Phase Forward Planning at UCW

Phase Forward Guidelines

Please click on the link below to view UCW’s current Phase Forward Guidelines. 
(Guidelines last updated July 19, 2021.)

As of July 19, 2021 UCW is in the “Blue” Phase

(Quick Page Links )

September 14, 2020

Dear Union Church family,

We hope your summer months have brought you relaxation, joy and rejuvenation.

We write to update you on some decisions recently made regarding our congregation’s future gatherings, both virtual and in person.

You may recall that back in June the Church Council charged a group of volunteers to form the Phase Forward Team to examine the needs of the congregation and the science of the pandemic.  A full report of the Phase Forward Team’s activities (including a survey of the congregation) and recommendations is provided below.

Following a robust discussion, the Church Council voted unanimously to adopt the Team’s recommendations with some modifications that provide for limited use of our church building in the coming days. We believe we are ready to Phase Forward safely starting this month to resume face-to-face gatherings in a safely controlled way. We will stay on Zoom for Sunday worship for the foreseeable future. However, there are safe ways for Mission, Youth, and others to begin to connect as small groups in person. Particularly while the weather is temperate, we strongly encourage that much of this activity occurs outside. We have agreed to:

  • Follow Phase Forward Safety Guidelines grouped as “red”, “orange”, “yellow” or “green” progressing toward “green” unrestricted use of our building at “new normal” with the present status remaining at “orange”;
  • Continue remote worship on Sunday mornings;
  • Allow access to our church building to Riverside Children’s Center, Interfaith Power and Light, small group rentals on a case-by-case basis, and congregational gatherings of no more than 15, with masks and social distancing. Groups of 3 or more may meet only in the vestry or sanctuary where the size of the space allows safe distancing and respiration and no food or beverage may be served. Since current public health guidelines require daily cleaning of spaces used and UCW’s budget did not provide for increased cleaning costs access to the church building will be by appointment only.
  • Allow groups of 25 or fewer to gather outdoors, with masks and social distancing, for the purposes of worship or meeting provided that no food or beverages are served with bathroom access in bathrooms not shared with Riverside Children’s Center (ie using only the bathrooms adjacent to the church office or the lavatory adjacent to the vestry hall “large kitchen”).
  • Allow live Instrumental music, but no wind/brass, only singing prerecorded or broadcast from another room.

By the grace of God, we may all look forward to sharing some face-to-face meetings and gatherings on the church calendar this fall. To schedule a meeting or gathering, please email [email protected], or for an appointment to visit the sanctuary for prayer as an individual or family please email [email protected] 

With greetings of peace to you as we look forward to our new church year,

Frank Laski and Alison McCarty, Co-Moderators

Phase Forward Report to UCW Council

Proposed Guidelines & Recommendations 

Members of the Phase Forward Team:  Alison McCarty, Frank Laski, Arlyne Grant, Alex Brown, Judy Nagle, Karen Weisgerber, Jim McDonald, Karen O’Beirne, Susan Hunt Stevens, Amy Feldman, Stacy Swain

Medical Expert Guidance:  Dr. Sandra Nelson, infectious disease physician, Massachusetts General Hospital. Member of Governor’s School Reopening and Youth Sports task forces


The Phase Forward Team was established by the UCW Church Council to :

  • provide guidelines and set criteria to allow for and control the types of activities that may take place in the Union Church building and on church property during this time of  the COVID -19 pandemic.
  • make recommendations for reopening the Church for worship, other church functions, as well as related uses by leaseholders and guests

Executive Summary:

The Phase Forward Team convened on June 24 and met over the summer to create guidelines for how the church will operate throughout the remainder of the Covid-19 pandemic. The Team recognizes some fundamental principles for our work:

  • We operate with a set of core values that need to guide our recommendations including safety, inclusion, intergenerational community and connectedness, mission-mindedness and stewardship of our resources
  • The situation, and the science, are incredibly fluid and the “end” is unknown. We therefore need to create a framework for decision making that can be updated and adjusted based on emerging science, as well as the Metrowest and Massachusetts specific situation for however long the pandemic is with us. 
  • We are much more than a Sunday morning house of worship. We are landlords with leaseholders. We are employers. We operate and support offices and a pre-school. We rent our facility to groups, small and large. We hold a wide array of events with numerous stakeholders at various risk levels. Our pastors have ministries that routinely reach beyond the boundaries of Beacon and Collins. These guidelines focus on UCW specific activities,while recognizing we have a larger set of connected people to protect as well.
  • We will have a wide array of risk tolerance among members of our community based on age, pre-existing conditions and personal attitudes and beliefs. It will be impossible to meet all needs all the time.  What we can do is ensure that there are sensible guidelines that make it clear to everyone what is permitted and what is not, at each stage, so they can best assess their own level of comfort and make informed decisions. Clarity also ensures that our pastors, staff and group leaders do not have to make up guidance “on the spot”. We also acknowledge that what is permitted by the State may not always align with all of our values, our own risk tolerance or even with the latest science. We may choose to be more careful when there is a good reason.
  • People need church more than ever at this time. But church is not a building. It is a community of people called to share in God’s love and to be God’s hands on this earth. We are called to think very creatively about the meaning of church at this time. 

Once we determined our fundamental principles, we decided that taking the pulse of the congregation was critical to inform our work and so we conducted a survey in July, 2020. Fifty-three people responded and a summary of the results can be viewed at the end of this document. In general, there is strong support for continuing Zoom worship “until we are in a better place.” At the same time, there is both interest in, and a comfort level for many with, in-person, small group events, particularly if they are outside. We have also learned that Zoom does not work for some, particularly our youngest members and their families.

Finally, we wanted expert guidance to ensure the framework we created was informed by the best science possible.  We were incredibly blessed that Dr. Sandra Nelson, a member of our congregation who has considerable experience drafting Covid-19 guidelines for the State, agreed to review and modify as needed the proposed guidelines. We are so grateful for her input into this process.

We are presenting to Council a framework to guide our actions that is aligned to the State “stages.” As Massachusetts moves from Phase 2 to Phase 3.1 and beyond (and potentially back), it will be simple for Council and others to review these guidelines and know what needs to, or gets to, change.  It works on a Red, Orange, Yellow, Green system aligned to Stages 1-2 (red), Stage 3.1 (orange), Stage 3.2 (yellow) and Stage 4 (green) and covers topics ranging from building access to safety requirements to capacity limits. The work is informed by various state guidelines (churches, events, school and youth sports (as a proxy for youth activities), and offices), our congregational survey, as well as the guidance of the UCC and ABC denominations. It has been reviewed and edited as needed by Dr. Sandra Nelson.

(Phase Forward Guidelines continued)

Abridged Phase Forward Survey Results:

Graphical presentation of data which had truncated text and comments which were personally identifiable have been omitted.