Return and Renewal
Response to Covid-19 and plans for a return to our facilities
Sunday worship is online. The Session has approved a plan for September 2020 to test new procedures for modified worship in the Sanctuary; limited in-person worship will not begin before October.
The building is closed. No indoor, in-person events are permitted at this time. Staff are in the building on a limited basis; non-staff access is by appointment only. Most meetings and activities continue to be online.
Outdoor, in-person activities are currently permitted on the church grounds with masking and social distancing and limited to 25 persons; requests for larger events need to be approved by the Return and Renewal Committee.
August 7, 2020 Update
The Session approved the R&R Committee’s proposed way forward for WPC activities beginning in September. The next priority for indoor activities is limited access for worship in the Sanctuary. In mid-September, the R&R committee will be testing new health and safety procedures; and on September 23, Session will consider the church’s readiness for limited, in-person worship in the context of the overall public health situation. If approved, limited in-person worship would not begin before October. Limited, indoor access for group activities would not begin before November and would be limited to Fellowship Hall with a maximum, socially-distanced capacity of 25 people.
Outdoor activities on church property are limited to no more than 25 people, with masks and social distancing required. Outdoor events should be scheduled through the church office and may include prescribed access to Fellowship Hall restrooms. Westminster is not sponsoring or endorsing gatherings (such as Circles, Tables for 8, Youth or Scouting events, retreats, etc.) away from church property at this time.
Session encourages members to stay connected digitally through online worship, virtual Fellowship Hours, church meetings, Bible studies and our many congregational life activities.
July 2020 Update
For previous updates, see here.
Thank you for a tremendous response to our July survey concerning your willingness to return to in-person worship at Westminster. In response to 801 invitations we received 414 completed surveys. The survey results showed that Sunday worship has seen almost no drop-off in the transition from the in-person to online format. 33 percent of respondents are willing to return immediately to in-person worship with some precautions, while online worship is favored by 2:1. And parents place a high priority on precautions for children and youth.
Plan to Test Modified Worship in September
The Session has approved a plan in September to test new procedures for modified worship in the Sanctuary. The new procedures would include online signup in advance due to limited, socially-distanced seating, and masking of congregants over age two. In addition, entry and exit locations would be at prescribed in advance, and hand-sanitizing stations will be installed along with appropriate signage. Hymn singing and choral music (except for a soloist) and plate offerings are among several activities judged not safe at this time. The September test plan will be limited to church officers and the Return & Renewal Committee, with no more than 25 people in the sanctuary.
Opening the Westminster Weekday Preschool
The Session also approved opening church facilities to the Westminster Weekday Preschool, which will operate under Covid-related guidelines established by the Virginia Department of Social Services. The timing and details will be set by the WWP Board.
Most church activities continue online as the Return and Renewal Committee continues to assess the potential for future activities to be conducted safely within and around church facilities. Outdoor, in-person activities are currently permitted with masking and social distancing and limited to 25 persons; requests for larger events need to be approved by the Committee. We are not yet ready to open the building for activities.
The Committee expects to complete this phase of its work no later than mid-August. In late September, the Session will evaluate the church’s readiness to begin limited, in-person worship based on the results of the testing and the overall public health situation.
Committee on Return and Renewal
The nature of the current public health crisis poses significant barriers to returning to worship at Westminster as we knew it in February. Nearly every aspect of our Sunday worship experience is challenged by public health guidelines intended to reduce transmission of the COVID-19 virus. The timing and manner of a return to Sunday worship in the sanctuary therefore needs to be considered carefully and deliberately, based on the best available information and guidance from medical professionals, government agencies and others, and in a public health environment that continues to evolve.
On May 27, 2020, the Session approved the creation of the Committee on Return and Renewal, which will monitor and assess relevant information and recommend to the Session plans for a gradual or complete return to the facilities of Westminster, as well as the resumption of ministries and programs that occur beyond our facilities. In addition to recommending long-term plans, the committee may need to receive and advise the Session on shorter-term, specific requests as they arise.
When the people of Israel “returned” to the land after the exile, they renewed the covenant and shaped their worship and service to God in ways that were different than before, but reimagined and reborn (Nehemiah 8-10). The committee has been intentionally named “Return and Renewal” (as opposed to “Re-open”) out of recognition of the tremendous degree to which the ministry of Westminster has remained open – much of it digitally – through this time of pandemic, and out of acknowledgment that when we are able to return to the facilities, many of our ministries will have changed or need to be changed.
Members of the Committee were appointed by the Session upon recommendation of Pastor Larry Hayward, who serves as the primary staff for the committee along with Director of Finance and Administration Lavinia Davis-Laux. To contact the committee, email [email protected].
Doug Anderson – Vice Chair
Associate Professor, Milken Institute School of Public Health at George Washington University
Chair, Worship Committee
Associate Director of Communications and Marketing, Ford’s Theatre
Chair, Digital Ministries Committee
Former Chair, Christian Education Committee and Former Vice Chair, Congregational Life Committee
Assistant Teacher, Westminster Weekday Preschool
Chair, Westminster Foundation Board
Mike Donley – Chair
Chair, International Mission Committee
Former Secretary of the Air Force
Former Chair, Christian Formation Committee
Outgoing President, George Mason Elementary PTA
Vice Chair, Buildings & Grounds Committee
Project Manager/Architect with the Architect of the Capitol
Member, Youth Formation Subcommittee
President, Graduate Center, City University of New York
Vice Chair, Congregational Life Committee; Usher Captain
Certified Business Continuity Professional, Corporate COVID-19 Task Force, Marine Corps Chem/Bio Countermeasures Instructor
Chair, Congregational Life Committee
Retired Teacher, Alexandria City Public Schools
Below are resources that the Committee is using in their work.