Dear First Church Members and Friends,
We are sorry to share the disappointing news that we are temporarily postponing our return to in-person worship services and religious education during the Omicron wave of coronavirus. Our COVID Team, made up of First Church members who are medical professionals, made this decision because the Omicron variant is getting around vaccinations in a substantial way.
Our current in-person church plan relies on proof of vaccination or a negative COVID PCR test to keep people safe, instead of a low Milwaukee County COVID incidence rate on which our previous plan was based. Although vaccination continues to protect against serious illness and death, there is enough transmission among vaccinated people that we are joining the many churches who are choosing not to gather in large groups in person during this surge.
Although the risk to vaccinated people is relatively low, the risk to our health care system is high. Our hospitals and our health care workers are already hitting their capacities, and we are not yet at the peak of cases or hospitalizations in this surge. Overwhelmed hospitals mean people who need medical care may not be able to get it, including vaccinated people who are immunocompromised or have other health conditions, young children who can’t yet be vaccinated, as well as people who need care for other issues, from heart attacks to car accidents.
When will we be back in person for worship?
We will not be back in person for worship before March 6, 2022. We don’t know when the peak of this surge will be, but we hope it will be in the next month. The COVID Team will meet again mid-January, and then will be checking in weekly to assess the situation. We will keep you updated through email blasts, announcements, and social media about next steps, and give you at least 10 days notice for the resumption of in-person services.
What about small groups?
Small groups of staff-led teams can continue to meet in-person at church if they so choose. We will be communicating with small groups of member-led ministries in the coming weeks to prepare you to meet in-person by getting you trained on vaccination-checking systems and new technology that will allow your group to meet in-person while others join you online.
What happens next?
We plan on gathering in-person for worship and religious education soon. Coronavirus is on its way to being endemic, and our church will keep adapting to changing circumstances. Sadly, because of the level of transmission and vaccine escape of this Omicron variant, we need to wait a little bit longer before we do that. We are disappointed and frustrated too. But we are continuing to live our Unitarian Universalist values and eagerly await the day we will see your beautiful faces in our beloved sanctuary. Soon, dear ones. Soon.
Rev. Jennifer Nordstrom, Senior Minister, and
The First Church COVID Team
Erik Alexander, MD, COVID Team Chair
Jean Johnson, Director of Administration, First Church
Lisa Koneazny, RN
Stacy Koenen, Healthcare Administrator
Trudy Watt, Professor of Architecture