September 24, 2020

Outdoor Gathering Protocols

Rev. Dr. Jennifer Yocum

Guidance for Outdoor Gatherings

UCC Missoula

UCC Family and Friends,

Thank you so much for your patience and supportive of our church closing our building back in early March to flatten the curve and prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus which causes COVID-19. Four long months later, many of us are longing to reconnect in person. While in-person worship is still not advisable, UCC staff and church leadership would like to offer opportunities for small groups to gather outdoors in our courtyard.

In creating these opportunities, we are leaning into the following values:

A) Safer space: While no gathering can be 100 percent guaranteed safe, we are creating a series of protocols that we hope will create “safer” space and practices that will help us transition into in-person worship in the Fall. Since the virus travels best over longer-term exposure, we will limit the time exposure of these gatherings to 45 minutes.

B) Love-based compliance: While much our UCC personality is centered in the idea of local individual interpretation in matters of theology and faith practice, with these protocols, we “do a new thing” in requiring everyone to adhere to these rules, and remind others to adhere to these rules in a spirit of loving care.  Those who choose to not adhere to the required protocols will be asked to leave the space.

C) Starting Small, Learn as we go: We’re going to start with 2 groups of 5 people setting one group at the fire pit and another group near the fountain. Plastic chairs will be available, personal chairs are encouraged. As we learn together how this can work best, we may be able to expand the number or size of our groups. We are starting with two gathering times per week, Sunday afternoon at 1 p.m. and Thursday evening at 6:30 p.m.

Protocols begin on the next page.

The protocols for small group gatherings in the Courtyard are as follows:

1) Pre-register: Sign up for a spot before you arrive. We may be able to accommodate some onsite registration, but prior registration will help everyone know that they can participate.  (We hope to accommodate up to 10 people per gathering, 5 people in two circles to start.)

2) Assess your health: Before you leave your house, self-check to make sure you do not have a fever, cough, scratchy throat or any other symptoms related to COVID-19.  If you have any of these symptoms, please take care of yourself and stay home. If you’re well, bring your mask!

3) Nix the cookies and punch: Please do not bring food or drink to share from a common plate. You may bring your own water, but please pack out anything you pack in.

4) Wear a mask. If you do not have a mask, we will provide one for you. Everyone will wear a mask at all times, lineup through departure. No exceptions.

5) Practice Physical Distancing: Avoid mingling before and after the group meets. Please do not leave your car to line up outside the gate until 5 minutes before your gathering is set to begin. Observe at least 6 feet of physical distancing at all times. Children are welcome if they can maintain these protocols.

6) Sign in.  Please allow a host to sign you in, one at a time, and update your contact information should we need to inform you about any potential exposure.

7) Don’t touch. This is hard, but we have to ask you to refrain from any kind of hug, handshake, tap on the arm, or other physical contact.

8) Stay in your circles. Hosts will create circle spaces for gatherings in the Courtyard: initially, one at the Fire Pit and another near the Fountain. If/When we feel it’s prudent to increase the number of people who can gather, a third circle can be added near the Peace Pole. Staff will mark out placements for chairs. We encourage you to bring your own chairs, but we will have plastic chairs available. (Staff will sanitize chairs after use. Please do not put away chairs that you’ve used.) Once you have chosen a seat, do not move the seat or move to another circle.

9) Check for Confidentiality. We never know when people will share information with us that they may wish to remain private. Please create confidentiality agreements that your group will keep.

10) Wait for directions to leave. Circles will be dismissed individually to allow for distancing. Please do not mingle after the gathering has ended.

11) After you go.  Remember to wash your hands or use hand sanitizer as soon as possible after leaving, and of course, refrain from touching your face.


This includes no restroom access.

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