By Will Aitcheson
Last month I requested feedback on how and when to reopen our facility to scheduled activities, and when and how to gather again in person for worship. There were 19 written responses in all. Six of 19 respondents expressed that they would like, or perhaps very much like, to participate in an outside service; either in our parking lot, another parking lot, a drive-in movie venue, or at a park picnic setting. Only one person responded to express the desire to congregate inside, and even then, not until September. For this person, this could be acceptable if we continued social distancing and wore masks. Another person stated emphatically that having to wear a mask in order to stay safe would not be acceptable. Still another responder made it clear that they would not feel safe participating indoors until a covid-19 vaccine and treatment were available. They asked cogently and poignantly that we continue Zoom or recorded services in conjunction with live indoor service should such services be held before a vaccine and treatment were viable.
These results are not and should not be the end of discussion. Things continue to change. Today, Wednesday June 17th, the Capital District of which we are a part, began phase 3. Restaurants and retail stores can conduct business at a fraction of capacity, under strict cleaning and hygiene rules, and with continued social distancing. If progress continues, phase 4 may begin in 3 weeks or so. In phase 4, schools, churches, and sports and entertainment venues will reopen. Last Sunday, some area churches opened at 25% capacity and with social distancing, masks, and strict cleaning protocols. These churches continue to offer YouTube recordings and Zoom meetings for coffee hour.
Still, the state has not released phase 4 protocols. There is no guarantee of continued progress. Also a second wave of infection is nearly universally predicted, but no one feels confident in predicting when it will arrive or how severe it will be. This is why I am recommending to the Board that we continue our present policy that our facility will remain closed until further notice, and that we continue to review the decision as the first order of business at every monthly Board meeting. For those who really want to try an outdoor service, I will recommend, pending Board approval, that the Worship Committee consider any written request in that regard.
The Board is committed to be as representative a democracy as possible. Any member or friend can communicate their ideas or concerns regarding reopening or any other issue to any Board member, and especially to me. Just because the survey process is over, the communication most assuredly is not. Also, any member or friend can attend our monthly Board meeting. Just let me know in advance, and I will personally send you an invitation via email.
I am compelled to say what I feel and what I have heard from many in our Beloved Community: Black lives matter to me. Black lives matter to us. And increasingly, Black lives matter to most Americans across all demographics. Let us hope and pray that real, pervasive, and systemic change actually happens.
God, please, may it be so… finally.
P.S. It was decided at our June 18th Board meeting, that we will continue to stay closed, but we will convene a reopening committee to recommend opening criteria, and safety and cleaning protocols. The members of the reopening committee are: Reverend Barbara, Mike Goodwin, Rich Myette, Jean Grant, and myself. We will keep the Congregation apprised.