Guidelines for use of Fellowship Building and Fellowship Gathers away from the Building during the COVID-19 Pandemic

Our knowledge about the COVID-19 pandemic changes constantly.  This includes how it is transmitted, severity of illness, and how to protect ourselves as well as its epidemiology (which places are most affected, which groups of people are most affected, how common the disease is, and the probability of death or severe illness).  These guidelines are based on currently available information, predominantly from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services.  Guidelines for Starr King Fellowship will change as new information becomes available.

 

These guidelines will cover use of the Starr King Fellowship building and grounds, as well as gatherings of Starr King entities (e.g. choir, committees, small group ministries) off the property.  As needed, the guidelines will address activities of 1) staff, 2) committees and small group ministries, 3) choir, 4) religious education, 5) rituals (e.g. memorial services), and 6) use by outside groups.

 

General Principles:

 

 

  • Zoom is better than in-person.  Although there are advantages and disadvantages to each type of gatherings, it is safer to use Zoom.  Zoom is also inclusive since those at higher risk due to age or other risk factors can participate in Zoom gatherings where they might not be able to participate in person.  For large groups, such as Sunday worship services during the church year, Zoom is the only safe option which can accommodate everyone who wants to “attend”.

 

  • Consider the individual circumstances of those who might want to attend a gathering.  Although some people will feel comfortable with a face-to-face gathering, others might consider such a gathering as an unnecessary and unacceptable risk (e.g. older people, those with health risks, those living with older people and those with health risks).  Be inclusive.

 

  • Wear masks whenever indoors and when outdoors if closer than 6 feet between people.  Participants should wash cloth masks after use and/or use a new one for each use.

 

  • The Fellowship should provide easy access to cleaning materials (soap and water) and disinfectants for any group using a space in the building.  CDC Guidelines are for surfaces to be cleaned using soap and water followed by use of an EPA-approved disinfectant.

 

  • The Fellowship should provide hand sanitizer in each meeting space.

 

  • Potential participants should not attend a gathering if they are feeling ill, if they have been exposed to someone with COVID, or live with someone who has been exposed to COVID.

 

  • Wash hands before and after gatherings.

 

  • Outside is better than inside.  Take advantage of nice weather during summer and fall to hold gatherings outdoors (on Starr King property or other location).

 

  • Maintain social distancing.  Arrange gatherings so that participants are at least 6 feet apart.  This will be easier when everyone is seated.  Other gatherings will require encouragement to maintain distancing.

 

Committees and Small Group Ministries

 

Indoor Meetings:

 

  • The room must be large enough to allow all participants to remain 6 feet apart (in all directions).

 

  • Chairs must be set up in a way to facilitate the 6-foot rule.

 

  • Participants must wear masks at all times, even when talking.

 

  • Conveners should consider difficulties inherent in speakers being heard and understood when distant and masked.

 

  • Exception: if the meeting has one speaker at a time who is speaking from a podium, using a microphone, and is at a large distance from other participants, this speaker does not need to wear a mask.

 

  • The convener should clean and disinfect commonly used surfaces (table tops, chair arms - if hard surface, door knobs, etc.) before the meeting with disinfectant and wipes (provided by the Fellowship).  Convener should repeat cleaning and disinfecting after the meeting.

 

  • To the extent possible, use procedures that will minimize touching surfaces (e.g. leave door to room open until everyone has arrived - or leave it open throughout meeting).

 

  • Encourage participants to bring their own writing materials, copy of agenda, etc.

 

Outdoor Meetings:

 

  • The Administrator should add to the calendar for room reservations use of the front porch, and back deck, as long as the weather permits.

 

  • The area must be large enough to allow all participants to remain 6 feet apart (in all directions).

 

  • Chairs must be set up in a way to facilitate the 6-foot rule.

 

  • Participants must wear masks when within 6 feet of others.

 

  • Conveners should consider difficulties inherent in speakers being heard and understood when distant and outside.

 

  • If there are commonly used surfaces, the convener should clean and disinfect surfaces before and after the meeting.

 

  • Encourage participants to bring their own writing materials, copy of agenda, etc.

 

Rituals:

 

  • One person should be assigned to clean and disinfect commonly used surfaces (pulpit, table tops, microphones, candle lighters, candle extinguishers, door handles) before the service and again afterwards.

 

  • The sanctuary should be set up so that participants can move from seat to participate in worship activities (if necessary) or leave to use bathroom without coming close to other participants.

