In September 2020 the Cabinet appointed a committee to see whether we could safely offer in-person worship services. The committee soon drafted procedures for reopening, reflecting best practices and research at that time, but the rising rate of COVID-19 infection did not allow the church to begin testing and refining those procedures for in-person worship until March 2021, which coincided with the calling of our new settled pastor.
The committee's recommendations are described in the Q&A below (click on a question to reveal the answer):
When is it (more) safe?
Wherever people gather there will be risk of COVID-19 transmission, and we must minimize risk to all participants. We believe that modified worship services can be conducted safely, and we are monitoring conditions in Newport and surrounding towns. We also know that many in our congregation cannot attend in-person, so we are enhancing our ability to reach them remotely.
What will it look like?
Modified worship services will be shorter and organized around prayer, scripture, pastoral messages, and instrumental music; they may not include vocal choir music, hymn singing, or passed offering or communion plates. Despite those changes, services held in our beautiful sanctuary will continue to offer a time for personal reflection and congregational worship.
How can it be done?
In order to meet safety guidelines, we must make several changes to our personal conduct — including how we enter and exit the church building and how we greet others. With proper spacing between alternating pews, we can accommodate up to 30 worship groups in the sanctuary. A worship group is 1-4 people in your household or social pod; total room capacity is limited to 80 people for up to one hour.*
Upon arrival, you will enter from the rear parking lot entrance and check in at a registration table in the Fireplace Room. From there, ushers will direct you to your assigned pew in the sanctuary. Personal greetings and conversations are encouraged in the parking lot; Fellowship Hall remains closed.
* The total worship capacity of 80 people has been estimated using the COVID-19 Indoor Safety Guideline developed at MIT and is a function of many factors: room volume, air exchange & filtration, mask type & fit, activity level, virus variant, audience age, vaccination rate, and risk tolerance.
How can I attend?
When contact tracing is required, you can attend the upcoming worship service by requesting a pew for yourself and up to three guests (who sit with you without distancing). For normal Sunday services, a Pew Request must be submitted by Saturday evening. If your plans change and you are unable to attend, please notify the church as there may be a waiting list.
UPDATE: Advance pew registration is not required at this time for normal Sunday services. Registration may be required for Christmas Eve and Easter services because of limited seating.