In many religious traditions to be spiritually awake calls for an ongoing awareness that nothing is permanent. The stuff and the terms of our lives are ever changing. Again and again, we must be adjusting our expectations and our ways of being. Perhaps the task of life is to do that as gracefully as possible.
This summer mutations of the coronavirus brought about a rise in COVID cases. As we turn towards the fall, many are asking the following question:
What is First Parish doing about Ingathering on Sunday, September 12?
Last night the congregation’s elected governing board, the Parish Committee, made some decisions with enormous grace….
Vaccinated or unvaccinated, in order to enter the building you must be masked. Masks must be worn in the meetinghouse by everyone except those who are 2 years old or younger.
The exceptions are:
…inside staff offices. The offices are each now separately ventilated. If four or fewer people gather inside an office, are vaccinated and agree to be without masks, they are permitted to do so.
…during worship, if a person at the front of the sanctuary maintains 10 feet distances, they can remove their mask to address the congregation.
Children can gather indoors as they do for school. If they are older than 2 years old, they must be masked.
All adults working with children must be vaccinated. That includes teachers, advisors, and group leaders. Adults working with children are asked to sign a form saying they have been vaccinated.
One of the wonderful things about First Parish is how children and adults gather together in the sanctuary and vestry. The Parish Committee is asking the Religious Education Committee and the Director of Religious Education, Tina Schultz, to consider whether this practice should continue or whether for now children should be limited to certain areas of the building when adults are present in large numbers.
There will be no congregational singing. How very much we have missed singing together! But for now, we must set that practice aside.
The Parish Committee is asking the Music Director Jonathan Brennand and the Music Committee to explore the possibilities for choral singing, soloists and others. There may be ways to responsibly minimize the risk of infection such as special singing masks, or singing outside, singing with healthy spacing.
Food and Drink
There will be no food or beverages served inside the meetinghouse. Consuming food in the meetinghouse would require taking off masks. Eating and drinking in the courtyard and other outside areas is permitted.
All staff are proudly and fully vaccinated. As of August 12, in Arlington 72% of the total population is fully vaccinated; 84% of those 12 and older are fully vaccinated.
We welcome and look forward to seeing folks again in the meeting house for worship. We also understand that some may want to take further precautions and enjoy watching worship online. With help of ACMI (Arlington Community Media, Inc.), Julius Pereli and the Tech Team at First Parish, we are installing equipment to broadcast worship as it occurs in the sanctuary.
What is going to be like on Ingathering Sunday, September 12?
It will be a celebration! We will gather for worship in our new and improved sanctuary. This winter and spring the Property Committee oversaw the repairing of the sanctuary (first time in 30 years!) and upgraded the ceiling lights and replaced the foggy windows. It is a newly painted and brighter space! There will be music and stories and prayers. There will be activities for children outdoors. And we have reserved the Whittemore lawn (behind the library) for additional outdoor space to gather after worship.
Keep your eye out for emails with further details in next several weeks,
Rev. Marta Morris Flanagan
Rev. Erica F Richmond