There have been a lot of changes in recent months. We don’t need to start enumerating the number of aspects of our life that have been upended since March. We all know. And we are all feeling some anxiety over circumstances which are largely out of our control. We don’t know which changes will be permanent and become the new normal and which ones will be temporary. So we live with the stress of the uncertain.
FBCH has had to make changes since March too. We rapidly transitioned to online worship and increased our online presence dramatically to allow us to worship in the time of social distancing. And guess what? What we thought would be a temporary change has been so successful in filling a need that we will carry on doing it even when in-person worship becomes normal again. Decisions have been made to allow that online process to happen smoothly. Thanks to the financial support of the Auxiliary, video equipment has been purchased so that we are not dependent on personal devices.
Sound quality continues to be an issue for many in our congregation both in-person and online. A long-term, permanent solution is likely to be expensive and will not be undertaken until the congregation can gather together to discuss our options. (Guiding Statement 5 in action!) However, we can make some improvements at a modest cost that can be incorporated into a larger plan should the congregation so desire. To that end, we are working on plans to connect our current system to our livestream and to find the right technology that will provide much improved hearing for those attending in person.
Another change which will allow us to continue our online presence on Sundays once a congregation is physically present entails the removal of some pews in the sanctuary. The deacons discussed this change thoroughly and unanimously agreed that it was appropriate as a temporary response to COVID, subject to ratification by the congregation when that becomes possible. The front 2 pews will be removed and the privacy rail repositioned. This change ensures that appropriate social distance is maintained when the piano is in use and when people are moving in the front of the sanctuary. The pews from the south transept will also be removed to accommodate the production aspects of the livestream which must be moved from its present location in the centre aisle when people once again worship in person. This space will also allow some flexible seating for families with children while the creche is unavailable. In conjunction with Zoom Room technology, this space will also be a home for a mid-week Compline service and combined online/in-person book studies. The pews will be stored so that they can be replaced in the future should the congregation express that desire.
We have also seen the change of our front doors. Following the design approved in June 2019, the doors let in light to the narthex and allow our light to shine onto Oxford St. While 90% of those recently polled about side doors affirmed the decision to refresh those doors with glass, it seemed wise to put off making final decisions until we can gather as a congregation for discussion. This timing also allows more people to see what a difference the front doors have made within our space. In the meantime we will refinish these two doors and make them fully operable.
There are many accommodations that must be made to allow for the return of people to our building. Some of these changes will be relatively short term and some may be in place for many months and become the new normal. Our reopening plan is being developed by the Deacon Executive and Board of Management and will be consistent with the recommendations from Public Health. These details will be shared with you by the end of August prior to our much-anticipated return to in-person worship on September 6.
We have been reading statements from a variety of congregants saying that they are “heartened” by the way the church is adapting to COVID. It is heartening to see that we are living into Guiding Statement 5 by being nimble, flexible and fearless in adapting our practices to COVID while recognizing that more substantial decisions must wait until we can gather as a congregation for thorough in-person discussion.
We are looking forward to seeing some familiar faces, albeit masked, on September 6. Until then, be safe.
Chair, Board of Management