Dear Members and Friends,
Reopening has been on our minds. And we know that it has been on your minds, too, as more of us become fully vaccinated, our County’s case numbers decline, and schools have begun in-person instruction.
Several times over this past month during virtual meetings, we’ve been able to celebrate with members as they happily proclaim their new status as “second dose-ers”. This has rightfully spurred the question “so when exactly can we be together for church-sanctioned activities again?”
The answer is simple and complex at the same time, and is most easily digested by thinking of our being together in two spaces; on USSB campus and off-campus.
Gatherings On Campus (at USSB), USSB Phased Reopening Plan
In this year, physically apart, your board and staff have been preparing for this moment in time when we are ready to phase into a full in-person community again.
In the fall, the board approved a phased reopening plan for on-campus activities and gatherings based on the California Blueprint for a Safer Economy, a colored-tier system driven by hard data on county case rates.
The USSB phased reopening plan allows for different-sized groups to gather at USSB in different tiers, with precautionary measures in place, starting with small USSB groups (<10) in the red tier and opening up to larger groups as we move through the tiered system into pre-pandemic health.
A full copy of the USSB Phased Reopening plan can be found here.
We are prioritizing outdoor gatherings whenever possible, and are working to set up our beautiful outdoor spaces for congregational use, to be ready for small group gatherings in the comfortable summer months.
Staff will be supporting USSB groups as we phase into reopening. We will be here to answer your logistical questions, we will keep the congregation updated as we approach a new tier status, and we will reach out directly to groups that are eligible to meet when the option is available.
Church Sanctioned Activities, Off-Campus Guidance
In March, The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention announced that fully vaccinated Americans can gather with other fully vaccinated people indoors. Many of you have been able to do this in social settings already by forming informal pods of fully vaccinated individuals and households – hooray! Even with this CDC announcement, there is a lot to consider.
Next week staff will be issuing guidance to all group leaders on whether or not they should consider an in-person gathering off or on campus, options for a hybrid approach, and how to help determine what option is right for your group and when.
Inclusion and Equity
Living into our values, both the on-campus phased reopening plan and off-campus church gatherings guidance focus on equity and inclusion. Just because groups can meet again for church-sanctioned activities doesn’t necessarily mean that in-person meetings are a good fit for your group. Some groups may even decide to stay 100% virtual.
There are many factors to consider, and staff are here to help you and your group determine the best option, with an open mind and inclusive heart.
Looking Ahead: Summer Socials & In-Person Worship
Should current trends hold, we are looking to hold a few safe, fun, and informal outdoor gatherings this summer as a way to dip our toes in the in-person water while the weather is warm, and to provide us an opportunity to see each other outside of our Zoom screens.
We are looking for a few volunteers to assist. If you have a knack for fun, and are interested in helping us plan these summer socials, please email Erin Wilson.
Even further down the road, staff are busily planning for in-person Sunday worship with a tentative eye on September Ingathering as our first Sunday in the Sanctuary, with a multi-platform option for those who choose to stay virtual.
There is a lot to accomplish this summer as we ready our facilities and policies to adapt to this and to provide our programs and services including infrastructure, policies, and technology to keep members and friends as safe and connected as possible. You will be hearing more from us on the topic of operational needs in the coming weeks.
Town Hall & Reopening Q&A – Sunday, April 18 After Service
We realize there is a lot of information here, and questions may begin to bubble up. We’ll be hosting a Town Hall Reopening Q&A on Sunday, April 18, just after service. Please join us to get your questions answered! More information to follow.
Your Board and staff cannot wait to be back together again, fully and robustly living into our mission and values as we navigate this beautiful and heartbreaking world.
Should you have any questions, please reach out to someone on the staff team. We are here to support you in this and all of life’s transitions.
Onolee Zwicke, Board President
Rev. Julia Hamilton, Lead Minister
Erin Wilson, Director of Administration
P.S. This week, Santa Barbara County opened up vaccination eligibility to everyone over 16 years of age. If you need assistance with navigating the various portals and/or help getting an appointment, please reach out the Pastoral Care Team by email, or call the Care Team hotline at (805) 265-3681.