As summer ends and we return to the “regular” church year, the COVID Task Force would like to share information related to gathering online, using the Meetinghouse this church year, and the results of the COVID survey.
We will continue to gather online until it is safe for all of us to gather in person in the Meetinghouse. We expect that will occur when an effective vaccine is widely available and/or community spread of the virus has stopped. Obviously, no one knows when those events might occur, although the current thinking of health care and public health officials is sometime in 2021. Until then, we will keep our congregation and the larger community safe by meeting online.
We have learned a lot about worshiping and being in community online these past several months. Rev. Marjorie, the staff, lay leaders, members, and friends have worked hard to move our beloved congregation onto Zoom. Thanks to the great feedback from the COVID-19 survey, many new ideas are being discussed, and some have already been implemented.
Thank you again to everyone who participated in the survey. Your feedback will help us to build – together – a vibrant online community that meets the needs of our time. We are happy to share an overview of the survey results:
- Response was excellent, with 49 people answering the survey.
- The vast majority (94%) are comfortable using Zoom. Those who need help have been contacted.
- The majority of respondents (73%) regularly attend online services and coffee hour and, for most, their attendance is the same or more frequent than pre-COIVD. Most (60%) also attend other online events at FPS.
- Most respondents (83%) are not comfortable volunteering in the RE program.
- Most people (>60%) would not be comfortable attending services indoors, and only 38% said they would be comfortable attending services outdoors.
- Slightly more than half of respondents expressed interest in a regular online check-in to talk with Rev. Marjorie and members about what is happening in our lives.
- Most respondents (84%) read the Weekly News for information about FPS, although 16% read it only occasionally or never.
We especially appreciate the many comments, suggestions, and ideas that respondents shared. Many are already being implemented, and we are organizing all the ideas to share with groups and committees for their consideration.
There are also updates to guidelines for using the building this year. By way of background, the FPS guidelines for building use by members and renters are based on the Commonwealth of Massachusetts safety guidelines. Following them is not just for our own safety; it is also a way of being good community members. Specific guidelines are below, but, in general, we ask that you go inside the Meetinghouse only for what is necessary (ex: picking up mail).
Our primary tenant, Sudbury Extended Day (SED), will be using much more space this year. They have developed a new program to provide support for students attending classes online, which will be tremendously beneficial to students and their families. In order to do this, SED will use the Parish Hall, Library, Commons, and the basement, in addition to their usual space in the Atkinson Wing. To ensure everyone’s safety, please do not use any of those spaces, including bathrooms.
In other good news, Tom Kruskal is leading an effort to increase building rentals in ways that are safe. Rentals have always been an important part of FPS. Rental income, of course, helps support our congregation and is especially important right now. As we navigate these challenging times, we are glad to be able to support SED’s expanded efforts to assist students in remote learning. Other renters are also, in many cases, providing important community services, and we are happy to have them in the Meetinghouse. As you may imagine, managing building use to keep everyone – members and friends, staff, and renters – safe is complicated. We are grateful to Tom Kruskal and Tom Stirlen in particular for doing this work. In order to make all of this possible, we ask members and friends to adhere to the guidelines below. This will allow FPS to realize important rental income, help support community services, and ensure the safety of everyone. CDC and Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care cleaning guidelines are in place to support current use.
- Please limit your visits to the Meetinghouse to what is necessary. Given the information about the spread of the virus, we encourage members and friends to minimize time spent indoors at the Meetinghouse and to gather online.
- Masks must be worn at all times when visiting the building. Please also maintain social distance and refrain from coming to the building if you are ill.
- Hand sanitizer is available in the lobby.
- Please contact Tom Stirlen at or 978-443-2043 before going to the Meetinghouse on weekdays. We recommend that you plan your visits so you are not there when SED students are present (Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday from 7 am to 6 pm).
- While at the Meetinghouse, please do not use any SED space, including Parish Hall, Library, Commons, kitchen, basement, the SED room, and all bathrooms. (Staff will use the second-floor bathroom.)
- If you would like to use the Sanctuary for silent mediation or reflection, please contact Tom Stirlen.
- The Brackett Room continues to be closed. Please contact Tom Stirlen if you need indoor meeting space for a small group.
- The capacity limit in the general and music workrooms is one person each.
- Please do not use any staff offices.
- Members and friends are welcome to use the outdoor space at FPS, with masks and social distancing. If you are planning a group gathering, please let Tom Stirlen know in advance, to ensure that only one group is there. Outdoor gatherings are limited to 25 people. Of course, you are welcome to visit the Memorial Garden and the grounds at any time. Please remember to wear your mask and maintain distance.
We are living in an especially challenging time. Many things we hold dear are not available to us right now, whether it is in-person family visits, normal interactions for our children or grandchildren, gathering with friends, or being able to easily visit our beloved Meetinghouse. It is hard. Please remember, you are not alone, and we will get through it together, in community. We are grateful beyond measure for all that you, the members and friends, are doing to support our congregation and preserve our Meetinghouse.