From The Desk Of…” – 10/19/20

A weekly update from the church office at First Church in Pembroke!

Greetings from the church office here at First Church in Pembroke!  We hope to write on a weekly basis (beginning of each week), in the effort to share various happenings that have, are, or will be taking place at First Church in Pembroke.  So, grab a cup of your favorite beverage and enjoy this week’s initial update!!

We have finished our third Sunday of worship services since returning to opening the Sanctuary (October 4, 2020) under the “Covid-19 Phase 2 stipulations.” The church leadership has worked hard to maintain the daily, and at times even hourly, requirements for “churches and public gatherings” mandated by the CDC and the State of Massachusetts.  Add to the mix the daily routines with the CNK Pre-Schoolers, and you can appreciate the obligations.

Our Sanctuary has been officially rated and town-approved for a capacity of 200 people under “normal circumstances.”   However, with the current but ever-evolving Covid-19 guidelines and state regulations, in addition to the social distancing stipulations, we are presently limited to 25 people at any one gathering.  

To accommodate the number of members electing to attend the services, we now have two services on Sunday mornings – 8:45a.m. and 10a.m. – with both being well attended.  Those choosing to attend, in the Sanctuary, are to call into the church office and “reserve” seating at either of the services.  Kristen Schultz, our church administrator, is in the office Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 8am to Noon.  And the church phone (781-293-2584) is equipped with a voice mail and messaging system that will record phone requests, most of which are followed up the next day to confirm the requests.  So far, the patterns suggest most calls are coming in and seating in the Sanctuary is fully reserved by the end of the office hours on  Wednesday.  It should also be noted that Kristen personally calls each person/family, regarding the seating request, during each Friday’s office hours to confirm their respective seating numbers and preferred service.  With the combined effort of several people, the “call-ahead-seating” is working out well – both for scheduling and on Sunday mornings!

So, having said all that, we again send out a huge “Thanks” to all who work so hard every day, all week long, and even on Sunday mornings, to meet the demands for health department protocols compliance and facility safety.

It should be noted that we are monitoring – daily – the Covid-19 ratings, locally, statewide and nationally.  As mandates are issued by respective local, state, and federal authorities and officials, we will adjust our efforts accordingly.  If there are sudden changes in our abilities to gather, be it on Sunday mornings or regarding other planned functions/events, we will initiate timely communications through  emails, phone-tree calls, the church’s website, and whatever other form will help facilitate the sharing of important information.

We are also aware that there is consistent number following online (“live streaming”) as well as accessing the archived services located on and throughout our website.  If you are unable to attend services in the Sanctuary on Sunday morning, you may go online and view – either live or at a later time – the worship services each week.  www.firstchurchinpembroke.org will get you into the FCP website and from there you can view a variety of services.  As always, if you have any concerns, comments, or questions, just call the church office!

As to the specifics of various protocols First Church is incorporating in its everyday and Sunday morning routines, the following points are directly from the “MA COVID-19 Checklist” published by the State of Massachusetts regarding “places of worship and religious services.”

Social Distancing

  • For indoor services, places of worship must monitor member entries and exits and limit occupancy at all times to the greater of the following:
  • 50% of the building’s maximum permitted occupancy as documented on its occupancy permit on record with the municipal building department or other municipal record holder;
  • Buildings for which no permitted occupancy limitation is on record may allow 10 persons per 1,000 sq.ft of accessible space;
  • In any case, no enclosed space within the building may exceed occupancy of 10 persons per 1,000 sq.ft.;
  • All occupancy counts/calculations shall include attendees, staff, & other workers.
  • Attendees who are not part of the same immediate household must be seated at least 6ft apart.  Members of the same immediate household are permitted to sit together and less than 6ft apart;
  • If there is fixed seating, rows should be blocked off and kept empty to allow for sufficient distancing between rows;
  • All attendees and staff must wear face coverings or masks in accordance with the COVID-19 Order No. 3 and the Department of Public Health’s Guidance while inside and while entering and exiting places of worship or otherwise participating in in-person services, except where a person is unable to wear a face covering or mask because of a medical or disabling condition;
  • Places of worship may refuse entry to a person who refuses to wear a face covering or mask for non-medical reasons;
  • Places of worship are encouraged to take steps to encourage orderly entering and exiting of services in a manner that encourages social distancing.  For example:
  • Signage or floor markings should be posted to have one-way aisles or otherwise direct attendees to follow certain pathways for entering and exiting the service;
  • If a line forms outside of the service, those waiting should be directed to maintain social distancing.  Tape or other markings on the ground outside of places of worship should be placed to encourage attendees to maintain social distancing of at least 6ft.;
  • Staff should direct people in high traffic areas to help maintain social distancing;
  • Officiants or other staff should direct successive, row-by-row exiting.
  • Staffing and Operations
  • Places of worship shall communicate to members and workers that they should not attend services in-person if any of the following are true:
  • Member or worker is experiencing any symptoms such as fever (100.0 and above) or chills, cough, shortness of breath, sore throat, fatigue, headache, muscle/body aches, runny nose/congestion, new loss of taste or smell, or nausea, vomiting or diarrhea;
  • Member or worker has had “close contact” with an individual diagnosed with COVID-19 “Close contact” means living in the same household as a person who has tested positive for COVID-19 for 15 minutes or more, or coming in direct contact with secretions (e.g. sharing utensils, being coughed on) from a person who has tested positive for COVID-19, while that person was symptomatic;
  • Member or worker has been asked to self-isolate or quarantine by their doctor or a local public health official.
  • Places of worship shall not have communal gathering pre or post service (e.g. coffee hours or other food services);
  • A place of worship learns that an attendee or worker or other worker has tested positive for COVID-19, it shall notify the local Board of Health (LBOH) in the city or town where the place of worship is located and assist the LBOH as reasonably requested to trace likely contacts and advise contacts to isolate and self-quarantine;
  • Places of worship are encouraged to modify the means to collect any financial contributions from attendees so as to eliminate shared contribution trays and baskets and to minimize contact. Consider setting up a no-touch method to collect contributions, and encouraging contributions through mail or electronic means;
  • Places of worship are encouraged to modify communal rituals, like taking communion or “Passing of the Peace,” so as to limit contact with others.  Consider distributing where applicable, prepackaged communion or sacraments.
  • Cleaning and Disinfecting
  • Places of worship shall be cleaned and disinfected between each service, including disinfection of heavy transit areas and high-touch surfaces (e.g. doorknobs, bathrooms, microphones, shared instruments);
  • If a place of worship learns that an attendee or worker or other worker has tested positive for COVID-19, it shall notify the local Board of Health (LBOH) in the city or town where the place of worship is located and assist the LBOH as reasonably requested to advise likely contacts to isolate and self-quarantine.

Well, that is about it for today, Monday, October 19, 2020.  We trust you are all doing well and abiding by 1) wearing face coverings or masks; 2) observing the 6 ft. social distancing guideline; and 3) washing your hands and using hand sanitizer.  May God continue to bless all our efforts and may the Peace of Christ be with us all, now and forevermore.


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