Reopening: Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Here are some answers to questions around our reopening. Click on the question to jump to the answer. If you don’t see your question below, please contact one of our staff and we’ll do our best to answer it!


 

What is guiding decisions about when and how to reopen?
We are guided by our Unitarian Universalist values–particularly courage, reverence, and compassion–and our deep commitment to inclusion and prioritizing the most marginalized among us. The most important factor is scientific/medical information. We are especially reliant on the CDC, Minnesota Department of Health, and several WBUUC members who are in the medical field. We are also paying attention to recommendations from the Unitarian Universalist Association. Our commitment to inclusion and prioritizing the most marginalized among us motivates our decision to keep virtual services as we reopen in-person worship. This gives everyone–participants in worship as well as members and guests who attend–the option to choose what works best for them.

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Who makes decisions about when and how to reopen?

Following the principles outlined above and with reference to scientific/medical recommendations as well as in consultation with our Board of Directors and staff, our Interim Lead Minister makes the decision. Rev. Roger works with staff and committees like the Worship Advisory Committee to figure out how to reopen.

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What steps are in place to make attending worship and other activities at WBUUC as safe as possible?

We are requiring everyone age 3 and up to be masked at all times in the building. Staff members may be unmasked if they’re working alone in their own office. Participants in worship will unmask only when they are speaking. We are requiring at least 6 feet of social distancing for everyone unless in a family/pod. Pre-registration for services and other activities is required so that we can close registration when we’ve reached capacity. To avoid bottlenecks and congestion, we have created one-way paths to enter and exit the building and Sanctuary. We will continue to keep the services shorter than pre-COVID so the Sanctuary has some time to “air out” between services. There will be no live vocal or wind instrumental music. We will not use hymnals, but we will have individual printed orders of service available on a table for people to pick up as they enter. We will not pass the plate–but offering plates will be available at each exit, and folks can always text-to-give or mail in a check. We have already installed better filtration in the Sanctuary and some other parts of the building. We will shortly move forward with improving the HVAC system throughout the building. No food or drink will be allowed inside the building. FInally, we are asking anyone who has COVID symptoms or may have been exposed to COVID to participate virtually rather than in-person.

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Why isn’t vaccination isn’t on the list of requirements?

We do not want to exclude children under twelve and those over twelve who should not get the vaccine for health reasons. Since staff spend more time in the church and interact with a lot of people, we are requiring staff to be vaccinated. We may also require certain kinds of volunteers–e.g., Religious Education teachers/facilitators and lay participants in worship services to be vaccinated. Anyone not comfortable being potentially in space with non-vaccinated people should opt to participate in worship and other activities virtually.

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When will live vocal and wind instrumental music return? What’s the plan for Choir?
We will have live vocal and wind instrumental music when the medical/scientific information says it’s safe to do so. We don’t know when that will be. We will have instrumental music, including hymns. This will be a challenge for in-person attenders: they may hum along with mouths closed, but not sing even though they’re masked. We’re hoping that we can all handle this–it’s the only way we will have hymns before live vocal music is allowed. Our Choir and the amazing volunteer directors and leaders are working with Carol Caouette and, when they are on-board, our new Music Directors Olivia Diercks and Karla Colahan, to figure out creative ways to have the Choir present, including audio and/or audio-visual virtual choir pieces.

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When will the worship services take place?
We have virtual and in-person services on Sundays at 9:00 and 11:00 am.

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Are both virtual services “live” or will the 11:00 service be a recording of the 9:00 service?
Yes! If you attend the 11:00 AM service virtually, you will be watching the 11 service live-streamed.

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What will be different about in-person and virtual services?

In-person worship will look and feel somewhat different from pre-COVID in-person services. In-person attenders will notice the presence of more technology, including cameras, laptops, and a TV screen. All of this is necessary to be able to do quality live-streaming. The TV screen also will allow off-site participation–e.g., if a Board member welcomer doesn’t feel safe coming to an in-person service, they can still participate. We are committed to full inclusion for all, including worship participants. The TV screen will also give us more creative options for incorporating vocal and wind music. In-person attenders will also notice a black cloth on the right side of the pulpit. This cloth is here to shield the speaker from sunshine coming in the beautiful East windows. We can’t get a decent camera shot of speakers at the pulpit without this. We have some good news about the technology: we’ve just placed an order for technology which will allow the livestreaming operation to be much less obtrusive. New, better (and less obtrusive) cameras, for instance, may allow us to get rid of the black cloth sun-shield. The bad news is that the equipment won’t arrive and be installed for around three months–so hopefully we have it by Solstice and Christmas!

