June 17, 2021
Dear SPC Family,
Thank you for continuing to be a supportive and loving community during these challenging days. We rejoice that vaccination rates are moving us ever closer to putting this pandemic behind us! But this time of in-between—of opening up, and still not quite on the other side of things—can be really hard. Everyone is navigating their own comfort levels and vulnerabilities, while also very much longing to just be done with it all. Please know that the church is a place where we can support one another along this sometimes bumpy road, even when we are at different places along it.
As we map out our own reopening steps as a church, we continue to be mindful of the most vulnerable among us. So we are being intentional about our welcome to our youngest children and others who cannot be vaccinated yet, as we also move forward into the joy of brighter days.
This letter summarizes the Session’s most recent decisions. Please feel free to contact the church office with questions or feedback.
1. We will continue worshipping outside through Sunday, July 4th (unless it rains or is very hot, in which case we will move into Fellowship Hall for worship). Masks will now be optional for adults who are fully vaccinated when we worship or gather outside. Children may follow the masking guidelines established by New York State for outdoor play at school. Of course, all are welcome to continue wearing a mask according to their own comfort level. Live streaming will be available for those more comfortable worshipping from home. Refreshments may be enjoyed outside following the service.
2. For the hottest part of the summer—from Sunday, July 11th through Sunday, September 5th—we will worship most Sundays in Fellowship Hall, with live streaming available. As of now, because not everyone in the congregation is vaccinated, and we want to continue some singing, masks will be required when we worship inside. Refreshments may be enjoyed outside following the service.
3. Our summer Sunday services will be briefer (30-45 minutes), as is currently recommended when worshipping inside.
4. Committees or groups of 12 or less may remove masks and enjoy refreshments while meeting inside the church building if all present are fully vaccinated. Those entering the church building on weekdays who are fully vaccinated may remove their masks, unless gathering with someone who is not fully vaccinated. Please continue to reserve space for your meeting/gathering through the church office.
5. We will return to the sanctuary on Sunday, September 12th!
As guidance changes, we will communicate updates. Thank you so much for your continued grace with us and with one another.
Your SPC leadership and staff
Dear SPC Family,
Grace and peace to you! We are filled with gratitude for your patience, resilience, and care for one another during this pandemic. Your Reopening Team and the Session have made some decisions about our next steps, including a timeline for resuming worship in the sanctuary, and we are writing to share with you those plans.
We recognize that the most recent guidance from the CDC and yesterday’s changes in New York State allow gatherings inside, permits removal of masks, and loosens social distancing requirements for those who are fully vaccinated. Given that many of our members are still in the process of getting vaccinated, the vaccine is still not available for all children, and the changes are so very new, the Session plans to consider whether to relax our own masking policy at its June 16th meeting. Until then we ask that, for the comfort of all present on Sunday mornings, you continue wearing a mask while we worship together. (As has been our practice, worship leaders will remove their masks at times to enable their participation in the service.) Thank you again for your gracious cooperation and patience.
As always, please reach out to the church office or to the Interim Pastor with any questions or feedback. Both scientific guidance and governmental policies are changing quickly and regularly, as we have seen just in the last couple of days, and we will likely need to make adjustments as we go. But we hope the following offers some clarity about how we will move through this final stretch of reopening the church building.
This Sunday, May 23rd (Pentecost) through Sunday, June 6th (the usual end of our Church School year)
We will continue our current practices: worship outside with masks and social distancing. Simultaneous live streaming is accessible through our website, App, and Facebook group. As a reminder, we encourage you to bring a chair if it is easy, water in a reusable bottle, sunglasses, a blanket, an umbrella for shade, or anything else that will make you comfortable as we worship outdoors. And dress comfortably! In the case of inclement weather, worship will be online-only.
One significant change will happen this Sunday, May 23rd: we will invite you to sing the hymns in worship! The science now seems to indicate very low risk in transmission outside, especially when masked. So we will sing! And what a joy it will be to raise our voices together on Pentecost!
As a reminder, Ashley’s installation service is also this Sunday at 2:00PM! If the weather prevents outside worship for the installation service, the worship leaders will move the service into the Fellowship Hall with the Session and Community Outreach Pastor Search Committee witnessing on behalf of the congregation, and others may join by Zoom.
Sunday, June 13th through Sunday, September 5th
Throughout the summer, we will continue to embrace the beauty of worship outside (and live streamed), but we will plan to move into Fellowship Hall if the weather is lousy—either raining or too hot. Worship outside allows everyone in the congregation the most flexibility in following their own level of comfort, and it optimizes safety for the youngest children of the congregation, who will not yet have access to the vaccine this summer.
There are several reasons why we will move into Fellowship Hall, rather than the sanctuary, when weather requires indoor worship this summer. Fellowship Hall is the coolest location for worship in the building (as you know, we had been using it often for summer worship in recent years). It is also the most flexible space to allow social distancing as needed and cross ventilation by opening windows. Childcare can be down the hall in the Martha Jayne Room, which is a larger space than the much tighter quarters in the Toddler Room. And significantly, the sanctuary balcony is still unavailable due to organ-related construction and will be for many more weeks. Using the Fellowship Hall as our inside option throughout the summer allows us to prepare and get excited for what comes next…
Sunday, September 12th: Return to full capacity worship in the sanctuary!!
Assuming that infection rates continue to be low, we will celebrate Kick Off Sunday in the sanctuary, with the completed new organ accompanying our worship! Surely, tears of joy will flow on that day!
A few other notes about Sundays
· The weekly food drop off will continue on Sunday mornings—simply drop your donations in the open van near the church garden. Food can also be dropped off to the church office during the week during the regular 9AM-2PM office hours or directly to Grace Presbyterian Church on Saturday and Sunday mornings.
· Our post-worship time of fellowship will continue to happen informally immediately following the conclusion of the in-person service.
· This Sunday is the final Adult Education discussion for the program year; Church School concludes on June 6th (in person at 9:45AM, or at 10:30AM on Zoom when weather interferes).
Changes to Weekday Use of the Building
The Session also has approved the following regarding weekday use of the building:
1. Committees and church groups can meet inside of the building. Masks continue to be required inside the building, with the exception of staff in their offices or internal meetings. Because studies encourage ventilation and briefer duration of meetings inside, we ask that meetings in the building include open windows, are less than two hours in duration, and take into account the number of people the room can comfortably accommodate with distancing. Please also consider allowing some participants to be included by Zoom. All meetings in the church building must be booked through the church office.
2. The building is available for use by outside groups as space allows and in accordance with existing protocols by contacting the church office.
3. The serving and sharing of food within the building continues to be limited and will be considered on a case-by-case basis. Refreshments may be shared outside using commonsense safety measures.
We will continue to be in touch at every stage of this process, and as guidance changes—and we’ll work things out together as we go. Thank you for your continued grace and cooperation with us and with one another.
Your SPC leadership and staff