June 1, 2020
The Grinnell UCC leadership wants you to know that we love you and we miss you. Our desire to be together again with you, celebrating God’s love, is matched only by our desire to ensure your continued safety. Because this pandemic is a new experience for all of us – complex and still poorly understood, even by experts – and advice and requests and guidelines and demands are coming from a variety of disparate sources, Pastor Jessica and the Governing Board have decided to follow the suggestion of the greater UCC and form a local task force (led by John Ashby and Josh Sandquist) to develop a plan to help guide our church’s decision making regarding when and how to resume various church functions. This note is intended to briefly introduce to you this task force’s earliest planning work.
By the time you receive this note, all 50 states will have relaxed social distancing rules to some degree. Public health experts have expressed much concern about this state of affairs as none of the states have met scientific/medical benchmarks that would indicate that the pandemic is controlled enough to resume social activity. The fact of the matter is that the situation in Iowa is not appreciably different from when restrictions were put in place. The virus is still here and, if anything, more widespread. We have no vaccine, and testing and quarantining and contact tracing resources and practices, which are needed for a safe reopening, are still inadequate. As such, it is the opinion of this task force that now is not the time for us to resume in-person church activities. The risks are still too great.
As mentioned above, one can find a lot guidance out there on how churches should proceed, with varying degrees of overlap. They best describe resuming church activities in progressive stages that are tied to data-based benchmarks. We are developing a plan for finding reliable data and designing stages that make sense for our church. For example, the church building has been essentially closed to all for the past two months. However, we feel that there is now acceptable low risk in allowing a small number of staff members to resume work in the building. The next step would, at some point not yet determined, include the resumption of small group activities, which can be more easily adapted to social distancing practices. Further, small groups enable us to keep track of who is attending and when, so that if cases do pop up we can effectively trace them and quarantine people to prevent large scale spread. Full worship with everyone in attendance will be the last activity to resume, due to the large number of people involved and logistical difficulties in preparing and maintaining a safe environment.
There is a lot to consider here, and we will be doing our best to consider everything, while consulting experts and reliable resources. We know that ours is a caring community and that we all want each other to be safe. We know, too, that this is a stressful time and many of you likely have concerns. As we invite you to share your thoughts and concerns with us, we remind you to remember that we all are in this together and we, all of us, are doing what we can to maintain the health and safety of our community. We will share more with you as soon as we are able.
Josh Sandquist, Past Moderator and John Ashby, Moderator Elect
P.S. If you want more information now, we suggest the article at the link below. There are a lot of articles out there, but this one covers in a thoughtful and cogent manner a lot of the issues and ideas we are considering at the moment.