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What will be different about virtual services?

A noticeable change from how we’ve been doing virtual services is that speakers will no longer look solely at the camera. Speakers will need to look around the room at in-person attenders and at the camera. Once we get the improved technology, virtual attenders will see in-person attenders on their screens. There will likely be some other differences.

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Why not do a separate pre-recording of the service ahead of time, and then not have to worry about live-streaming during the in-person services?

This would be great–but we don’t have sufficient paid or volunteer staffing to pull this off. Pre-recorded services need to be recorded well ahead of time–we’ve been doing them on Thursday–and they require significant time collecting virtual participants’ video pieces and editing.

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Is a TV screen here to stay?

We don’t know. It will be on a cart so that it can be easily removed from the space. That said, it’s likely that we’ll be doing both in-person and livestreamed virtual services for the foreseeable future–even after COVID shifts to being a less significant, endemic threat.

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Why not use the fixed screen that has previously been lowered for use?


The fixed screen does not work properly, it arguably has a bigger impact on the space, and technology to make the screen work well in such a bright space would cost significantly more than a TV screen.

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How do I pre-register for in-person worship or another activity?



Registration links for upcoming services will be available in the weekly eNews and on our website. Please contact a staff member if you need assistance registering.

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How do I pre-register for in-person worship or another activity?



Registration links for upcoming services will be available in the weekly eNews and on our website (add link). Please contact a staff member if you need assistance registering.

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Why do people have to pre-register to attend a service or other in-person activity?
We are requiring pre-registration so that we can easily cap attendance if we’re going to exceed our social-distancing plans. We don’t want people driving to church only to find the service or activity is full. Pre-registration will also enable us to do contact-tracing if we need to without setting up a registration bottleneck in the lobby.

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Can we still park in the DIstrict Education Center at the corner of Maple and Mahtomedi?
Yes, we are still welcome to use the District Education Center parking lot on Sunday mornings. However, due to COVID precautions, we will not have the shuttle operate.

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What’s happening with Religious Education?
Religious Education for children and youth will also look a little different this year: Whether you plan to join us in person or on Zoom, we warmly welcome and encourage all ages to join us each week for multigenerational worship. Together, we will grow our souls through stories, lessons, and music in a community of all ages. After worship on Sundays, circles just for children and youth will also be available during our in-person social hour time; Please be sure to let us know when you pre-register if you plan to participate in our in-person social hour so that we can plan ahead. In addition this fall, we will begin to use the building again for programming for our 60+ Third Thursday gathering, and youth programming like Our Whole Lives, Coming of Age, and Youth Groups.

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Some folks like Cyber Social Hour way more than the old in-person Social Hour. Will in-person Social Hour be any different than it used to be?
Yes! We’ve heard so many people talk about how much they like Cyber Social Hour’s greater intimacy and opportunity to get to know new people. We will be experimenting with doing in-person Social Hour in a way which creates a similar experience. This will take place outside. (We’ll have to figure out a new plan once it gets too cold.) We will have in-person and Cyber Social Hour after each service.

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Will small groups, committees, and classes begin taking place in-person?

Yes, as long as we can do so in a way which minimizes risk. We’ll be working on protocols for small group gatherings this month.

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Will this be a flawless transition to both in-person and virtual worship?
NO! This is one thing about which we can be certain. We are reinventing how we do church on the fly. This will need to be a work in progress. The best thing all of us can do is act and speak as compassionately and patiently as possible with one another.

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Where do I go with feedback and suggestions?
Staff members welcome your feedback and suggestions. We also ask you to be patient–there is a lot on all of our plates right now. Also know that there are a multitude of opinions in the church. This is a beautiful thing–and it asks each of us to realize that more than likely, there will be folks who feel differently.

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How will I know what’s going on?
As always, the best source for weekly news is the eNews that comes out every Wednesday. Sign up here! Also stay tuned for social media, video, and other forms of communication.

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