Re-Opening: A Whole New Sunday

Dec 23, 2021 | Beacon, Exclusively For Members, News

It was March 15, 2020 when we first closed the Sanctuary on Sunday and moved entirely online. It seems like a lifetime ago, and also just like yesterday. We have been working hard to make changes in preparation of re-opening and welcoming back everyone. We have slowly opened out doors to small groups and our grounds have seen the children return for Religious Education Outdoors on Sundays. The Board voted in November for the staff to open on January 23 and to require vaccines for Sunday activities (worship, RE, coffee hour, etc.). Since then, we have been working with Board members who will volunteer to do these checks. We wanted to be very transparent on how this will work so you can be part of East Shore in the way that feels most comfortable to you.

Mourning the Loss

As churches across the country have begun to reopen, a recurring theme is heard: “It’s not the same.” We know, no matter how excited we are to see one another and return to “normal,” we need to change our view of “normal!” What are you most excited about? Being in the Sanctuary? Coffee? Seeing people? Hugs? Singing? Some of those things will return on January 23, others will come later… and some aspects of Sunday mornings will never be the same again. They are new and improved! We will continue to offer multiple ways for people to participate, both in person and over Zoom (Thanks to ACE, Joseph Newman and Jenny Newell for spending hours figuring this out!). This is a great way to continue to be more welcoming and inclusive. Change is hard, and sometimes, the transformation is even better.

Vaccine Checks

We are trying to be safe and make sure we keep a sense of welcoming. On Sundays, the buildings will be for vaccinated verified people only.

Volunteers, fully organized by the Board, will be at a table in the courtyard area. Members/Visitors will show their vaccine cards as a real card, a photo on their phone, or a QR code from their myhealthchart, clear, or the WA DOH website. We encourage the paper cards as that will be fastest.

Those individuals who are cleared will get a neon green sticker that says “Vaccinated.” This will go on your badge (so if you took that home, time to find it!). In following weeks, those who have a sticker can just show the sticker and continue in the sanctuary. Those who do not have proof will be directed to speak to Nicole.

Stay tuned for opportunities to stop by the church to get your sticker before January 23!

What Should We Be Paying Attention To?

Let’s focus on these new “Key Principles for Reducing Potential Exposures” in our church home:

  • Stay home if you’re sick! (keep visiting us online and call us for help!)
  • Get Vaccinated! (and boosted!)
  • Wear Masks! (all the time!)
  • Dance, don’t sing! (get that body moving!)

Virtual Worship: What Will Change

For the most part, those joining by Zoom won’t notice much of a difference. We will still put words in chat, have virtual coffee hour with breakout rooms and stream from the Sanctuary. What will be different? Joys and Sorrows. Due to the complicated nature of multi-platform sharing, we will ask that joys and sorrow only be put in the chat, so they can still be shared. The staff is also working on contingency plans. In October we got a taste of what could happen if we lose power or internet in the Sanctuary. We were able to jump back on, and Steve and Eric did a great job of jumping back in… however when we are doing multi-platform we need to ensure both in-person and virtual congregants have a good experience. Please bear with us if this happens, we are hoping having a contingency plan means we will never have to use it.

In Person: What to expect

Those coming to campus to worship will have a whole new experience… that will change over time as more and more people get vaccinated and we SLOWLY return to larger gatherings.

After being checked for your vaccine status, you will be welcomed into the Sanctuary (want to volunteer to be an usher or greeter? Talk to Nicole!) All congregants MUST wear a mask any time they are in a building on campus. The ONLY exception are individuals speaking from the podium, and only while they are speaking (Rev. Furrer, Eric Lane Barnes, amanda, Worship Associate, etc.).

On Sunday, the back doors will be open, this is to help for airflow. We remind you that Pacific Northwesterners know how to dress for the weather, so we are confident you will dress warmly. You are also welcome to bring a blanket.

We will have some paper copies of the bulletin, we will also have a QR code (like what you see at restaurants to get the menu) where you will be able to pull up the bulletin on a phone or tablet. We will also have children’s activity bags.

Seats in the Sanctuary will be grouped, some in pairs and some larger groupings for families. We ask you to please take a seat in the proper size grouping and not to move chairs. We have set the chairs up to be socially distanced. For the time being the balcony will be closed. This is so the ACE team, who has been working so hard to set up the cameras and sound, can work in that space. We hope, as restrictions lessen, we can reopen that part of the Sanctuary for our members and friends.

One thing you may notice right away is a change in how we use the screen. We will be projecting Zoom on the screen during the service. This allows us to turn on closed captioning (making the service accessible to even more people), share videos, and still have some participation by those zooming in. This does mean words to hymns and responses will not be on the screen. They will be in the bulletin, and hymnals (including large print and braille) are available as well. We have also been informed by medical professionals that, unfortunately, singing – even while masked – is VERY high risk. Because of that, we are going to ask the congregation to not sing along to the hymns. We are looking at ways where you can still interact with the hymns (clapping, arm movements, etc.).

For joys and sorrows for those in person, we will bring back the cards in the southwest corner. Please take time to write out your joy or sorrow which will be collected and read from the pulpit.

For the offering, there will be a number of choices. You can still give online, text, or you can donate cash or check. Because the chairs will be spaced 6 feet apart (except for same households), we will have boxes in the back of the sanctuary for people to place gifts in as they exit.

In Person Coffee Hour

For those wanting to stay for coffee hour, we will have it! Because of masking, all food and beverages must be consumed outside. The North Room will be closed, so you will exit out the main doors into the courtyard. We will have several spaces, including some with heaters during the colder months. Snacks at coffee hour have been individually wrapped treats, we will continue this for now. If you would like to help set up coffee hour or organize, contact Nicole.

In Person Religious Education for Children & Youth

All of these plans are relevant to RE as well, and children and families will be going through all of these processes along with adult members of the congregations. Children will be getting name badges for their vaccine stickers too (and so you can get to know them!).

Those under five will either be accompanied by a vaccinated caregiver or in the care of vaccinated volunteers or RE staff.

There will be some separate registrations for RE classes, as typical for OWL and Coming of Age.

All of our rooms are being marked by Dianne Upton at 50% room capacity.

Practicing Consent and Compassion

Part of being a beloved community is respecting others and showing compassion. During this transition we as asking for an increase in both of these.

We need to acknowledge everyone has different comfort levels when it comes to risk. Some are so excited to get back in person they will do all they can to stay safe AND in person. Others are not ready and may not be ready for a while. Please remember, these are your fellow East Shorians and we want to respect people’s decisions on how they participate in worship.

We also want to talk about hugging, handshakes, high fives, etc. As we teach our youngest children in Our Whole Lives (OWL), consent is very important. Even those friends who you may have always shared a hug with before may not feel up to it yet. Let’s show our children and each other we understand consent. Before hugging, please ask… AND be prepared to hear “no.” This includes members of the staff. We all love you… and we want to stay safe too.

We look forward to seeing you all (or those ready to be in person) on January 23, and hope those still moving toward that online!

by Nicole Duff, Rev. Dr. Stephen H. Furrer, amanda alice uluhan & Rebecca Chatfield