JULY UPDATE ON THE REGATHERING PROCESS
MOVING CAUTIOUSLY ONE STEP AT A TIME
I continue to be immensely grateful for your faithfulness, patience, and commitment during this pandemic. I am equally grateful for the care you are showing me, the staff, and one another. There have been many hard days since March, but also many graces. God continues to work in us and through us; God continues to guide us through this wilderness. I give thanks and pray for each and every one of you as we move through this together.
I write to update you on our regathering plans. Given the nature of this pandemic, the leadership at All Saints agrees that it is prudent to take our time in regathering. In June, I formed a regathering team comprised of wardens (Brad MacDonald, Kari Limmer), staff (Stephan Griffin, David Bliss, Sue Poon, Renato Dantas), facility use committee (Roberta Schnoor, Charlie Rigg), and representatives of the ushers and altar guild (Henry Kettell, Sue LeClaire), together we have been working with a guide from the diocese on plans and protocols for reopening. The regathering team and vestry have gone over the results of the regathering survey more than 60 of you completed; we have been in conversation with our diocesan leadership, our insurance provider, and other experts; and we believe the regathering plan described below sets a course that prioritizes the needs of the most vulnerable, moving us forward cautiously, driven by the desire to gather once more as the whole community of God and informed by data-based scientific metrics.
As the Commonwealth moves into Phase III (see Governor Baker's 2 July order) the diocese is allowing congregations to move cautiously from Stage One (stay at home—building closed to all but essential personnel) into Stage Two (cautious—limited opening). Following the guidance and using checklists issued by our diocese on 16 June, 2020, we are developing a plan to move All Saints from Stage One to Stage Two in two steps.
- Step One—planning and limited reopening. The regathering team is putting the necessary protocols in place and securing certification from the diocese in preparation for a limited opening of our buildings beginning in mid-July. We will continue to refrain from indoor, in-person worship until at least September. This limited opening of the building means we are meeting with the Evergreen Church and any recovery groups who are interested in regathering to agree upon protocols that will allow them to return to in-person meetings in our spaces. Also, small groups of parishioners may be welcomed to the building and permitted to use some of the spaces here. We are also seeking approval from the diocese to experiment with forms of outdoor worship. We will remain in Step One until at least early September, which will allow us to prepare our move to Step Two.
- Step Two: By early September, if all of the public health indicators suggest it is allowable and we receive permission from the diocese, we would move to Step Two which may involve opening the nave to some form of in-person worship, and/or continue developing forms of outdoor worship. The executive committee, vestry, staff and I are all committed to continuing live streaming our services no matter what. We will also continue hosting other prayer and formation programs on Zoom until further notice. We encourage you to let us know if there are improvements or changes we should consider making that would make these online events more spiritually nourishing for you.
We are doing all of this as thoughtfully, deliberately, and as wisely as we can. Every decision about whether to move ahead to the next step or stage or to remain at, or return to, a previous stage is driven by the public health indicators in the Town of Brookline, Norfolk and Suffolk Counties, the Commonwealth and the advice of our diocesan authorities. We are doing all of this in consultation with a representative from the diocese (a shepherd), whom the regathering team has met with. Our regathering shepherd has helped us think through the many requirements and protocols that must be met and in place in order to receive certification and be granted permission from the diocese to move ahead. The vestry has reviewed and approved these plans, and diocesan approval is pending. I encourage you to read and familiarize yourself with the details of these plans which are described below.
MUSIC, COMMUNION, AND CHILDREN
A word about music, communion and children; like you I am heartsick that we can neither sing together, nor share communion. Sadly, this is not likely to change any time soon. Thankfully, under Stephan’s skilled and compassionate leadership, we will continue to have his organ playing and a talented soloist for our livestreamed Sunday service. We must remain united in our fasting from Holy Communion until it is safe to resume that practice. We will continue drawing strength from the Holy Spirit moving in our lives, our prayers, and our care for one another. I give thanks to our talented and dedicated crew of Monica and Miles Burden, Sam Burfeind, Alan and Jack McLellan, Ruby Gage—in addition to David, Stephan, Betsy, Emerald, Tammy, and Anoma, all the lectors, the Daughters of the King who write the prayers, Bonnie who proofreads everything—all who make it possible for us to continue gathering together online every week so that we can worship God and remember that we are the body of Christ.
Nursery care and church school remain prohibited under the diocesan Stage Two, however when we are able to have in-person worship (indoor or outdoor) families are allowed to sit together—following certain protocols. We will continue to support our children and families with our weekly online family check-ins, and our monthly Where the Bible Shows Up for teens. We are incredibly blessed to have Tammy, our new Family Minister, who is already at work creating additional opportunities for children, youth and families to gather in safe ways to pray, learn, and share the love of Christ.
As we journey through this wilderness, as we cling to one another over internet connections, we give thanks for all the grace and guidance we continue to receive. Together we will faithfully seek the light of God as it is revealed to us through scripture, fellowship, prayer, and as it is perceived through the lens of science. We rejoice at the love of God revealed in our care for one another. And we recommit to walking with one another—yoking ourselves to Christ—working together and following the recommended protocols. With courage and faith, we will emerge from this wilderness, and we will be able to gather again around God’s table, celebrate and give thanks for God’s goodness, God’s love, and God’s mercy. We will be able to lift every voice and sing of God’s faithfulness and God’s abundant grace on this journey. My deepest hope continues to be that all of our efforts to support one another through this time will be manifestations of our love of God and our care for one another. And that through this we will grow in grace, and in the knowledge and love of God.
