Survey of the Southminster Congregation: Worship in Times of Pandemic

Objective:  This survey is intended to gauge which form of worship -- live-stream or in-person -- congregants are likely to participate in as we move into the fall.

Background:  Southminster United Church has been live-streaming worship services since the pandemic began in mid-March. Many thanks to all those who have made this possible; we are blessed by their hard work and dedication. Council has previously announced its intention to transition to “hybrid” services, i.e. continue with the live stream, but do it from the sanctuary, with in-person attendance optional. The precise date for the start of hybrid services has yet to be determined; it depends upon a number of factors, including approval of our re-opening plan by the Eastern Ontario Outaouais Regional Council (EOORC) of the United Church of Canada and the preferences of the congregation, as expressed in responses to this survey. 

Key Considerations: In preparing for a transition to hybrid services, Council has been guided by a number of considerations. Some of the most important considerations informing its approach to this issue are as follows:

  • Health and Safety: We must at all times be guided by the best available medical advice. Here are the most recent guidelines for places of worship from Ottawa Public Health, dated August 5.

  • Our Congregation: We must acknowledge that many members of our congregation are elderly and therefore in the most vulnerable population. This necessitates an extra level of care, as laid out in this bulletin from Ottawa Public Health. It also means that we need to respond to the needs of those members of our congregation who may not be able to return to in-person worship services for the foreseeable future.

  • Successful Live Stream: The live-stream services have proven to be very successful. They are reaching not only our regular congregants, but some former congregants now living outside Ottawa. 

  • Desire for In-Person Services: As much as the live-stream services have been successful, there is also something missing -- the opportunity to worship together, in person, as a community of faith. And to hear music live! For these reasons, at least some members of the congregation have expressed a strong desire to return to in-person services, as soon as it is safe to do.

Recommendation: Based on the above considerations, Council recommends that we proceed with the planned transition to hybrid services as soon as approval is received from the EOORC and all other necessary arrangements are in place. This would mean that live-streaming services would continue very much as they are now. The difference is that Rev. Moore, Music Director Roland Graham, possibly other musical performers and some of the lay readers would be coming to you from the sanctuary; meanwhile, Chris White, Darla Barrows, possibly some other musical performers and some of the lay readers would continue to appear via video or remote feeds. Those who wanted to do so would be able to attend the service in person, in the sanctuary, subject to the following public health protocols:

  • Attendance a maximum of 120 people, which represents approximately 30% of the seating capacity of the ground floor of the sanctuary;

  • Entry and exit only via the ramp (middle) entrance on Aylmer Avenue;

  • Screening of all those in attendance, according to Ottawa Public Health guidelines (link provided above);

  • Contact information for all attendees to be recorded, in case tracing becomes necessary;

  • Mandatory wearing of masks;

  • Mandatory use of hand sanitizer upon entry and exit;

  • Social distancing: Usable pews will be designated and directional arrows will indicate crowd flow; family groups can sit together but otherwise people must sit at least 2 metres apart;

  • Complete order of service projected onto screen at the front; no bulletin and no hymn books or bibles in the pews;

  • No congregational singing;

  • Live music, by the music director and supporting musicians, will be performed in accordance with Ottawa and Ontario Public Health guidelines;

  • No separate children’s programming, though we hope to have a video segment aimed at children; children must remain with parents throughout the service;

  • “Passing of the Peace” will be expressed verbally; no physical interaction amongst congregants;

  • Offering: No passing of the plate; offering left in a plate by the door as you leave; or please consider making donations by e-transfer (to or pre-authorized remittance (PAR). Please contact the church office if you wish to sign up for PAR.

  • Coffee-time: No in-person coffee-time; continue the virtual coffee-time

Chris Brown, Chairperson, on behalf of Southminster United Church Council

Based on all of the above, members and adherents of the congregation are asked to respond to the following questions. We would appreciate your response by MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 14.  Thank you for taking time to participate in this survey.
1. Have you been viewing the live-streamed services since they began in March?
2. Once hybrid services begin, how likely is it that you will view the live-stream service?
3. Once hybrid services begin, how likely is it that you will attend the in-person service?
4. Would you consider volunteering to support one of the tasks that will facilitate in-person services in the sanctuary? If yes, please leave your name in the comments box.
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