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

Latest News

Winter is Coming! A Covid Update for First Church Gatherings

November 17, 2021

Winter is coming, and public health officials are cautioning us to maintain Covid safety protocols now, more than ever. As one expert put it, “just when you think you can let up, that’s the most important time to stay vigilant.” Unfortunately, door and window ventilation and heating don’t mix and will create strain for our planet and budget. With this in mind, we will be modifying our Sunday schedule a bit for December and early January, at least.

What is changing and what is staying the same?

  • We will continue in-person Hybrid Worship inside the Sanctuary this winter, and our Sanctuary attic fans will provide excellent ventilation. Our in-house professional engineer Don Johnson has conducted ventilation tests with guidance from the City of Cambridge Department of Public Health, and he’s found that our fans are able to maintain maximum ventilation without opening doors to the outside!
  • The Sanctuary is going to get chilly. The attic fans will be drawing air and heat up and out of the Sanctuary, so please be sure to bundle up and keep your jackets on.
  • For your safety and to allow worship leaders time to prepare, we will continue to ask the in-person congregation to wait until 10:45 a.m. to enter the Sanctuary. Those who arrive before 10:45 are welcome to relax in Hastings Common.
  • Aside from Hybrid Worship, Night Song, and small group gatherings, we will be shifting our all-church events back to Zoom in December and early January. This means that rather than mingling outside (brrrr!) or in MJH with windows open (brrr!), those who have gathered in person are invited to head home after Hybrid worship to join us online for Zoom Coffee Hour or other after-church events, starting most Sundays at 12:30 p.m. (If you need more travel time after church, please don’t hesitate to join whenever you get home!)
  • We will continue to offer periodic opportunities for outdoor gatherings, walks, and pilgrimages in December and January.
  • We continue to welcome young children in person on Sunday mornings. The Nursery has moved indoors to Sage Hall (our basement playspace), where Nursery staff are happy to greet infants and toddlers beginning at 10:45 a.m. Children 3 years old and up are invited to attend Hybrid Worship and then join Sarah for Children’s Worship in the Library after the Passing of the Peace.
  • Now that children aged 5-11 are eligible for vaccination, we are planning to open in-person Church School on Sunday, January 9, during Hybrid Worship. Please complete our latest survey (coming Tuesday, November 23) to indicate your plans for Church School attendance. Stay tuned for more details on Godly Play, Middler, and Bible 101 classes meeting twice monthly starting in January.

What about Christmas?

Christmas Eve at First Church: How will you participate?

We plan to offer three options for Christmas Eve worship, to allow for less crowding and more room for social distancing::

  • an outdoor Carol Sing on the Lawn at 4:00 p.m.,
  • an indoor Candlelight Lessons & Carols Service at 6:00 p.m. that you can attend in person or online, for which we will offer overflow seating in Margaret Jewett Hall before the big screen if we have more than 150 people in our Sanctuary, and
  • the recording of our Candlelight Lessons & Carols Service, available on our YouTube channel anytime after the live service concludes.

We invite you to let us know your plans in advance via a survey coming to your email inbox on Tuesday, November 23. We have also included a few questions for families with young children to help us prepare for the opening of in-person Church School in January. Please take a few moments over the Thanksgiving holiday to check in with family about your plan, and complete the survey by Tuesday, November 30. Your input will guide our planning, so please make your voice heard on the survey!

Christmas Eve Carol Sing on the Lawn, 4:00 p.m.

People of all ages are invited to this 30-minute family-friendly time of singing your favorite carols and hearing the Christmas story! We’ll have a lighted Christmas tree set up on the lawn to brighten our gathering, but bring a flashlight or headlamp with you to follow along. We’ll finish up with hot cocoa and tea for all.

Christmas Eve Candlelight Lessons and Carols in the Sanctuary, 6:00 p.m.

Our traditional Christmas Eve service will be held in person and on our livestream. Masks and social distancing will be required. If we reach 150 people in the sanctuary, we will offer overflow seating before the big screen in a cozy, decorated, Christmas-lit Margaret Jewett Hall. The service will also be available to watch on YouTube from home anytime after the livestream ends. Watch with family and friends, near or far, after dinner, at 8, 9, or midnight! Please share your plan to attend this service in person by completing this survey between November 23 and November 30, and stay tuned for an announcement of our more formal RSVP process based on survey results.

Christmas Day, 11:00 a.m.

Watch our pre-recorded Christmas Day service from last year, which will re-premier at 11:00 a.m. on our YouTube channel.

The First Sunday of Christmas, December 26, 11:00 a.m.

Join us for Hybrid Worship at 11:00 a.m. for a service similar to what we usually offer on Christmas Day, complete with carols, Communion, and Peter Sykes’s masterful harpsichord rendition of William Byrd’s “The Bells.”