DETAILS OF OUR REGATHERING PLANS
REGATHERING FOR WORSHIP
We will continue livestreaming our Sunday service, and will not regather in the nave until at least September, however we are exploring the possibility of a smaller outdoor evening service and are awaiting diocesan approval for that. Intensive, 24/7 track restoration work on the MBTA Green line will likely prohibit any outdoor worship in July due to noise and traffic and parking restrictions. Look for further updates about outdoor worship in a few weeks.
FACILITY USER GROUPS REGATHERING
The regathering team and I are in the process of meeting with leaders from the Evergreen Church and interested recovery groups. We will work with them to mutually agree upon how we can best support their ministry within the public safety guidelines we all must follow. Should we receive approval from the diocese, the Korean Evergreen Church could resume worship here in July.
USE OF CHURCH BUILDINGS
Starting Wednesday, 22 July the Parish House will be open from 10-4, Wednesday thru Friday, and by appointment. David will continue working remotely on Monday and Tuesday. The evening/weekend staff will be scheduled to staff the office when a group is using the Parish House. The following protocols will be in place.
- All individuals entering the building must certify they have self-screened using the Health and Wellness Self-screening Certification Checklist, first names and phone numbers will be kept confidentially for 28 days for the sole purpose of assisting with contact tracing, should the need arise. This certification can be done on the website or at the door to the parish house.
- Any individual or parish group who wishes to come into the buildings must reserve a time in advance with the appropriate staff member.
- All visitors must wear masks at all times while in the presence of others in the building.
- In instances where it is possible, everyone should maintain separation of 6 feet from each other per CDC Guidelines.
- At no time should there be more than 8 individuals per 1,000 square feet. The dining room, guild room and music room are all just about 1,000 square feet. Private prayer in the nave is allowed.
- Hand sanitizer, and soap and water is readily available.
- Renato and Damas Maintenance will modify their cleaning schedule to ensure that rooms are cleaned after use.
- If necessary, separate entry and exit doors will be marked to enable people to maintain physical distancing.
PREVENTION AND PERSONAL PROTECTIVE EQUIPMENT
We will require the use of face masks at all times while in the presence of others on the premises. We encourage individuals to provide their own masks and gloves, and we will have supplies of hand sanitizer, face masks, gloves, and tissues/paper towels on hand.
Signs are prominently displayed throughout the building reminding everyone to:
- Wash their hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds; and/or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.
- Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue or sleeve; do not use your hands.
- Do not touch your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Do not shake hands.
CLEANING OF FACILITY
- Damas Maintenance continues to thoroughly clean all parts of the church and parish house including offices and common areas twice weekly. Staff also have access to cleaning supplies located in the undercroft and office closet and will further sanitize their personal work areas at least once a day.
- A deeper cleaning in accordance with CDC guidelines will take place after any outside group utilizes the church property.
- Parishioners and visitors are requested to set up appointments to meet with any staff.
- Visitors will be limited to areas of the building that have been previously reserved for their use.
SCREENING OF SYMPTOMS
Screening protocols for all visitors and employees are now in place and will be utilized during various phases of the regathering. The current screening process is as follows:
- All employees will sign and comply with the Health and Wellness Screening Certification.
- All visitors will be asked to certify that they do not currently have any COVID-19 related symptoms and have not knowingly been in contact with someone with COVID-19 related symptoms during the past fourteen-day period. This certification can be done contact-free online, or in person at the Parish House door.
REPORT OF CLOSE CONTACT
If an employee comes into close contact with someone who has a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19, as defined in the Health and Wellness Screening Certification, they must notify their supervisor immediately. The employee will be required to self-quarantine for 14 days.
TESTING POSITIVE FOR COVID-19
If an employee or visitor tests positive for COVID-19, the group leader and Rector (or designee in his absence) must be notified immediately. The Rector will notify any employees and/or visitors who have come in contact with that employee during the last 14-day period. All information will be handled confidentially. Affected employees will be asked to leave work and self-quarantine for 14 days. All surfaces and work areas and equipment that the positive person has been working in/with for the last 14 days will be closed off and sanitized. All Saints staff or the group leader will notify the Brookline Department of Health (BDH) and will assist the BDH as reasonably requested to advise likely contacts to isolate and self-quarantine.
GUIDANCE WE ARE FOLLOWING
JOURNEY BY STAGES OUTLINE
As a reminder, on 16 June, our bishops issued guidance and checklists for congregations preparing for in-person regathering. The stages are:
- STAGE I –STAY AT HOME—BUILDING CLOSED TO ALL BUT ESSENTIAL PERSONNEL
- Working remotely is strongly encouraged. On site work is permissible for essential personnel provided the health and wellness checklist is completed and the covid-19 control plan is followed. At no point should there be more than 10 people in the building at a time. All worship is online.
- STAGE II —CAUTIOUS— LIMITED OPENING
- STAGE III—VIGILIANT – REDUCED FULL OPENING
- Work from home remains permissible. In-person gathering limits may change based on local and state guidelines. Health and wellness screening remains in effect. Safe distancing and hygiene measures remain in effect. Online worship continues, in-person worship with strict health and safety protocols may resumes. In-person youth ministry may resume. Holy Communion and congregational singing with strict safety measures in place may resume. Recovery groups and other facility user groups may return with some limitations.
- STAGE IV—NEW NORMAL– FULL OPENING
- During this stage the building will be opened for full use. All groups may return as scheduled. Some safe distancing and employee preventive measures will continue to be implemented. Online worship likely continues. In-person worship resumes.