On February 23, 2021, members of the Responsible Building Use Task Force met to discuss the threshold indicators in Westminster’s Re-opening the Building Plan to determine if we could move from Phase 2 to Phase 3. Although we have met the threshold indicators, we recognize that opening the building after nearly a year will take some planning and preparedness. Therefore, we have decided to enter a Phase 2.5.
For the month of March, we will begin to allow groups of 15 people to meet for worship on Sundays. Limiting the number to 15 will ensure that the total number of the people in Westminster Hall will not exceed 25 with clergy and musicians. We would like to use these groups of 15 people as “pilot” groups to help us learn and adjust, and eventually to prepare for more people returning to the Westminster building.
This means that beginning Sunday, March 7, we will have a small group of people attend the 10:30 am Worship and the Gathered at Five worship in person. They will need to register ahead of time, answer the Covid screening questions, wear a double or an N95 mask, and stay six-feet apart from others in the building who are not in their immediate household.
Below is a list of questions and answers related to this update that we hope will provide more information. A final note: should circumstances warrant, we will scale back to Phase 2.
Has Westminster entered Phase 3 in the re-opening the building plan?
We are entering Phase 2.5, which will be a pilot project for the month of March. For the four Sundays in March, we will allow groups of 15 people attend worship in person. Groups of 15 plus clergy, musicians, and our tech team will mean that no one group will exceed 25. These groups will be known as re-opening volunteers, and their role is to help us learn how to re-open the church building responsibly and to adjust along, and then help prepare others to return to the Westminster building.
Can you tell me more about what Phase 2.5 will involve?
Beginning Sunday, March 7, we will have a small group of people attend the 10:30 am Worship and the Gathered at Five worship in person. They will need to register ahead of time, answer the Covid screening questions, wear a double or N95 mask, and stay six-feet apart from others in the building who are not in their immediate household.
Do you have to be vaccinated to attend worship?
No, we are not requiring the re-opening volunteers to be vaccinated. However, we do acknowledge that there is some level of risk involved for these volunteers. Therefore, we leave it up to individuals and families to decide if this level of risk is something they are comfortable with or not. Both decisions are fine and expected.
If someone is vaccinated, do they get preference to become a re-opening volunteer?
We will not be asking if someone is vaccinated or not as part of our procedure so vaccinations will not have a role in the selection of re-opening volunteers.
What will be the responsibilities of the re-opening volunteers?
First and foremost, learn and adhere to the safety protocols, which include registering in advance, answering the Covid screening questions, wearing a double or N95 mask, staying six-feet apart from others in the building who are not in their immediate household, and staying home if they are not feeling well. We will also ask re-opening volunteers to arrive 30 minutes early for worship and offer feedback about their experience through a survey afterwards. We hope some of these volunteers will also be willing to help teach others about protocols for future in-person services and events at Westminster.
How can I sign up to be a re-opening volunteer?
We ask anyone interested in being a re-opening volunteer to first read and understand the role. If you are still interested, you can email Deb Wagner to register, including the service date and time you would like to attend along with the names of everyone attending together (including children). Registration closes at noon the Friday before the Sunday service. Through March there will be 120 different volunteer slots for 10:30 Worship and Gathered at Five. If we have more than 120 volunteers, we will randomly select people to narrow the group down to 120.
When will the volunteer program start?
This will begin on Sunday, March 7, with the 10:30 am Worship and Gathered at Five services. Volunteers will be asked to arrive 30 minutes early to worship.
Will this be all events?
We are only allowing people for Sunday worship. As that expands we will announce it on our website..
Will you be open for more people to attend by Easter on April 4?
We will have more information later in the month about Easter.
When will you consider adding other events or to move into a complete Phase 3?
A small group of staff and lay leaders from the Responsible Building Use Task Force is meeting regularly to review what we are learning, make any necessary adjustments to protocols, and expand the list of in-person events. We will continue to update the Westminster community through the Friday all-church emails, on the website, and in worship, when appropriate.
Is there a chance you could stop Phase 2.5 and move back to online-only worship?
Although we hope we continue to move forward through this pandemic, we also recognize the possibility that the conditions in the larger community might decline again. Therefore, there is always a chance that, should circumstances warrant, we will scale back to Phase 2.
How will I know if an event will be online or in person?
We will make sure the online calendar listing is clear about which events are meeting in-person, online, or both.
What if a re-opening volunteer or someone else involved with worship is diagnosed with COVID-19?
Westminster’s already established Covid protocols state that if there is a confirmed case reported, Westminster will:
- Disinfect and close any impacted spaces for an appropriate period.
- Inform proper authorities, such as local and state health officials.
- Assist authorities with contact tracing.
In addition, those involved with worship will get tested and quarantine, if necessary.
What if I have more questions or want more information about the re-opening phases for Westminster?
We have arranged Listening Sessions to be held at 9 am on March 6, 13, and 20, through Zoom. You can find these events on the calendar. Visit Westminster’s Covid webpage for updates and more information. You can read more about the re-opening plan online as well.