When I arrived at Westminster at the end of May 2020, Pastor Bill Schram told me that the Session had appointed a Reopening Team to oversee the process by which our church would return to in-person worship. I convened that group in June 2020 and we have been meeting ever since–once a month, with the exception of a few months over the winter when COVID rates were at their peak.
Over the month of April 2021, the Reopening Team surveyed the congregation about their feelings about returning to in-person worship. Based on the responses we received, we created a plan for gradually reopening our church over the summer with a full reopening on September 12, 2021. We brought that plan to the Session who adopted it at their May 13th meeting. We then published our “Summer 2021 Reopening Plan” on our website and in our enews.
Here’s the short version of the longer plan which you can read online. Beginning on Sunday, June 13th, our online service will be accompanied by live music. Darhon Rees-Rohrbacher will be playing the piano and leading a small choir who will accompany the hymns. At times our lay leader will also join us in-person. When we add our tech support team to the mix, we will have 10-12 people in person, a huge and welcome change for me!
The first Sunday in July, we will have our first FOCUS service led by First Presbyterian Church. At this time, that church is planning on offering their service on Facebook Live which we will also be broadcasting on our usual Zoom site for all who would like to watch together.
Then, on July 11th, we will begin to welcome our congregation back to in-person worship! Our plan is to begin by opening to 50 people at the most. Everyone else can continue to join us by Zoom, as usual. We will encourage everyone to make a reservation, but no one will be turned away at the door as long as we are under 50 people total.
At least, that is our plan at the moment! We are aware that state guidelines are changing quickly. The current guidelines from New York State for religious services have not been updated since April 6, 2021, but we anticipate they will be updated soon. Depending on what the guidelines allow, our reopening may look different from what we are currently anticipating.
So, stay tuned. Beginning this week, we will offer a “Reopening Update” in each week’s e-news. As July approaches and we get clearer on the rules we will be following, we plan to offer a Second Hour conversation about reopening and respond to any and all questions. In the meantime, please feel free to contact me or any member of the Reopening Team: Leif Hartmark, Fatmata Hilton, Lynne McKee, Peter McKee, Tom McPheeters, Valerie Shanley, Dixon Southworth, and Kris Wilhelm.
Rev. Heather Kirk-Davidoff is pastor at Westminster Presbyterian Church, Albany, NY. ,Click here to read more about Pastor Heather in her bio.