Organ pipes in the Sanctuary of First Church in Cambridge. A wrought iron chandelier hangs in the foreground.

Latest News

How We Are Gathering: October Schedule, Protocols, and Survey Results

September 29, 2021

Welcome back! And…welcome forward!

On Sunday, September 12,  our annual Regathering Sunday, First Church flung wide its doors and resumed offering in-person worship to all. It was a joy-filled reunion and a chance to begin to experience our hybrid worshipping community in new ways. We are in-person, and we continue to live-stream indefinitely. Given ongoing concerns about the Delta variant, we are offering a range of options, indoor and outdoor, in-person and online.

Some of us are now coming to church. Some of us are choosing to join online. Some of us are taking it week-to-week. And many of you provided valuable feedback on your experiences in our Fall Regathering Survey. You can find a summary of that information below, along with our schedule and protocols for the month of October.

schedule for October 10, 17, 23, and 31

Choir Rehearsal in Margaret Jewett Hall

Sanctuary doors open

Hybrid Worship in the Sanctuary and live-streamed online

After Church on the Lawn, a time for informal conversation over coffee/tea
Zoom Coffee Hour, a virtual option for informal conversation and connection

Hybrid Programming in Margaret Jewett Hall and on Zoom

guidelines for gathering

  • Masks are required for everyone in our building, at all times, including worship and song leaders. We have plenty of extra masks and hand sanitizer available at all doors. We may encourage masking at our outdoor gatherings, should we be unable to distance from each other due to the number of participants and space constraints.
  • Social Distancing is required while inside the building. Please read and follow all signage as you enter the sanctuary. Every other pew is roped off. If you think someone is sitting too close, feel free to move or kindly ask them for more space. Sadly, there will be no hugging or handshakes, even with those who you think may be comfortable with it. Deacons greeters will be available to help remind everyone of our distancing protocols.
  • Vaccination We strongly encourage everyone to be vaccinated, and we expect that the vast majority of our members over age 12 have received their Covid vaccination. Our entire staff has been required to be vaccinated or be tested weekly. Our stance on vaccination is in keeping with our deepest faith values that lead us to both welcome and care for the most vulnerable in our midst. Check here for more trustworthy information about vaccinations and how to get one if you haven’t already.
  • Ventilation Doors are kept open as much as possible (given street noise). Our sanctuary attic fans are on to assure maximum ventilation.
  • Singing The congregation is allowed to hum or sing hymns softly, with masks on. The Choir is invited to warm up and rehearse one anthem at 10:15 a.m. in Margaret Jewett Hall. All Choir participants are required to be vaccinated, and they are masked at all times. Please note, as well, that the service may have less singing and be a bit shorter than usual to minimize risk of transmission.
  • Children and 11:00 a.m. Hybrid Worship For families that attend Hybrid Worship in person, we offer Nursery care for infants and toddlers. Church School-aged children (preK-7th grade) are invited to leave the Sanctuary after the Passing of the Peace for an All-Church-School activity in MJH or on the lawn with Sarah and a few adult volunteers. Of course, children are welcome to remain with their adults in the Sanctuary for the entire worship service, if they wish.
  • Breakthrough Cases The threat of breakthrough cases for those who are vaccinated is real! Vaccinated or not, if you or someone in your family are showing symptoms or may have been exposed to someone with Covid, please stay home, and please let us know so we can pray for you and also protect others with whom you may have had previous contact.

Fall Regathering Survey Results

Our Fall survey results are in with over 60 responses; here are some highlights:

  • There was lots of affirmation for our approach so far (thank you for that!) and for the range of indoor and outdoor options we’ve been offering.
  • Almost everyone who is attending in-person is feeling safe and comfortable with our current protocols.
  • Others are finding meaningful online involvement.
  • Families with kids are mostly holding off on returning for indoor activity until child vaccinations are available.
  • We heard concerns about:
    • sharing food indoors.
    • sound issues in the Sanctuary, including masks muffling leaders.
  • We heard support for more outdoor offerings.

We are taking it all in and planning the coming weeks accordingly. Young families, please keep yourself in the loop about Church School activities by reading the “News for First Church Families” e-newsletter on Thursday afternoon (email Sarah to get on the list). And please see below for more opportunities for outdoor gatherings on upcoming Sundays.

As we’ve been saying all along in this Regathering season, welcome back…and welcome forward into these new ways of being and being church! We are in it together, and we are held by God every step of the way.

Get outside, First church!

October 10

Multigenerational Hike at Habitat Audubon Sanctuary, Belmont – 2:00 p.m.
Fall Pilgrimage: Royall House & Slave Quarters, Medford – 3:00 p.m.

October 17

All-Church Luncheon on the Lawn – 12:15 p.m.
Young Adult/Multigenerational Hike at Great Hill, Acton – 2:00 p.m.

October 31

Celebration Breakfast for Lexi’s Ordination – 9:45 a.m.

November 7

First Worship on the Lawn: All Saints Celebration with First Church’s Saint Puppets – 9:45 a.m.

November 14

Fall Pilgrimage: Black Heritage Trail, Boston – 3:00 p.m.

Check out our full calendar of events.