 

  • To the extent possible, use procedures that will minimize touching surfaces (e.g. leave door to room open until everyone has arrived - or leave it open throughout service).

 

  • Seats must be set up to assure that all participants are separated from other participants by 6 feet in all directions.  (If easy to accomplish, this rule might accommodate close sitting for household members who are isolating together.)  Although the 6-foot requirement will limit the total number of people allowed in the sanctuary, it is still a good idea to limit the number of people at a ritual as much as possible.

 

  • Participants should bring copies of readings with them and not rely on use of common books (like hymnals).  Participants should also bring an order of service with them.  (NOTE: we should probably remove hymnals from the chairs to discourage use.)

 

  • There should be no singing.  Consider recorded music.

 

  • Most rituals will involve one person speaking at a time from the pulpit and using a microphone.  All participants other than the speaker must wear a mask.

 

  • New Hampshire COVID-19 Reopening Guidance for Places of Worship (June 18, 2020) does not allow food services in places of worship.

 

Choir:

 

In general, it is our opinion that we should not have singing in the sanctuary at this time.  The evidence indicates that singing is not safe in an indoor setting.  Perhaps the choir can be creative in recording music outdoors, or using technology.  It is also possible to have one soloist as Sarah Dan has been doing during worship this spring if the soloist is at least 15 feet away from anyone else in the room.  One or a few instrumentalists could participate in a service if they can space 10 feet apart from each other and anyone else in the room.

 

Activities:

  • Prior to the Pandemic, official activities of the Fellowship have included dinners in restaurants, theatre events, musical events, lectures, hiking, bicycling, and others.  Although restaurants are currently open for indoor dining and there will probably be indoor events occurring in Plymouth soon, the Fellowship should not sponsor outings to indoor events at this time.  This policy can change if experience with these events indicates strict adherence to social distancing guidelines and use of masks.

 

  • Outdoor dining: This is an option for a group activity.  The person convening the outing should check with the restaurant to make sure it can accommodate the number of people at one or more tables while maintaining distance between participants.  The convener should also determine that the restaurant is enforcing proper use of masks by staff and diners.  To encourage camaraderie and to discourage shouting, the group size should be small.  Family groups or couples should sit together, and each group should distance from the others by at least 6 feet.  In addition to restaurants, there is the option of gathering on people’s porches in yards.  Either each family unit brings their own food and drink, or take-out meals can be ordered from restaurants.

 

  • Outdoor activities (hikes, walks, picnics, bicycle rides, kayaking): Socializing outdoors is a great way to spend time together, and outdoor venues offer less risk of infection than indoor venues.  These outings need to be kept to a size that will allow and encourage social distancing (perhaps 7 people maximum).  The convener should begin the event with an explanation of how to remain socially distant from each other and from outsiders.  Conveners should choose locations that are not crowded.

 

Staff:

 

  1. Staff should be encouraged to work remotely whenever possible.

  2. Staff should be encouraged not to come to work if sick or if they have been exposed to someone with COVID-19.

  3. Meetings with staff should be by Zoom whenever feasible.

  4. In-person meetings should follow procedures for committee meetings.

 

Religious Education:

 

The American Academy of Pediatrics has a document encouraging school opening that includes many safeguards, some of which might be applicable to in-person RE for children. On the other hand, the rationale for opening schools is in many ways different from the need to open RE classes (for example, schools provide necessary socialization, but if schools are open there is less need for RE classes to provide socialization.)

 

The RE Director might want to evaluate the Saturday RE gatherings that were held from March 2020 until the end of the church year.  He can build on this experience to create a Zoom environment for RE.  If physical distancing is possible, he could look into occasional in-person RE gatherings, but these will be challenging.

 

Use of building by outside groups:  

The only group that is currently using the building is the Children’s Learning Center.  It is our understanding that the Children’s Learning Center is permitted to use the ground floor, and only the kitchen, the elevator and the bathrooms opposite the kitchen on the main floor.  Under no circumstances should Learning Center staff enter the lobby, the sanctuary, the fellowship hall or use the bathroom in the lobby area.

 

 

The Fellowship should not allow other use of the building by outside groups at this time.

603-536-8908

101 Fairgrounds Road, PO Box 337

 Plymouth, NH 03264

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©2018 by Starr King Unitarian Universalist Fellowship