When will we be able to see one another in person again?

That question has been on our minds since . . . March 2020!  For months we’ve wondered when it would be safe to transition back to being an in-person community.  This has been a regular topic of discussion among our professional staff and a periodic conversation with the members of our Transition Group.

Recent weeks have allowed us to engage in a much more hopeful exploration.  First with the availability and then with increased access to vaccinations, we have at last seen the kinds of hopeful developments pointing to an opportunity to “reemerge” in a form familiar to most of us from the past.

A Sunday service in our sanctuary

We’ve known since early in the pandemic that the combination of the health threat and the challenges of our particular space meant that our biggest challenge would be a return to offering Sunday services in our sanctuary.  However, we now find reason to begin planning for that happy occasion.  The professional staff has proposed, and the Transition Group has approved, a plan to have a service in our sanctuary on Sunday, September 12, the Sunday after Labor Day.

We don’t yet know what we can anticipate on that day.  Will we have two in-person services?  Will we be required to wear masks?  Will it be possible to sing together?  Can we anticipate sharing a cup of coffee or tea over conversation in Freeman Hall?  How will we do programming for children and youth on that day?  Only as that time draws nearer will we be able to determine what is safe.  Be assured of this: as we have done all along, we will follow the best guidance from the medical and scientific community, carefully creating our own expectations based on what is being recommended.

Other possibilities in the meantime

Many of us are aware that we have begun nominal in-person programming, offering occasional social opportunities and Childen and Youth Religious Education classes face to face.  You can anticipate a growing number of ways to gather in smaller groups in the coming weeks and months.

All throughout the summer, we’ll be exploring opportunities for small groups to gather in the building to engage in one-time offerings connected to our summer theme (read “Introducing Our Summer Theme: ‘Roots hold me close'”).

A commitment to an ongoing virtual presence

While many of us are excited about the prospect of returning to our shared space, there are those among us who are reticent to do so.  And there are many of us who have learned that there are distinct advantages to accessing meetings or classes virtually.  We’re committed to continuing a virtual presence.  At the very least, we’ll continue to offer a live stream of our Sunday services for those who will prefer to access services on a screen.

We’re exploring other possibilities and are planning to upfit our spaces in ways that will allow us to offer hybrid opportunities—available either as an in-person or a virtual experience.  And we fully expect some teams or other groups to opt for meetings by way of Zoom aware that this makes for an ease of access (and a care for the earth) that some will continue to find appealing. We’re also aware that some who live at a great distance have either discovered or reconnected to our community in this time and will appreciate ways to stay involved even after most of us have come back together.

Professional staff returns

Our professional staff have all been vaccinated and had the necessary two-week waiting period thereafter.  So, we all returned to working out of our offices beginning on Monday, May 17.  The issue of Currents on Thursday, May 13 included the initial guidelines for engaging with professional staff onsite.

234

And to what space will we be returning? During recent weeks, we’ve been discussing how to refer to our building, an edifice we have, heretofore called “the church.”  However, with our intentional name change from “church” to “community,” that reference is obviously problematic.  We’ve considered the simple designation “234” as a viable shorthand way to reference that space (a nod to our address—234 North Sharon Amity.)  So, for example, we might say, “We will meet at 234 at 7 p.m. on Tuesday.”  We’ll be practicing that designation to see if it helps us create both clarity and consistency.

More to come . . .

Read Currents in the coming weeks for more information and for more opportunities.  We are proceeding with care and with great anticipation, excited at very long last to look to the days when we will reemerge as an in-person community.