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The decision to extend the building closure until now January 3, 2021 was not, as you can imagine, made lightly. We would like to share with you how this decision was made, and on what information.
Southern New England Conference of the United Church of Christ
Just prior to Governor Baker’s announcement that churches may begin to once again hold in-person worship services, the SNEC-UCC released their recommendation that church buildings remain closed to group events of any kind at least until September 1. We have now extended the closure through January 3, 2021.
Upon Gov. Baker’s announcement, they stood by their recommendation, and reiterated their reasons. Their full commentary and analysis is available on their website at sneucc.org/phasingforward. Below are several excerpts:
• First, there is no way to ensure the overall safety of our congregations and communities until there is a trusted vaccine.
• Second, in person worship in sanctuaries is one of the types of gatherings that is most likely to spread the infection:
— In an enclosed room over a length of time the airborne viral particles can reach every corner. 6-foot or 12-foot physical distancing will not prevent this.
— Speaking, praying, and singing aloud propels the virus even further than just breathing.
— Using masks limits but does not prevent the transmission of the disease.
— Common surfaces abound.
— We know that people can be carriers of the virus without any symptoms.
• Third, we don’t know everything about this disease and its impact on all ages. New information is coming out daily. This makes it hard to predict trends, safety measures, and phases.
• Fourth, our congregations are comprised of the populations most vulnerable to Covid-19.
• Fifth, an outbreak in our churches impacts our communities and the capacity of our health care system.
CSCC Board of Deacons
The Board of Deacons recommended to the Cabinet that they did not feel reopening the building was appropriate at this time, with the following thoughts:
• Many of our usual traditions, and the interactions that we hold dear as a part of worship, would likely not be a part of it: greeting, ushering, conducting the offering, communion, and coffee hour.
• There is not much to be gained by having the office staff working on location more than they are now, and we do not want to encourage visitors to the office. They can continue to work remotely as they have been as much as possible and at their comfort level.
Cabinet met in May on their usual 3rd Wednesday of the month, on May 20, via Zoom teleconferencing. The information from the Conference and from the Deacons was presented. Other discussion was presented, such as if we were limited by the state as to how many people we could have in a worship service, who would enforce that? How could we turn people away if we were “at capacity”? It is for all of these preceding reasons that Cabinet was in full agreement that we not open the building to the public until at least September 1 (and now through January 2021. As that date draws near, all circumstances will be reevaluated, and further decision will be made accordingly.