Categories: News

When will we return to in-person activities?

We hope to be able to meet again in person in November.

Our Board of Trustees, with guidance from our Congregational Safety Advisory Council, issued an update on August 27.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about our Response to COVID

We don’t know. Given the evolving nature of the pandemic and the expected cresting of the fourth wave in October, we do know that we will not be offering an in-person option for our Sunday services or programming until at least early November. For now, the potential risks and complications of inviting larger groups into the sanctuary for services are challenging to manage and hard to justify. Under current conditions, seating capacity would be very limited, and there would be no singing by the choir or congregation, as well as no social time following the service. For now, we will continue to hold Sunday services and major congregational programs online.
We are a multigenerational community, with members and friends covering the full lifespan. At present, children under 12 are not able to be vaccinated. We also have a wide spectrum of health conditions that mean many in our community are vulnerable to exposure to the coronavirus. As Unitarians, we deeply value inclusion and equity. At this point, with many in our congregation at potential risk, we are choosing—as is the case for many if not most UU congregations in Canada and the U.S.—to stay online in order to include in our activities as many members of our community as we can.
Even over summer 2021, new evidence emerged that the Delta variant is more easily transmissible. And it was also over summer 2021 that the Delta variant came to be the predominant variant in Ontario. There is also emerging evidence that fully vaccinated people can experience breakthrough infection (with or without apparent symptoms) and can also transmit the virus to other persons if exposed after being fully vaccinated. These are rare events and the risk of infection and transmission are greatly reduced through vaccination but, unfortunately, these risks remain. As a result, there is a renewed emphasis on not abandoning social distancing, masking, limits on sizes of gatherings and other measures to prevent transmission on top of continued promotion of vaccination.
Over time, public health authorities have recognized COVID-19 can be acquired through airborne transmission indoors at distances of more than two metres, so, even indoors, physical distancing reduces (but does not eliminate) the risk of transmission. Being roughly two metres apart makes it less likely one will encounter larger droplets containing virus, but this distance does not eliminate the risk of inhaling aerosols (small particles which stay suspended in air and can move throughout an enclosed airspace). An additional argument for continued physical distancing indoors is that this simultaneously results in lower numbers of people interacting in any given space and in limiting the total number of persons interacting at one time. Reducing the absolute size of gatherings reduces the size of potential outbreaks. Clusters and outbreaks will happen. When they are smaller in size, outbreaks are less likely to overwhelm the local public health response and have less potential to result in widespread transmission in the community. Because of both of these considerations, we can expect that public health measures will make it difficult to hold indoor Sunday services, at full capacity, for some time.
The Board of Trustees, with guidance from our Congregational Safety Advisory Council and in consultation with our staff, has monitored and will continue to evaluate changing conditions on a regular basis, using available public health metrics and recommended practices for congregations from the Canadian Unitarian Council and the Unitarian Universalist Association.
Yes. Sunday services will continue to be accessible online via Zoom and YouTube, even as some people choose to start attending services in person.
Yes. If all participants in a small group or committee are completely comfortable meeting, they may do so, as long as the group adheres with current public health guidelines, which, for now, would include masking if meeting indoors. Presently, these meetings cannot be held in our building, as we lack the custodial staff to support onsite activities.
Most likely, yes. At least for a time. Currently, masking is required for any events or activities in our building, in keeping with current provincial guidelines.
Physical distancing is currently required by the province for any religious groups’ indoor activities. When we do return to gathering in person, if distancing requirements are still in effect, seats will be arranged to comply with spacing requirements. A sign-up system may be used to comply with occupancy limits and ensure equitable access to services in the sanctuary for those who wish to attend in person.
We strongly encourage all those who can be vaccinated to be vaccinated. The Board of Trustees will be determining guidelines for staff, volunteers, and members and friends who participate in in-person congregational activities.
In-person programming for children under 12 will not resume in the building until at least November. Angela Klassen, Director of Lifespan Religious Education, is developing plans for occasional outdoor programs for the fall, in addition to opportunities for kids and families to continue to gather online.
We do not know when we will be able to safely resume singing during in-person services. Decisions about choir rehearsals and singing in worship will adhere to public health guidance, under the recommendations of our Congregational Safety Advisory Council.
Among the many resources we are consulting, we have found these to be especially helpful: From Public Health Ontario From US Centers for Disease Control (CDC):