ASC Reopening Task Force – Notes from Meeting Oct. 7, 2021

Attendees: George Carvill, Peter Gibbons, Jamie Gibson, Leslie Kinney, Steve Squires, Rev. Telos Whitfield

Summary: No decisions or recommendations were made.

Details: At meeting time, the COVID situation in VT was serious, with both the state and Windham County reporting daily new-case rates approaching new highs, despite very high vaccination rates. Serious illness and deaths are almost entirely among the unvaccinated population, but the risks to the vaccinated of becoming ill or a carrier are significant.  We are still on Zoom, and have not yet had an in-person service since the pandemic started.

The science says that the safest thing we could do for resumption of in-person gatherings would be to require vaccinations, and that only vaccinated people attend.

Forewarning – the following bits about proof of vaccination were discussed, but there was NO decision made, and NO policy suggested to or agreed to by the board.

We discussed the fact that a growing number of area organizations are requiring proof of vaccination, including The Marina, the Windham Orchestra, Brattleboro Music Center. Although this sounds unwelcoming at a church, consider that we only need see the proof once. Ushers could keep a list of who is known to have shown their vaccination card, and need not bother them again on subsequent visits. So far as we know, nearly all ASC adults have been vaccinated, so this part may not be a big issue.

There are several issues to crafting a workable policy, none of which were resolved at this meeting

Children too young to be eligible for vaccination are an important part of our community. Leslie noted that the children are likely to want to attend in-person Sunday services.

What to do if someone simply doesn’t have their vaccination card with them.  Who wants to be the usher turning away a long-term member you’ve known for decades?

What to do if someone (adult) truly is not vaccinated.

How such a policy would play out over the long term, as vaccines may or may not lose efficacy, need boosters etc.  This part is unknowable at present. (Peter encouragingly notes that the case for boosters is mostly about declining antibody levels; there is as yet little or no evidence of increasing break-through infections.)

In summary, we talked about proof-of-vaccination, but it is by no means clear whether we will ever go down that path. It is this group’s job to consider alternatives.

On the hybrid services front, a new internet cable has been run into the main hall, with a hub for plug-in connections, and our service with Comcast has been upgraded for higher bandwidth. The projector does work for displaying a Zoom screen, but isn’t great. Theater Adventure is still working out their plans for what equipment they will use for their programs, and what it would be practical to share with ASC.

 A possible first step is to run a sort-of ordinary Zoom service, but with key participants attending not from home, but from the main hall at church.   No audience at first, only people who are part of the service or tech team could be physically present.  The host (George or Daniel) could still use pre-recorded pieces as we do now, and people could still participate in the service via Zoom as done now. This scenario simply allows us to try out cameras and microphone for people speaking from the podium, lighting the chalice, performing music (esp. Eva on piano).  Would certainly require a dress rehearsal prior to going live on a Sunday.

We note that ASC has become quite good at doing Zoom services, from the opening music to the well-run discussions after the formal service is done. This has lessened the pressure to resume meeting in person.