ASC Reopening Task Force – Notes from Meeting Nov. 19, 2021

Attendees: Peter Gibbons, Jamie Gibson, Eva Greene, Leslie Kinney, Steve Squires, Rev. Telos Whitfield

The pandemic numbers in VT and the nation continue to get worse, concentrated among the unvaccinated, especially school-age kids. Also among people in high-density living situations. Peter is not so worried about our ASC population, where essentially all eligible are vaccinated, and are good about taking precautions. So far, other area churches holding in-person services are continuing to do so. No known problems.

We are fine with the Holiday Bazaar taking place outdoors as it did last year, as the team is planning.

Our first-ever hybrid service on the 12th, with only the on-screen people and tech crew physically present at the church, went very well.  All were masked and distanced except for when actually on-screen.  The next step is to also allow a reasonable number of attendees who are not part of the formal service.

Our focus was mostly on the Christmas Eve service.  Without actual numbers handy, we estimated that our Christmas Eve attendance over the past few decades has ranged as high as 200, but closer to 75 in the most recent pre-pandemic years. We talked of ways to keep it short, perhaps finishing with “Silent Night” outside. Eva is planning on mostly instrumental music (no singing), and stressed including the balcony to increase our capacity. Steve and Peter will revisit what our capacity would be, with balcony, 3-foot distancing, and tech requirements of doing a hybrid service. We can also overflow a bit into the parlor, piano alcove, and even the kitchen, perhaps as a “back stage” for those who are part of the service.

With COVID around, ventilation has become a big issue. The church building has no ventilation system other than opening windows and doors, obviously problematic in winter.  Steve distributed some thoughts on air purifiers prior to the meeting, including church-specific peculiarities like not really needing carbon filters for odors (no cooking, smoke), and that we actually would want a timer that simply turns things off in X hours, after everyone leaves; not the usual time-of-day programmable timer. Eva and Telos report that several area churches are already using purifiers. Eva is making inquiries.  There are a lot of purifiers on the market. Should be able to find something better than opening windows in winter. To be continued…

Our next meeting will be on Friday December 10th, 4:30 PM.

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Post-meeting addendum: Peter & Steve met at the church to look at the capacity situation.

Recommendations:

Maximum of 27 people in the balcony. Some clutter needs to be relocated, and chairs arranged for 3’ spacing or greater. One row at the railing, another row on the back pair of risers, 4 seats per riser. Several more chairs can fit on the far end, watching for the low and decreasing headroom.

Maximum of 70 people in the main hall. The lectern, chalice, etc. can be moved back from the edge of the stage, and the first row of seats can be spaced out in an arc at least 12 feet away from lectern and chalice, wherever people will be speaking unmasked.  Subsequent rows can be arranged at 3 foot spacing, staggered against neighboring rows for better spacing and visibility. The back row can be all the way against the back wall.

Of course, many people will attend in “pods” of trusted family and friends, and can sit closer together to each other. If the chairs are pre-arranged in a well-spaced pattern, people will likely get the idea and self-organize responsibly.

This assumes that the Tech crew takes little space. Perhaps the one seat worth for camera and tripod, another for the projector.