This morning Governor Baker released details of a plan to reopen the Commonwealth. He issued standards that places of worship must meet in order to reopen. Last week the Unitarian Universalist Association encouraged member congregations to engage in online worship through May 2021.
For now, we at First Parish remain committed to online worship through Labor Day. Our religious education offerings, meetings and programs also continue online. Staff are available for appointments online as well.
The health and well-being of all is the priority. Reopening the meetinghouse for small and for large gatherings will involve planning and work. The Parish Committee will continue to consider the safety recommendations of its COVID19 Working Group.
Managing the numerous logistics at First Parish and throughout our lives will be complex. The circumstances call us to practice age-old spiritual qualities or attitudes.
Imagination. An Imaginative Spirit calls us to engage creatively with change.
Trust. A Trusting Spirit calls us to assume that everyone comes with good intent to the work and the choices before us.
Forgiveness. A Forgiving Spirit calls us to live gracefully with life’s wide variety of disappointments – both the disappointments we experience and the disappointments we bring to others.
Gratitude. A Grateful Spirit calls us to remember the abundance of good among us.
To this moment we bring a love and a care for the sick, the vulnerable and the disadvantaged. We also bring gusto and playfulness as we engage in new ways. We have already experienced the online breakout groups instead of Sunday greetings and online chat as Joys and Concerns. Now we think about future possibilities for gatherings in the meetinghouse.
Below I offer highlights of the Commonwealth’s standards for reopening and the implications for us at First Parish.
How grateful I am to share this moment with you and the community we call First Parish.
Rev. Marta Morris Flanagan, Lead Minister
First Parish Arlington, Massachusetts
Highlights of the Commonwealth’s Phase One Standards
for Reopening Places of Worship
and the Implications for First Parish
May 18, 2020
The Commonwealth’s Criteria for Reopening
The Commonwealth mandated that everyone wear a mask in places of worship. Other criteria set by the Commonwealth require work and preparation in order to reopen the meetinghouse. The standards for reopening issued by the Commonwealth today include but are not limited to:
- Limiting occupancy to 40%. For First Parish this will involve securing official and updated occupancy information for the meetinghouse and our various rooms.
- Adhering to cleaning, disinfecting and hygiene protocols. For First Parish this will involve more frequent and deeper cleaning performed by volunteers and/or additional staffing hours.
- Practicing heathy spacing of at least 6 feet between people except those from the same household. For First Parish this will mean signage and adjusting the arrangements of furnishings in all rooms including the sanctuary.
Concerns Specific to Sunday Morning
In this first phase of reopening the Commonwealth is prohibiting childcare as well as all gatherings before or after worship (no social or coffee hour). The Commonwealth also encourages modifications to rituals and practices in worship.
Before resumption of worship in the sanctuary, the Worship Associates will consider modifications to:
- greetings as part of worship
- passing and placing of stones during worship
- the receiving line following worship
- the use of printed orders of service as well as hymnals and songbooks
- the seating arrangements in the sanctuary
The Music Committee will consider what kinds of music can be offered safely (recorded, instrumental, etc.)
The Parish Committee, the ushers and greeters, and the Worship Associates will consider modifying how the offering is conducted
The Religious Education Committee has a task force to consider and recommend adjustments to the space and the program before reopening.
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