Your All Souls staff is excited to welcome you back to the building this fall! We still don’t know a lot, but some things we do. This brief list of questions and answers is to give you—the Beloved Community of All Souls—our initial thoughts and plans as we move towards re-entry.
Q: When can we return to in-person Sunday services and religious education (RE)?
A: We are cautiously optimistic about gathering in-person for Sunday morning worship and religious education beginning on Sunday, September 12, 2021, as long as Covid cases remain low over the summer, with no new variant strains or spike in infection rates. As of this writing, we are considering hosting one worship service and concurrent RE classes at 10:30 AM. We hope to offer these both in-person and virtually for those who may choose not to physically come to the church building. We will make a final decision about worship and RE in late summer and will let you know.
Q: What metrics are you using to determine this re-opening plan?
A: Many UU churches are using the same site, Covid Act Now, to monitor the rate of infection and vaccinations. In June 2021, Washington DC’s risk level is medium. Covid risk is determined by the number of daily new cases, the infection rate, and positive test rate. This metric also involves ICU capacity used, the percentage of persons vaccinated, and vulnerability. We hope that by the time we re-open, the risk level will be low (which means an area is on track to contain Covid for 30 days in a row), but our current plan is based on the current risk level for Washington DC and surrounding areas.
Q: Will we be able to continue accessing the church’s services and offerings online?
A: Yes, we are hard at work finding ways to offer hybrid, or multi-platform (in person plus online), Sunday services so that, even when we can come back together in person on Sundays, those who are far away or otherwise not ready to gather in person will continue to have ways to connect online. Over the summer, your worship team and staff will ensure that when we are ready to host dual-platform, in-person services they will continue to meet All Souls’ high standards for excellence.
Q: When will we know what COVID-19 safety precautions the church will require?
A: During the past four months, the world has changed with regards to vaccinations, masking, and distancing. Four months from now, on Homecoming Sunday, we hope the world will have continued to change for the better. It would be premature to make specific decisions now, but we will inform you by early to mid-August of what precautions the church will require. These precautions will be based on science and on the CDC and Mayor’s public health guidance.
Q: How has the church prepared the building for safe re-entry?
A: Our facilities manager and executive director have assessed each room in the church, with an eye towards proper ventilation and air filtration. The new HVAC system above the sanctuary provides proper ventilation. Ventilation and air filtration in all other rooms in the building, including meeting rooms, classrooms, and the gym do not pose a risk. However, out of an abundance of caution, air purifiers will be installed in all meeting spaces, classrooms, and the gym.
Q: When can my group start meeting in the building?
A: If the criteria described above is met, we will re-open the building after our Homecoming Sunday. However, our approach to re-entry is to start small, as we, your staff, discern the amount of work required to maintain and sustain a fully used building again.
Q: When will staff be back in the building?
A: Some of our staff members are taking much needed sabbatical and study leave time during June, July, and part of August. We will begin a “soft” reopening for our staff in August. Our facilities staff have always been in the building and will continue to make the church ready for re-opening in September.
Q: Will I need to show proof of vaccination to come to the church?
A: The Mayor’s public health guidance in DC does not recommend this, and we do not anticipate requiring congregants to show proof of vaccination to attend services. It would be unwieldy and complicated for us to require and monitor proof of vaccination. However, we are strongly encouraging that everyone who can be vaccinated, do so. It is one of the best ways to protect ourselves, our church, and our wider community from the spread of this disease. If you are concerned about receiving the vaccine or are unsure how to do so, please reach out to Rev. Rolenz, Rev. Green, or Rev. Keithan.
Q: Will I have to wear a mask to church? In RE? For meetings?
A: As of this writing, we will continue to ask all persons who are meeting indoors to wear a mask. This is a proven method to avoid catching or spreading the virus. However, if by September we are at the low risk level, we may be able to gather mask-less. We will update these guidelines in August as we get closer to re-entry.
Q: What about children?
A: Currently, children 12 and over may be vaccinated. By the fall, younger children may also be able to be vaccinated. As of this writing (June 2021) we plan to re-open for RE beginning September 12 if we are able to do so in compliance with public health guidance; but, again, we will send out clear communications about RE-specific plans to all RE parents/children/caregivers by early to mid-August.
Q: What about in-person meetings and small groups?
A: We are committed to maintaining connections with all who wish to participate at All Souls – which includes those who, for whatever reason, may not participate in-person. Learning how to hold both in-person and virtual meetings, small groups, committees, and other offerings are trickier! Over the summer, we will be working on ways to encourage continued online and/or multi-platform connection.
What are YOUR questions?
We are sure that you will have many questions about re-opening and we’d like to hear those questions. Please email them to Rev. Kathleen Rolenz (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Traci Hughes-Trotter (email@example.com). We may not be able to answer you personally but expect to include some of those questions in an updated list of frequently asked questions.
We can take pride in the fact that All Souls has remained strong throughout this pandemic. We are excited about the possibility of re-gathering in person this fall, but we are also committed to ensuring the safety of all persons. So our approach is one of caution and gradual expansion of services until we can resume in person and online services fully.