Dear St. John’s Community,
As you have undoubtedly heard by now, the Board of Trustees for St. John’s recently extended the closure of the church’s facilities through the end of 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. While this may not come as a surprise for many, we felt it was an important enough decision to provide additional insights into the rationale and discussion that took place.
In early March when we were first forced to face the reality that the COVID-19 pandemic had reached Ohio and we initially closed the Church’s facilities, I believe we all were hopeful it would be gone within a few months. We made this decision with inputs from not only our minister, but also a broad spectrum of leaders within the congregation. We additionally felt that with the lack of clear information or precedent upon which to base our decisions at that time, we were best served by proceeding both with an abundance of caution, as well as moving in small steps, knowing information was changing rapidly. As new information was published, and the situation became clearer, we could continually reassess the steps we were taking, and decide what best served our community. We felt that by working in smaller increments, it would make things easier on our community, and provide some much-needed hope that a return to normalcy would be much sooner than later.
In the several months since March, many things have become clearer. As a nation, we have been able to better understand the risks associated with COVID-19 and how it has impacted many areas. We’ve seen encouraging news that risks in outdoor settings are smaller than indoors. We have also seen discouraging news regarding the risks presented by choirs, singing, and many of the traditions we hold dear within our church. However, despite everything we have learned, we are still struggling as a nation on how to proceed. For many of us on the board, we looked at our workplaces – which have far more resources – struggling on how to proceed and plan for the future.
Two things that did become readily apparent however, were that we had not reached the point where we felt we could re-open the church’s facilities in good conscience in the immediate future; and secondly, that we had reached the point where the uncertainty about when we would be reopening the church was hampering our ability to further plan as a congregation. We looked at what neighboring congregations had done, had conversations with our minister, the recommendations from our own Security and Health Safety Team, as well as guidance from the UUA. It became apparent that the discussion was no longer about how many weeks, but how many months we needed to be looking to close the facilities.
We ultimately settled on extending the closure of the facilities through December because we felt it was a large enough timeline to plan within and around and could hopefully provide some certainty in a time of uncertainty. It provides our staff with a timeline to plan services, messaging, and new ways to connect, the board with some firm ground to strategize and budget around, and our congregants a time to look forward to.
In the meantime, the board will continue meeting and reassessing what we know about the pandemic, and how we can safely return to worshipping at St. John’s. We know that plans change and expect ours to do so as well during the next six months. Nothing would delight us more than to return to worshipping at St. John’s sooner. Until then, our wonderful minister and many congregants have tirelessly sought new ways to connect with one another. As we learn and grow through this experience together, we welcome new ideas on how to do so.
I hope to see you all soon,
St. John’s Board of Trustees