Dear Parish Members,

I am writing as chair of the Regathering committee, to let you know what the committee has been doing.  As you recall, worship in the church was shut down in March 2020 due to fear of Covid-19 transmission. The Regathering committee was formed to implement requirements from the Diocese on how worship could resume.  The committee has been meeting since summer of 2020, first weekly, and now every 3-4 weeks.  Paula Antonevich expertly ran the committee as its first chairperson, and I became chair when she moved away.  The other committee members are Cassie Bowlby, Murray Daniels, Richard Friesner, Mother Emily Garcia, and Christopher Huggins.  Lori Wright also was on the committee during its initial meetings.

Some of the guidelines or restrictions on our worship and other activities came from the Diocese.  Guidance from the bishops required that we institute six-foot distancing between households, maintain masking, and (until recently) avoid singing inside or eating and drinking together.  The Diocese also required that the church does not ask about vaccination status or use vaccination status to prevent participation in public worship.  (The rules for six-foot spacing and no vaccination requirement apply specifically to public worship).

When we learned that the virus causing Covid-19 was transmitted mainly by respiratory aerosols, the Regathering committee convened a Ventilation subcommittee, consisting of Christopher Huggins, Sarah Klein, Jamie Burnside, and myself.  This group “geeked out” on studies of droplet transmission, air exchange, and air filtration.  We purchased a carbon dioxide monitor to measure indoor carbon dioxide as a method to track air exchange.  We recently asked the Vestry to purchase air purifiers to place in the front of the church, the offices, and the kitchen.

Where do we stand now in our efforts to keep everyone safe?

  1. We are maintaining six-foot distancing between households, and indoor masking, as required by the Diocese.
  2. The six-foot distancing allows about 18 households in the church, with the potential to add 6-7 more in the chancel and balcony.  Overflow seating is possible in the Great Hall.
  3. The congregation is now allowed to sing with masks on during the indoor service.
  4. We have obtained indoor CO2 measurements in the church during worship that indicate excellent ventilation when the windows are open.  We will be trying other ventilation options and measuring the effectiveness of air exchange.
  5. We have protocols to track attendance and notify the Board of Health if anyone at church tests positive for Covid-19.
  6. The Food Pantry has returned the space in the Great Hall to the church, to use for parish activities and rentals.  The Great Hall and downstairs meeting room have effective fans for air exchange.
  7. The adult choir has transitioned to rehearsing inside in-person.  Children’s and youth programs are also transitioning to indoor spaces.
  8. Adult Forum can now occur in hybrid form, with participants in the Great Hall and remotely.
  9. The Tech Team continues its excellent work, to allow parishioners to participate online, if they do not feel comfortable returning to in-person worship.

Our committee continues to follow the literature on Covid-19, and the number of cases both nationally and locally, as we try to decide when it is safe to resume more of our parish activities.  The goal is to maintain our community and keep us all safe.

Please feel free to contact me or other members of the committee, if you have questions or concerns.

Best wishes for healthy holidays,
Erica Brotschi MD