Re-Gathering & Opening Plan (as of 2.22.2021)
Welcome to Unity’s page dedicated to providing our congregation and community with the most updated information regarding the church’s plans to resume on-campus activities in a coordinated, safe and methodical way.
(From SCDHEC Website – York County, SC COVID cases, click here to view.)
Frequently Asked Questions
When will the church be opened for in-person worship?
Unity’s Re-Gathering Team is meeting weekly to review COVID metrics and to develop protocols for opening our Sanctuary and campus using appropriate precautions for our Congregation. The major determinants for in-person worship are objective, scientifically based evidence that shows a consistent downward trend in community spread of COVID in our local area.
What metrics is the Team looking at to guide this decision?
The primary metrics that the Team is using are: (a) the 7-day moving average of new COVID cases, (b) the 7-day moving average for percent positive tests for COVID, and (c) hospitalization rates. The Team reviews these metrics weekly for York, Lancaster and Mecklenburg Counties as those are the major areas where our Congregation lives.
When will we all be able to gather together for worship in a normal fashion?
The Re-Gathering Team anticipates that even when we do re-open for in-person worship, it will not be “business as usual”. We will need to continue to observe physical distancing, wear masks, etc and the allowed attendance will be reduced. Additionally, we will recommend that persons at high risk for COVID continue to worship remotely via live stream. Any decisions on reducing these restrictions will be based on continued, improving COVID metrics.
When will we be able to return to worship in the sanctuary?
“When” will be determined by Session. The Re-Gathering team is providing data and proposals to assist the Session in making its decision. Session has already approved Phase A guidelines which permitted staff to return as well as limited indoor and outdoor meetings. A look at the weekly church calendar on our website shows how many different groups and ministries are meeting using the outside of our campus, limited indoor meetings, and via zoom. Session has already approved Phase B guidelines that cover returning to worship in the sanctuary including safety protocols, cleaning and disinfection when the time is right.
What does the Re-Gathering Team see in the current COVID metrics and other factors affecting our return to worship?
There are three important factors contributing to COVID metrics and what happens next regarding returning to worship at Unity:
First, following steady increases over the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, local COVID metrics are showing a steady decline in the last five weeks. The increase over the holidays has largely been attributed to family and social gatherings without adequate distancing and wearing of masks. Even as metrics decline, it is important to continue to maintain social distance, wear masks and wash your hands frequently.
Second, COVID vaccines are now being distributed in South Carolina to those in Phase 1a (healthcare workers and those 65 and older). Phase 1b, scheduled for early spring, includes frontline, essential workers and Phase 1c, scheduled for late spring, includes those ages 16 thru 64 with underlying health conditions. Phase 2, slated to start in the summer, would be for everyone else who wishes to get vaccinated. Schedules may change as more vaccines are allocated to the state. We are aware that a number of members have already been vaccinated, and encourage all those eligible to receive the vaccine, to do so as soon as practical. However, we also recognize that it will still be several months before most of our staff and congregation can receive the vaccine.
Third, the CDC and SCDHEC are warning people of the threat of new COVID strains from the UK, South African, and Brazil. In the U.S., the South African strain was first detected in South Carolina. The strains are still being studied but there are concerns that these strains are transmitted more readily, do not respond as well to the vaccine, and potentially have higher mortality rates.
The Re-Gathering team is encouraged by the decline in COVID metrics in the community, and by the steady progress in vaccine distribution. However, we are concerned about the potential for a sudden surge in the new COVID strains in our community, or an increase brought on by bad habits and COVID fatigue. We are continuing to look for creative opportunities to gather for worship safely.