Session Approves Phase 1 of Regathering

 

TPC’s Preliminary Regathering Report & Phase Plans

*TPC’s Social Distancing Requirements for indoor and outdoor church gatherings

Participants must:

      •  wear masks covering nose and mouth (a mask will be provided for those without one)
      •  keep > 6 ft distance from non-household members
      •  use provided hand-sanitizer upon arrival

**Children’s Ministry (Pre-K – Grade 5) will remain “remote” throughout (and including) Phase 3

***CDC Guidelines and State & Local Ordinances Supersede Towson Presbyterian Church’s Regathering Plans and Protocols. Should such guidelines or ordinances contradict the information herein, the CDC’s guidelines and governmental ordinances shall apply. TPC encourages all members to remain socially distanced and masked when in a public setting.

****While our hope is to progress from “Phase 1” to “Phase 2” to “Phase 3” to “No Restrictions,” Session may discern the need to move back to a previous phase depending upon pandemic conditions, including number of new diagnoses and hospitalizations.

Regathering Team Preliminary Summary Report:

TPC’s Regathering Team has extensively studied many variables that affect the percentage of risk one has for contracting a virus in aerosol and/or droplet form. Members of the team have consulted with experts, participated in numerous “webinars,” and read many articles.

The team was also blessed by the participation of Dr. Alain Labrique (Professor of International Health and Epidemiology at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health), and Dr. Polly Trexler (Director of Health Care Epidemiology and Infection Control, The Johns Hopkins Health System).

Among the foci studied, the team homed in on variables that affect the degree of risk of infection of a virus in a public setting. These include:

  • The amount of virus particles one is exposed to
  • The duration of time one is exposed to virus particles
  • The manner in which one may be exposed to virus particles (e.g. breathing through the mouth or nose; touching a surface with particles and then rubbing your eye).

Through this research, it is clear that TPC CANNOT ELIMINATE the risk of infection for anyone who attends an in-person TPC gathering. We can, however, take important steps to reduce this risk. They include:

  • Gather outdoors when possible, as virus particles dissipate much more quickly outdoors
  • Proper sanitation of all interior floors, flat surfaces, and areas potentially touched
  • Utilize rooms that have proper ventilation, and do not use/send recirculated air from/to other areas of the building
  • Require proper social distancing among participants (minimum of 6 ft. from non-household members)
  • Require mask wearing (covering the mouth and nose) of participants
  • Request proper hygiene (handwashing and/or sanitizing, coughing/sneezing into elbow) of participants

Some Regathering Q&A

Why has Session decided to begin permitting outdoor, small group gatherings?

The Regathering Team’s comprehensive research indicates that gathering outdoors while maintaining proper social distance (> 6ft. and wearing masks) offers a significant reduction in the risk of infection. Virus particles dissipate significantly more quickly outdoors than indoor. Experts do not “contact trace” anyone who was outdoors and masked.

If outdoor gatherings are okay, why not jump into large-group outdoor gatherings?

Session first wants to develop a fuller protocol of how the church would manage and properly enforce social distancing requirements amid larger, outdoor gatherings.

When will membership be able to gather indoors at TPC’s facility again?

In Phase 2, members will be able to gather in small groups inside TPC’s facility.

Why limit indoor gatherings to Thompson Hall and the Chapel during Phases 2 and 3?

HVAC experts (e.g. ASHRAE) and public health officials recommend utilizing air filters rated MERV 13+ to effectively mitigate virus particles in ventilation systems. TPC’s HVAC system is unable (as it wasn’t designed) to meet that criteria. As such, TPC must ensure indoor space utilized meets these additional criteria:

    • Large enough for ample social distancing
    • Close enough to exterior doors to limit foot traffic throughout the building
    • Properly sanitized since previous use (or ensured of a minimum of 72 hours since previous use)
    • Have a dedicated “air handler” or ventilation system that does not pull/send recirculated air from/to other areas of the building that other people may be utilizing (e.g. staff space, preschool space).
    • Have a ventilation system that brings in outdoor air to amend interior air quality.

The two rooms in TPC’s facility that best meet these criteria are Thompson Hall and the Chapel.

Why doesn’t TPC expect to worship in TPC’s sanctuary once we begin worshipping at 50% capacity?

Unfortunately, the sanctuary’s ventilation system is not able to be retrofitted to meet the criteria mentioned above without tremendous expense. The sanctuary’s ventilation system uses only internal, recirculated air. Moreover, the windows in the sanctuary do not open, further minimizing our ability to address indoor ventilation of that space.

What about children’s ministries (through grade 5) during the pandemic?

Children’s ministries (e.g. Church School, Cherub & Children’s Choirs, etc.) will remain remote throughout the duration of the pandemic. We grieve the inability to gather children physically together for child-specific ministry. However, children will be welcome to participate with their parent(s) in larger group outdoor/indoor gatherings, at which parents will be asked to play the primary role enforcing their child’s social distancing behavior.

Finally, the Children & Family Ministries Committee has been working hard to create a meaningful fall program that both children and parents will find meaningful and accessible.

Will youth be permitted to regather?

Yes. Youth in grades 6 and higher are permitted to regather in small groups led by adult leaders beginning in Phase 2.

Will worship (and other spiritual formation opportunities) continue to be offered remotely throughout each phase for all who are not yet ready to regather in-person?

Yes! We understand that different people have different needs, concerns, and desires about gathering in-person amid the pandemic. Worship will continue to be livestreamed every Sunday morning throughout every phase. Additionally, we will work hard to ensure that remote spiritual offerings continue regularly, including Joel & Rob’s podcast, Jenness’ time with families, Practicing a Spiritual Practice, and more.

We add that, even when the pandemic is finally over, TPC will continue Livestreaming our Sunday morning worship services in order to meet the needs of our growing online community.