I am pleased to announce that we will be reopening the “physical” Church Office on Monday, November 8.

As you know, we closed the Church Office at the church property in March 2020 in response to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. The church staff was directed to work remotely unless their physical presence onsite was essential to conducting the duties of their position, and our volunteer receptionists stayed home, as well.

Some staff were onsite more than others because of their responsibilities; obviously, the facilities staff could do very little of their work remotely, and finance staff had an unavoidable presence as well. But for the most part, the staff has worked and met remotely since the physical closure of the office in 2020.

Last spring, before the rise of the Delta variant of COVID-19, the Session’s Building Reopening Task Force felt that pandemic conditions were such that we could responsibly begin gathering indoors again in small groups with appropriate protocols in place (i.e., masks and physical distancing), and the church staff began making plans to reopen the Church Office onsite. Those plans included some adjustments in light of the wisdom we acquired during the course of the pandemic and, in particular, the question of staff productivity.

Prior to the pandemic, we already had a relatively flexible staffing plan in terms of working remotely vs. onsite. However, when the staff was forced to go remote-only, they found that they were often more productive working from home, especially on larger projects, than they were in the Church Office, because there were far fewer interruptions to their work than sitting in the office with people coming in and out regularly. At the same time, there was also a loss in terms of informal staff communication and collaboration, as well as the loss of hospitality and service to both members and the larger community by not having the Office open at all.

With all that in mind, we developed a new staffing plan for the Church Office that would allow us to reap many benefits from flexible time and remote work while also ensuring that the Church Office would be open, welcoming, and fully functional.

Essentially, this plan boils down to the volunteer receptionists returning to staff the Reception Desk from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Thursday, which is the same pattern that we had prior to the pandemic. In addition, though, there will now be a designated staff “shepherd” in the office to be a resource for the receptionist who is on duty, to assist with any particular inquiries or requests.

Finally, one of the pastors will be designated as the “on-call” pastor while the Church Office is open, not simply after-hours, to respond to any pastoral needs. Thus, we will have a clear three-tiered staffing plan for any time the Church Office is open, which also allows other staff to be either onsite or working remotely, depending on what is most helpful to their workflow, when not serving a shift as a “shepherd.”

This is the plan we will be implementing this coming Monday, and so you can expect to see the smiling faces of our receptionists and staff members if you are onsite during office hours.  Just as before the pandemic, it is always advisable to make an appointment with a member of the church staff if you are wanting to meet with them in particular rather than attempt to just “drop by.” Some of our staff are part-time, and thus may be off at the time that you come by; but regardless of hours, they may be working remotely when you come by, as well. And, even if they are onsite, our staff keep very busy schedules and may not be available at the time you come by if they are not expecting you.

So, we urge you to make an appointment if you are needing to see a particular staff person so that they can be sure to be available and prepared to meet with you when you come. And, of course, remember that you will need to follow current COVID-19 protocols when you do come, which currently require a mask covering your face and nose at all times while indoors, and a minimum of 3 feet of physical distancing.

It is a great joy to be returning to a physically open Church Office at long last! Your church staff is grateful for your support and looks forward to greeting you at your next visit during the week.

Grace and Peace,