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Meetings Reopening

Published: June 11, 2021


Barbara Babin of Redwood Forest Meeting asked on June 3, 2021:

Dear Friends, I imagine that all of us are considering whether and how to reopen to in-person worship. Some of you may already be holding worship in person.

If your Meeting has come up with a plan, would you mind sharing? And if you have come up with a statement that you are posting, would you mind sharing that? Lastly, if you have limited seating capacity and are taking reservations, how are you handling that?

          – Barbara Babin (6/3/2021)


Friends responded:

We have formed a working group/committee to discern the way forward for re-opening in person worship while continuing some form of on-line connections.  There is considerable difference of opinion as to how best to do this at this point so we are hoping to reach out to all members and attenders to achieve a plan that is acceptable and inclusive to all.

          – Wesley Mason (6/3/2021)


The Chapel Hill (NC) Friends Meeting continues at a slow pace to discern our way forward. Our Ministry and Worship committee has taken the lead, beginning to request feedback from Friends and attenders about hybrid meetings. Our Building and Grounds committee is getting a consult on air ventilation. For a number of months, we have been assembling information from various Quaker and faith sites about different reservation systems, should they be needed. Our zoom committee has done a trial run-through in our meeting room for a possible hybrid model. All the equipment used was owned by different members. An area of the meeting room was left off camera for those who do not wish to be seen, should a hybrid model move forward.

Our first order of business is discerning the way forward for our children and teens. Families and kids have been most impacted by the pandemic and our hope is to have some sort of return by July 4 which may be entirely outside.

We have also been in contact with surrounding faith communities in Chapel Hill, getting some sense of how other groups are discerning their way forward in regard to in person/hybrid worship. In our meeting, there are people who feel we are vaccinated and lagging behind in getting together; also, equally, there are people who are vaccinated and are reluctant to rush in. Finding a way to acknowledge and hear both points of view.

Continuing revelations, yes?

          – Jan Hutton (6/3/2021)


In Palo Alto, we have people worshipping in our redwood grove and sharing a computer that links with the rest of us on Zoom.  Earlier there were 3-5 people, that number is up to 10+ the last two weeks.

Plans for blended worship in the meeting house are not yet finalized.

          – Talley Kenyon (6/3/2021)


Chico Friends Meeting will begin meeting this month in person on odd-numbered Sundays. We will meet on Zoom on even-numbered Sundays. Midweek meeting and meeting for business will be on Zoom for now. This is an experiment. We have been unable to conceive of a workable hybrid meeting plan but have not given up on the idea yet.

We have adequate seating capacity for the number of people we expect to show up in person this Sunday. We are not taking reservations. We have let people know that they need to be fully vaccinated to attend meeting in person.

          – Bob Runyan (6/3/2021)


Using the big screen tv that someone had previously donated to our Santa Monica Meeting House, a borrowed laptop (our Meeting doesn’t own one), and about $100 worth of purchased equipment (webcam to sit on top of the tv, a table microphone, and several usb extension cables), we will be holding our first trial blended gathering with about 8 of us in the Meeting House and hopefully many more tuning in through Zoom.

We asked for volunteers for the in-person contingent, requesting that only fully vaccinated people reply.

Hopefully we'll have a larger number joining via Zoom. This won’t be a Meeting for Worship, but rather a worship sharing time that will provide feedback on the audio and video quality as well as on the worshipful experience of those in-person and on Zoom.

A couple of us on Worship & Ministry are leading the effort. This is the first stage of what we envision to be a two-stage process. The first stage is all about getting a basic blended Meeting for Worship up and running for those who are very eager to return to in-person worship. For the second stage, we’re requesting that individuals sign up to work in small teams on different aspects of what we hope will be a more permanent system. The teams/aspects we’ve identified so far values/user experience; health and safety; tech and equipment; staffing; fellowship/food; children’s ed.

If this stage one system proves functional, we’ll make our first substantial purchase, a laptop, for which we’re very open to suggestions as to which to choose.

          – Curtis Raynor (6/3/2021)


At Twin Cities Friends Meeting in St. Paul, MN, we have not yet made a decision about how or whether to reopen for in-person worship, though that topic is on the agenda for our June meeting for worship with attention to business.

A small committee tasked with reviewing guidance from the MN Department of Health and other entities is in the process of preparing a recommendation for the meeting to consider.

I expect we will continue to meet via Zoom after we reopen for in-person worship. It is unclear whether, when, and how we will hold hybrid meetings. We have been considering these issues but much remains to be discerned.

          – Valerie Stoehr (6/3/2021)


La Jolla Friends Meeting in San Diego, CA is also in the early stages of planning to reopen.  We’ve created an ad hoc reopening committee to help guide the process.  We’ll be having a talking meeting/threshing session on June 24th to learn more about Friends desires, thoughts, concerns.  Some friends on the reopening committee will try out some simple tech things this month like using a long cable to get the internet into the Meeting House from the cottage and connecting the existing sound system to a laptop so we can try out zoom on someone’s laptop.

          – Jane Blount (6/3/2021)


Humboldt Meeting has held a discussion of values we would like to guide our reopening process. At business meeting this Sunday we will discuss forming a health team to guide reopening.  We have made inquiries about availability of equipment and internet, but no decisions have been made yet concerning how we will include people who are joining us from a distance. 

          – Jan Turner (6/4/2021)


San Antonio Friends have been holding hybrid meetings on Zoom and our Meetinghouse porch for the last couple of months.  We have a 31" monitor, speakers, and (tiny) laptop on a cart, a good microphone & stand, and an okay webcam.  We've experimented with various placements and have now hit on one that works.  The COVID level is low enough now that we do not require masks during worship -- it's outside and chairs remain 6 feet apart.  We did much the same last fall, with masks and a poorer camera placement.  The tech is in the same circle with the participants.

We have space on the porch for 15 visible to the camera and others in the courtyard, but we typically have just 4-6 people attend.  We have 20+ join on Zoom.  The setup requires one person to manage the Zoom (remotely) to avoid Zoom-bombing and to mute those who forget to do so (think dogs snoring in the background and hungry cats). Another runs the porch tech, muting and unmuting the microphone as needed (think airplanes and loud cars) and switching Zoom to speaker view when someone gives ministry then back to gallery when we fall into silence.

We had a threshing meeting in late April and appointed an ad-hoc planning committee in May, which has now met twice.  The main issue is how we will accommodate both those who find that tech disturbs their worship and those who cannot attend without technical assistance.  The committee is now clear that both are a matter of inclusion, not just the latter. 

The committee will most likely make an interim report to the next business meeting, advising that we install a long-delayed hearing-assist sound system and run an ethernet cable from our modem to the meeting room. Both of these will benefit us no matter what we ultimately decide, and neither will disturb worship.  We still need to decide how to handle masks/vaccinations/etc. indoors and how to restart our program for small children.  (We had no older children when we shut down.)

          – Jim Spickard (6/4/2021)


San Diego Monthly Meeting has been trying out separate Zoom and in-person meetings on Sundays, with the ultimate goal of worshipping in a hybrid setting. The in-person gathering was intended to be outside, where there is no capacity limit here, although I hear that Friends tend to end up indoors anyway (I've been clerking the Zoom group). The Zoom gathering is not as well attended as the in-person. We've looked at Orange Grove MM's tech setup and are seeking approval from the body to purchase similar equipment, and we expect to be trying out hybrid worship in the coming weeks.

          – Emma Bishop (6/11/2021)


from Jay Cash, Future of Worship (6/11/2021)