Update on the Church's Efforts to Adapt to the Pandemic

October 6, 2020 - Adaptation Vision Team, Report #4

The Adaptation Vision team continues to bring together church leaders to steer ongoing big-picture responses to the pandemic. On October 6th, the team agreed to move forward with making the West Wing of the Plymouth Building available to church groups for indoor meeting under strict safety guidelines. Once Fellowship Hall is no longer the renovation HQ and the new ceiling is installed, we hope to make it available to a church group or two as well as a couple of outside groups whose mission greatly benefits the community (Al Anon, for instance).

We are also making recommendations to Deacons, Trustees, and the Implementation Team to try indoor Sanctuary worship on some Sundays in November and December during the 8 AM worship slot. We are also making recommendations for Christmas-related outdoor worship and limited indoor worship. We will keep you posted as we work out how to provide safe and joyful worship leading up to Christmas!

July 21, 2020 - Adaptation Vision Team, Report #3

The Adaptation Vision Team has held ongoing meetings to collaborate with the deacons, trustees, church board, and other ministries about how to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic as it evolves.  

On Tuesday, July 21st, members of the Adaptation Vision team met online. Rev. Adam gave a report that the deacons have voted to not have indoor in-person worship through at least the end of August 2020.

The team brainstormed ways to engage people in person, including more outdoor worship, intergenerational events, and community-wide celebrations that the church could sponsor.

Adam hopes to have more parking lot services in late August into September, when the heat will be less intense.

A report about the building projects made it clear that it has been a help for Mark and the crews to not have to tidy up at the end of each week to prepare for us to worship indoors.

Much of the discussion focused on the upcoming program year, and the need to support our program ministries—outreach, music, faith formation and youth—as they adapt to a program year that will likely start with physical distancing. Rev. Ashley and Ann Sabo will discern members of an implementation team to start meeting by early August to prepare for remote ministries and the eventual return to indoor events.

The team will meet again on August 4th.

June 26, 2020 - Adaptation Vision Team, Report #2

The Adaptation Vision Team has held ongoing meetings to collaborate with the deacons, trustees, church board, and other ministries about how to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic as it evolves. The team was coordinated with the pastors and implementation team in the goal of holding two outdoor worship services in July. The first service will be a drive-in service on Sunday, July 5th, at 10 AM in the church parking lot. By June 29th a form will be accessible from the church website to let us know if you hope to attend (people will also be able to watch the live stream of that service online that morning). A second outdoor service is still being worked out; check the church website for updates.

The team recommended to the deacons to not hold indoor in-person worship through at least the end of July, and the deacons passed that motion. Changes have been made to policies related to memorial services and baptisms, so that those can be held outside including on the back Plymouth lawn. Rev. Adam continues to work with staff and volunteer leaders to allow people to access the building to do their basic responsibilities. The Trustees voted to allow committees, ministries, and other church groups to meet in the church parking lot or back Plymouth lawn, but must first get permission from the church office so we can make sure nobody else is using the space and go over safe distancing requirements.

The discernment related to indoor worship for the next months is related to how flat the curve is; what capacity is allowed in our worship spaces; and what we can and cannot do together indoors (for example, singing). The A.V. team is grateful for the work of so many ministries, including Faith Formation as it discerns how to run Sunday school, a high priority ministry in our church, in the upcoming program year. Please speak with Ann Sabo, April Preiss, Joe Jeffery, Allison Britting, Marlene Sanchez, or Revs. Adam and Ashley if you have any questions or concerns.

May 27, 2020 - Adaptation Vision Team, Report #1

The Adaptation Vision Team (AV Team) has begun meeting to coordinate the church's ongoing response to the pandemic.

Moderator Ann Sabo chairs the group that also includes Vice-Moderator Joe Jeffery, Clerk Allison Britting, Deacon Co-Chair Marlene Sanchez, Trustee Representative April Preiss, and Pastors Revs. Ashley Grant and Adam Eckhart.

At its first meeting, the AV Team agreed to utilize the four-phase adapting plan used by the United Church of Christ and, in similar forms, by other organizations and governments. This enables us to keep our focus on the tangible goals of each progressive phase and to prepare as we approach each one. The church will celebrate its progress toward fuller opening as a symbol of improved health conditions for the entire community and as a closer reunion to worship as we remember it!

Because they know that health concerns will linger for the foreseeable future, the team remains dedicated to continuing online worship even when/if we re-start in-person worship.

The Vision Team will be working in parallel with an Implementation Team to determine details of what in-person worship and other gatherings might look like.

The team also admits that metrics on two major issues—reliable testing and tracing—have not yet risen to the levels that enable us to re-start indoor in-person worship yet.

At this time the team is recommending that for the summer we keep all Sunday morning worship online only, with the potential for an occasional outdoor weeknight evening service, such as drive-in worship in the parking lot or bring-your-own-chair worship on back Plymouth lawn.

Any potential outdoor services would be done with feedback from the Milford Health Department and using thorough protocols.

Please return to the website for further updates and keep the faith!

May 14, 2020 - Letter from Ann Sabo, Church Moderator and Rev. Adam Eckhart, Senior Pastor

Dear First Church Community,

Peace to you and blessings in the name of Jesus Christ!

As the May 20th date approaches for the governor's re-calibration of Connecticut's "Stay Safe, Stay Home" policies, we want to update you on the church's planning process.

We (Ann and Adam) are pulling together a small Adaptation Vision Team, consisting of Officers, Pastors, a Deacon and Trustee, to lay out a basic vision of how different ministries will adapt as the pandemic evolves.

This vision team will likely coordinate across the church's many ministries through a larger Adaptation Implementation Team.

As church representatives, we share basic principles on how to continue adapting our ministries, based on our faith in God who loves us and perseveres with us:
-We strive to cooperate as best as possible with the Milford Health Department and Governor's policies, relying on scientific evidence and data;
-We strive to make future re-opened activities as safe as possible for all participants;
-We strive to provide online or other alternatives for as many ministries as is plausible.

To be clear, the next steps of adaptation may or may not include re-opening in-person ministries. We need to have confidence in our safety measures.

This is also why whatever "re-opening" might happen soon, these ministries won't look or be the same as they previously were.

Worship, as the central act of the church, is where our focus will begin. Due to physical distancing restrictions, we already know that the Chapel will not be a plausible space for communal in-person worship anytime soon.

We also know that we have a limited number of pews that can be utilized with at least six-foot clearance around them.

Other traditional Sunday morning in-person ministries (coffee hour, Sunday school, choirs) will not likely re-start soon because of the inability to maintain proper physical distance.

We can also tell you that the deacons have voted to keep the Sanctuary service at 10:00 AM throughout summer 2020 and that worship will be offered online each Sunday for the foreseeable future, whether or not we decide to return to in-person worship.

We pray for all who are impacted by the pandemic—in your health, work, and spiritual grounding—and please let us know if you have any questions or concerns.

God's Peace and Love,

Ann Sabo, Moderator
& Rev. Adam Eckhart, Senior Pastor

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