June 17, 2021

Regathering

By
Rev. Dr. Jennifer Yocum

We are Regathering in person (with limited numbers and all COVID precautions in place) for a limited time until mid-June. Sunday worship in the Sanctuary at 10:00 a.m. will take place through June 16. NO REGISTRATION NECESSARY.

Online Worship will continue to be offered through our YouTube channel. Many thanks to our COVID Advisory Team, our staff and all of the people who are doing everything they can to become vaccinated and keep infections down.

Note: There will be no nursery care available. Sunday School will remain outdoors or online at 4 p.m. Youth Group is on its own schedule. Children ARE WELCOME in worship.

You can read all about Regathering plans and precautions below:

Beloveds, the long shadow of the COVID-19 has not withdrawn entirely, but more hope is breaking through on the horizon. Vaccination rates are increasing and, while COVID-19 cases are still occuring, your UCC Missoula COVID-19 Advisory Team is recommending a series of regathering strategies for worship for your consideration.

Why “regathering” instead of “returning”?

After a more than a year of isolation, grief and loss, many of us are anxious to “return” back to the way church (and life outside of church) looked like before the pandemic. We miss hugs and handshakes, singing together, eating together, sharing communion and so many other customs, but the ongoing risks of this highly contagious and debilitating virus prohibit those activities.

Instead, we will develop new routines, rituals and traditions which maintain our values of hospitality and generous welcome while mitigating the risks of COVID-19 as much as possible.

Like butterflies emerging from the chrysalis, we will treat each other with kindness, patience and loving support as we live into new ways of being with each other during this transition time.  Modifications to these strategies will take place as virus conditions improve or worsen, under the consultation of the UCC COVID Advisory Team and the Cabinet.

NOTE: This set of strategies is being proposed for the period of May 2-June 13. Summer will see half of our staff out of the office for sabbatical and other planned time off. Summer worship strategies will likely focus on online offerings with monthly in-person gatherings.

Summary of Strategies

Online Ministry: Online worship and other ministries will continue to be available going forward.

Children, Youth and Nursery: Sunday School and Youth Ministry will maintain their current time and programming OUTDOORS on Sunday afternoons (or as they determine). Sunday School and nursery care will NOT be available during the 10 a.m. worship time.  Youth and children are welcome to attend worship in person.  We ask that children over 2 wear a mask.

Masks: We will require use of face masks whenever in our building or on UCC Missoula property (this includes the courtyard), except for those leading worship, while they are speaking.

Distancing: We will tape off every other row in the Sanctuary and require that 6 feet of distance be maintained between individuals or family units. Distancing will also be required for any other gatherings in our building and on our property.

Hand Sanitizing: Sanitizing stations are already set up in several locations throughout the building.

Limits to gathering size and duration: A maximum of 50 people will be allowed in the sanctuary. We will encourage congregants to reserve their seats and will provide a check in station for attendees. Worship times will be limited to under one hour. Fellowship gathering will be encouraged to take place outside, away from doorways, for limited periods while maintaining masks and distancing.

Touchless participation: We have already removed hymnals, Bibles and other papers from the pews. We will eliminate “passing”—passing the plate, passing the peace, passing communion trays, etc. We will not allow food or beverages for any indoor church activities.  

Cleaning: Intensive cleaning and airing will take place after and between any use of the Sanctuary. We also ask those who have used/touched surfaces to use conveniently placed sanitizing sprays and wipes.

Music: Any music featuring voices or wind/brass instruments will be pre-recorded for use for in-person worship.

Reporting

Should any attendee at any UCC Missoula worship or other gathering develop symptoms of COVID-19 or become diagnosed with the virus, we will encourage them to seek medical attention, respond to all inquiries from the Missoula County Health Department, and let us know if they would like prayer or other support. We WILL NOT disclose any health conditions without express permission to do so. We ask that all of those determined to have had close contact with a person who has been infected to observe all quarantine requirements. Note: We will NOT inquire about or track vaccination status for anyone who attends our worship services, nor will we collect health information including temperature, symptoms or quarantine status.

Other Use of Sanctuary Space

We are currently limiting use of our Sanctuary space to UCC Missoula only. One ensemble rehearsal per day may take place in the Sanctuary if scheduled through Graham in our front office. Rehearsal/use may not take place after 6 p.m. on Tuesday evenings or after noon on Saturday. All singers must use masks with filters or otherwise designed for singing. We encourage use of mitigation covers on wind/brass instruments.

Small Group Gatherings not in the Sanctuary

A list of protocols for small group gatherings outside of the sanctuary is available on our website and through our administrator’s office. UCC-related small groups may meet as they agree to use the established protocols and appoint a liaison with the Church Administrator.

For more information

For comments, questions, ideas and offers of great appreciation (!) you may contact our COVID-19 Advisory Team—Jean Woessner, Steve Decker, Joyce Watson, Bobbie Bevington, Carolyn Dewey and Pastor Jennifer Yocum through jennifer@uccmissoula.org

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