space is used by a mix of people, some of whom will not be able to be vaccinated for some time. 
  4. We expect that all those eligible to receive the Covid-19 vaccine will do so at their earliest eligibility and convenience.
  5. Our children 16 and under will not be able to be vaccinated against Covid-19 until there is a vaccine available to them; they are still invited to take part in the life of our community though precautions will be taken depending on CDC recommendations. 

Hopes, not Promises:

  1. Starting in April 2021, we may offer some special worship and social gatherings (for example, an outdoor Easter sunrise service). These offerings will follow the Safety guidelines below.
  2. Regular in-person Sunday morning worship may begin as early as September 12, 2021.
  3. When we return to in-person worship, we will still find a way to engage folks virtually in worship–through livestreaming or other technology.

Future Questions and Considerations the Safety Team will need to discuss:

  1. If/when can we safely consume food and drink on site, for example, coffee hour?
  2. If/when can adults and unvaccinated children be together, for example in RE and worship?
  3. Will we begin communal in-person worship and/or Religious Education programs for children and youth outdoors before reopening indoors? 
  4. How may our choirs re-form and safely gather?
  5. What other risks and possibilities will arise? 

Safety Team Policy: Updated April 2, 2021

References:

Rochester IL plan

Governor Baker’s Press Release about Entering Phase 3 Part 2

CDC guidelines for Faith Communities

Massachusetts Guidelines for Reopening

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 role as the Safety Team is to offer policy to support Safety at Follen Church; it is the responsibility of the Action Teams, Minister and Staff to figure out how and when they use this policy to offer gatherings, programs, and worship within these guidelines. 

Our covenant, from the Safety 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 federal and 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 and parent’s responsibility to decide if they wish to take the risk.

The building, including sanctuary and Marshman Center, are available by confirmed arrangement/appointment only: no casual, informal gatherings or drop-ins by members, friends, or renters. Please contact our Business Manager, Linda Hein (linda.hein@follen.org), to make arrangements. Building use by staff is determined through supervisor and HR agreement. 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, 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. 

For All Events:

  1. For any event, please recognize that outdoor gatherings are safer than indoor gatherings. 
  2. Every gathering should have an appointed Safety Observer to remind folks to maintain physical distance, maintain safety hygiene (hand sanitizer and/or handwashing) 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.
  3. Attendance must be kept with full names and contact information for any future contact tracing. An exception may be made for Alcoholics Anonymous.
  4. 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.
  5. Proper mask-wearing is mandatory for all those present over the age of three. 
  6. Maintain a physical distance of a minimum 6 feet apart for each household.
  7. Minors need a parent or designated adult present. FUUY Youth Group may be granted special permission for occasional gatherings which do not require parental attendance, but do require a 1:6 adult to youth ratio, with a minimum of 3 adults present.
  8. Consideration must be given to inclusivity, accessibility, and equity when planning gatherings.

 Indoors: 

  1. We follow the state guidelines, keeping indoor use to a minimum. Meeting outdoors is still safer.
  2. We still expect, at this stage, that all people using our space indoors will remain distanced and masked, even if vaccinated. Our space is used by a mix of people, some of whom will not be able to be vaccinated for some time. 
  3. 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 46 people
  2. Sonin Room: maximum of 16 people
  3. Community Center: maximum of 30 people
  4. Kitchen: maximum of 4 people (no eating or drinking allowed at this time)
  1. No unmasked performance is permitted with an audience present.
  2. Unmasked musicians, maintaining 25 foot distance (unless in the same household) can create recordings of vocal or wind instruments with no audience present. 
  3. Masked musicians, maintaining 10 foot distance (unless in the same household) can create recordings with no audience present. Bell covers are recommended.
  4. Indoor choir practices will not resume until September 2021 at the earliest. 
  5. No food or drink will be served at indoor events. People may bring their own beverage as needed.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. Staff working from the church building should maintain proper mask-wearing except when alone in their offices.
  11. 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 March 22, 2021 allow a maximum of 150 people gathered outdoors.     
  2. To maintain attendance under 150, any worship or event planned will include a sign-up.  
  3. Masks are mandatory.
  4. No food or drink may be served.
  5. Bathrooms are available indoors and people are expected to wear masks indoors.
  6. If the event includes live music and/or communal singing, participants must be masked and 10 feet distanced. An unmasked performer can sing or play a wind instrument with 25 foot distancing from those gathered. Bell covers are recommended for wind instruments.