Plymouth's COVID-19 Response
May 4, 2021
June 12, 2020
The Reopening Committee has been meeting regularly to review the ongoing developments and criteria for returning to worship. All of us are looking forward to the day we can worship together again. We continue to follow the Badger Bounce Back Plan ("BBBP") and the guidance from the Wisconsin Council of Churches (“WCC”). The Reopening Committee is also monitoring City and County guidelines and criteria, but the WI Conference of the UCC recommends we follow the BBBP and the WCC frameworks for reopening.
Here's where we are:
Under the BBBP, we are currently in the Stay-At-Home phase. To reach Phase 1, all the gating criteria must be met.
To reach Phase 2, all gating criteria must be maintained for at least two weeks after we reach Phase 1. To reach Phase 3, all gating criteria must be maintained for at least two weeks after we reach Phase 2.
We will not return to in-person worship until we are in Phase 3 under the BBBP.
When we return, we will have additional precautions and safety considerations. For example--we will require worshipers to wear masks, sit 6 feet apart from those not in the same household, eliminate coffee hour, etc. Worship will look different.
It is likely that the path to Phase 3 will not be a straight line. There will be setbacks, new waves, and changes. We will adjust as those changes come.
Here's what you might be wondering:
Q: I'm over 60 or have a complicating medical concern. Will I be refused if I want to come to worship despite my higher risk?
A: No. We do not intend to exclude people who are older or who may be at a higher risk of serious illness if they contract COVID-19. Each person can make their own decision about the risks of being in worship with others. However, those who are feeling ill or who believe they have been exposed to the virus must stay home.
Q: Will masks be required when we return to worshiping in the sanctuary?
A: Yes. Each worshiper should bring their own mask. Plymouth will have a few extras available for those who do not have one.
Q: Will we be able to sing during worship?
A: Not yet. Singing causes the droplets in our mouths to be aerosolized, which causes them to travel farther and stay in the air longer. Together with the Board of Deacons, we’ll be looking for creative ways to present hymns and other music while still minimizing our risk of exposure. For more information, here is the Wisconsin Council of Churches’ statement on Church Music During COVID-19.
Q: Can we have worship outside?
A: Probably not. The mayor’s office has acknowledged that some congregations are currently doing this and exceeding the amount currently allowed for religious gatherings (fewer than 10), and they don't recommend it. Even if we find a place to space out far enough to make such a gathering safe, we would also have the potential of other people entering our space. That makes outdoor worship less safe, and still puts our staff at risk.
Q: Well, is there any other way we can connect with our Plymouth family?
A: Glad you asked! The Deacons are working on a plan to put together neighborhood-based gatherings modeled on the Bon Appetit dinners. Those interested can fill out a form to indicate that they want to either host or participate. More info to come from Deacons after we reach Phase 1.
Q: When can I meet with my small group at Plymouth?
A: We anticipate that small groups may be able to meet at Plymouth once we enter Phase 2. Each group will have to follow a schedule to allow for thorough cleaning after the meeting, and all members of the group will be required to follow safety precautions (social distancing, wearing masks, etc.)
Q: I'm not ready to come back, even after we reach Phase 3. Will worship still be online?
A: Yes! A subcommittee of the Board of Deacons is looking into options for streaming our services once we begin meeting in person. Look for more information in the Fall.
Thank you for your patience while we learn to live with these new circumstances. May you remember that we’re not asked to do it alone, as we know from Isaiah 43:1-5
“Don’t be afraid, I’ve redeemed you.
I’ve called your name. You’re mine.
When you’re in over your head, I’ll be there with you.
When you’re in rough waters, you will not go down.
When you’re between a rock and a hard place, it won’t be a dead end—
So don’t be afraid: I’m with you."
Yours in faith,
The Re-opening Committee - Amanda, Crystal, Donna, Jim, Katie, and Pastor Stephen
Never having faced a situation like this pandemic before, we have all been struggling with the question of "what happens next?" To that end, Plymouth's Church Council has established a Re-opening Committee which meets on a regular basis to discuss the use of our building for Plymouth activities as well as outside groups, and to make recommendations to the Council.
As we work to balance the needs of our community and congregation, we take guidance from the Wisconsin Council of Churches. "The minimum requirements of the law are not necessarily the mark by which the Church should measure its behavior," said Rev. Kerri Parker, Executive Director of the Wisconsin Council of Churches. "Instead, we are guided by pastoral and prudential concerns; our commitment to love God and to care for one another. This is one of the deepest lessons Jesus Christ taught his followers, and of critical importance in this moment of communal vulnerability." The Committee is grateful for the guidance from the WCC, state and national United Church of Christ (UCC) leaders, and health professionals. We aim to chart a course that is right for Plymouth--taking precautions to ensure the safety of our members and friends, while continuing to extend an extravagant welcome.
We will continue to be in conversation with all parties and keep the congregation apprised of the plans as we go forward.
Yours in faith,
The Re-opening Committee
Dear beloved siblings of the church family that is Plymouth,
Our prayers are with you all as our world faces this devastating moment in human history.
This message seeks to bring you up to date with what is happening (and not happening) here at Plymouth. Because of recommendations from the Trump administration and a declaration from Wisconsin's Governor Evers: we will suspend all in-person worship services and all study groups, committee meetings, music rehearsals, and social events. (Per their own policies, Milestones daycare is closed, UW-Milwaukee has suspended classes, and various rental groups are choosing to not meet.) It is important that we all follow the social distancing that is necessary to avoid exposure to the virus.
Wisconsin Conference Minister, Rev. Franz Rigert, in a letter sent this week reminds us that "Social distancing does not mean spiritual distancing. We will be sharing online and on Facebook and I hope that if you desire to have a conversation, that you give us a call. We are actively exploring how we can connect differently - online and beyond - to stay connected in ways that foster hope and reassurance." That is true for the Conference and it is true for Plymouth.
I am reminded of an older hymn that isn't in most of our hymnals anymore. It has some old-fashioned words and phrases, but I hope you receive the truth of its message. Written by Thomas Moore in 1816 - "Come, you disconsolate, where'er you languish, come to the mercy seat, fervently kneel! Here bring your wounded hearts, here tell your anguish: Earth has no sorrow that heaven cannot heal."
We will be hosting a watch party of the worship service on our Facebook page on Sunday morning at 9:30. We're hoping this provides a sense of comfort during this difficult time.
Lastly, call us if there is anything that you need. Be wise. Be careful. Work from home. And remember that you are not alone. We are with you in Spirit. God is with you in every breath. Be well.
Rev. Stephen Welch