Dear Old South Church,
WE BELIEVE IN SCIENCE
The Covid-19 virus is in abeyance in the US, the vaccination rate is high, and the vaccines themselves are extraordinarily effective. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts has therefore lifted most preventative restrictions. There are, however, two populations who remain vulnerable to infection: children under age 12 for whom there is no vaccine, and persons for whom the vaccines have not yet proven effective. The CDC and Old South Church's Covid-19 Blue Ribbon Task Force agree with the Commonwealth's assessment!
Now, how to reopen? This Old Ship of Faith needs a little time to get out of dry dock. We are in the process of contacting all our former ushers, docents and hospitality volunteers to ask who is prepared to return. We are also contacting our receptionists and weekend sexton to see who is coming back.
The following applies from July through August. We will tackle fall protocols and schedule at a later date.
WE VALUE DIVERSITY
Many are eager to return to a yet-to-be-revealed post-pandemic era. Others remain cautious. That's okay. We value diversity. We will return to Old South both masked and unmasked, immune and vulnerable, bold and timid. Let us therefore extend to each other barrels of grace and cornucopias of understanding. As we are wont to say: "No matter who you are, or where you are on life's (pandemic) journey, you are welcome here." Amen?
Some members of the Old South Church staff, however, are exhausted. Despite being physically closed, we have maintained all programs AND learned filming, special effects, and editing. We want to return refreshed and ready for a full, glorious, boisterous, brassy, pull-out-the-stops celebratory reopening in September. To that end, and to get to there from here, we have devised the following simplified transitional plans which will allow staff to take vacations and ease the workload, while fulfilling our cherished charism of being the Church of the Open Door.
WE VALUE OUR OPEN DOOR - SOFT OPENING
Starting on Sunday, July 4th and going through Sunday, September 5th you are invited to worship with us either in person (in our air-conditioned Chapel) or remotely (from wherever you are). In either case, whether you are in the Chapel, on your couch, or at the beach, we will all watch the same pre-recorded, edited worship services (what you have been used to for the past fifteen months). In other words, those who attend in person will participate in a "watch party" (via a screen and projector). You can still use the chat feature to communicate with the other worshippers, and you can greet old friends and newcomers in person. We will have a receptionist, ushers, docents, and clergy to welcome you and any visitors. Our Minister of Music will be on hand to provide voluntaries as we gather and depart. We will join our voices in the singing of hymns. You will be able to access the Sunday bulletin and announcements via a QR Code. (We can assist you with this; you need only have a smartphone.) Post worship refreshments will be served either out of doors or in the Narthex.
Our doors and our hearts will once again welcome the world, albeit in a somewhat altered form. We will be able to judge everyone's comfort and interest in reentry while practicing on those who are early reentry adopters.
WE EMBRACE THE FUTURE
At 352 years old, we've seen a thing or two. We understand disruption and trauma. We are skilled at adaptation and innovation. We are opportunists who will use the pandemic to catapult ourselves into new behaviors and practices. We have neither the expectation nor the desire to return to the pre-Covid world of racial injustice, spiraling climate crisis, and yawning economic inequities. Amen?
DURING THE WEEK
WE ARE A PEOPLE OF HOPE - FULL RE-ENTRY
We expect to fully reopen on Sunday, September 12th with a Celebration of the Christian Life and Blessing of the Backpacks. (Oh, do those backpacks need blessing!) By this time we will hope to have our new hybrid technologies installed (screen, projector, and cameras) to accommodate those who will continue to worship with us remotely. (We have found faraway friends with whom we are determined to maintain relationships.) This is to be followed by a Festival of New Beginnings on Sunday, September 19th. We will likely have new protocols to share with you in anticipation of our hope-full September re-entry.
Questions? You know how to reach me.
Summer blessings to each and all.
- Nancy S. Taylor