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23 Dedham Avenue
Needham, MA 02492

A Change in Masking Policy for Sunday Services

by | Mar 21, 2023

We have just passed the 3rd anniversary of the pandemic lock down. We’ve gone through many changes in how we’ve done church, and now we are proposing one more on the journey to the new post-crisis normal. The recent survey regarding people’s attitudes about masking has generated a lot of conversation, from which has emerged a growing realization that our current masking policy excludes those in our community who are just plain tired of masking and are feeling disconnected from the community. We miss you and want to include you in person at Sunday services. Covid is still around and continues to represent a threat to the health of our vulnerable members. The Covid Task Force has been searching for a solution that protects our vulnerable members and makes space for those that do not wish to mask. To support this goal, the Parish Committee has adopted this resolution:

“Parish Committee will relax our mask mandate by the end of March and instructs the Covid Task force to create a mask-required safety and buffer section in the Sanctuary, ending our mask requirement elsewhere.”

Using a smoke generator, we have been able to map the airflow in the Sanctuary. We found that, on both sides of the room, there is a point in the middle of the room where smoke rises directly up and moves slowly toward the choir loft, drawn by the fans. In these two sections, smoke does not move forward, even when singing without a mask or coughing. The smoke is an excellent proxy for the aerosols created by our breath. This means that people sitting in the pews toward the front of the Sanctuary will not be exposed to aerosols generated by unmasked people in the middle and rear pews. Thus, we can accommodate attendees who wish not to mask along with people at increased risk from Covid who may sit in the sections reserved for masking.

Beginning on Sunday March 26, the mask-required and mask-optional sections will be clearly marked, and the ushers will help guide you to the appropriate area if needed.

Thank you for your care and patience as the Task Force weighs many factors in its recommendations. You can see a sample of the smoke test by clicking here.