USNF Great Hall
Frequently Asked Questions

For information about attending in-person services, please visit our  In-Person Services Information.
Topics covered in this FAQ:

SAFETY PROTOCOLS: What are the safety protocols for services in the Great Hall?
For more details about our safety protocols, please visit COVID Safety Protocols.

PEOPLE WHO ARE NOT VACCINATED:  Will we require vaccinations to attend services? 

No, we will not. Our principle of inclusion for all applies to children under age 5, who currently can’t be vaccinated, and their families. Children’s social and emotional development has been disproportionately impacted during the shut-down. We recognize their strong need for interaction with peers and adults.  For these reasons, children will attend services in the Great Hall until they are dismissed for RE. Masking, social distancing, and guidance about when it is not recommended to attend services will help to ensure their safety and that of the congregation at large.

As for adults, our survey indicates a very high level of vaccination in the USNF adult population. Staff and RE volunteers must be up to date on their vaccinations and have records on file. There may be a few adults among us who are unvaccinated for a variety of reasons. We have chosen not to use vaccination status as a criterion for attendance, because it is inconsistent with our foundational values of welcome and inclusion. Our goals in creating safety protocols are to balance safety and inclusion by providing guidance and some non-negotiable safety practices. We are leaving decisions about risk comfort levels up to individuals and families, which they can make based on the information we provide. We will update information as often as needed to help people make attendance decisions based on their individual circumstances. Online Zoom services and RE classes are an option for those  who choose not to, or are unable to, attend in person.

DECISION PROCESS: What were your guiding principles?

 The transition team has used the following guiding principles as we navigated our decisions about how to safely congregate:

  • Remaining an inclusive and welcoming multigenerational community
  • Showing care and compassion
  • Asking for trust that we are working towards decisions based on the best guidance we have at the moment.
  • Being transparent when we don't have answers; seeking patience in response.
  • Assessing community risk data over time and a commitment to adapt our plan as risk increases or decreases.
  • Relying on current medical and scientific research; guidance from the CDC, the state of Massachusetts and our unique culture as a faith community.
  • Engaging in practices that protect the most vulnerable, given that some of us are unable to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
  • Protecting access for all: This means we will introduce in-person gatherings thoughtfully while maintaining and enhancing avenues of engagement online for those who cannot or prefer not to be present in person.

AIR FLOW: Are we taking steps to improve air quality and flow in our spaces?  How do we measure it?

Yes. We have installed MERV 13 filters on all of the furnaces at the recommendation of our HVAC company, which has made similar upgrades for other customers. The filters will clean the air regularly in all of our spaces. We also now have a CO2 monitor which we will use to help evaluate air exchange in all spaces.


Airflow in the Great Hall depends on many factors, among them time of year, the number of doors open, how widely they are open, and the airflow in the spaces immediately adjacent. Because of its age and construction our Great Hall is not an air-tight space.  We have powerful ceiling fans that draw air out, which in the past have mainly been used in summer months for cooling. We plan to use the fans during all services.  We have also opened vents in the front of the hall to bring in more fresh air.  With fans on the lower speed, we estimate the air exchange to be at least 9 exchanges per hour.  When weather permits, we can also leave the doors to the parlor and back hall open, with windows in those spaces open as well.

DECISION-MAKING: Who is making these decisions?

The Transition Team has been reviewing recommendations of health experts, monitoring community spread data, and seeking out other guidance since we began meeting in June, 2021 to develop protocols based on the best information we could find. The RE Council is working with Jessica to develop protocols for the RE Program, using the same guidelines and data sources as the Transition Team -- in consultation with local schools and school nurses.  The House and Property Committee has researched and consulted with our HVAC company and others and made the decisions about appropriate upgrades. The Board of Trustees has reviewed and approved these recommendations.  Transition Team Members:  Corky KIlmczak and Cathy Lilly, co-chairs; Alan Dorman, Molly Hale, Laurie Loisel, Ed Olmstead, Emily Quintana, Jessica Harwood and Rev. Janet Bush.  Esti McCoy, who is a school nurse, is our primary medical consultant./p>

SOURCES:  What guidelines and data sources form the basis for the Covid Safety Protocols?

These safety protocols describe strategies to protect the health and safety of all,  based on current medical and scientific research and data available from the CDC, the state of Massachusetts and the city of Northampton, UUA COVID safety recommendations and our unique culture as a faith community. Going forward, we will decide on our attendance numbers on a weekly basis by reviewing Hampshire County risk levels as shown in data available from  COVID Act Now.

There have been instances where recommendations from public health and other sources do not align with the safety protocols we developed:  This could be because there are different interpretations of source recommendations or apparent contradictions among sets of recommendations. Other factors that played a role in our decisions are local transmission rates, what our surveys show us about members’ varying comfort levels as well as the mitigation strategies (distancing, masking, no congregational singing) we are requiring during services. The Transition Team, as with our congregation as a whole, has brought a variety of feelings, thoughts, ideas, and perspectives to this work. Through mutual trust and respect, we have crafted  these protocols, which have been enriched by our differences and guided by our love of this community and each other.

COMPLIANCE: How will we be sure these safety protocols are followed?  

For some of the protocols (self health check, staying home if exposure is a possibility) we depend on each other to be responsible for ourselves and the safety of others. Greeters, ushers and security volunteers in the Great Hall will assist with registration for contact tracing, ensuring masking, and distanced seating. And we believe because we are a covenantal community, this will not be a problem.

POSITIVE CASES: What if someone tests positive for COVID after attending a service?

Please let the office know (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) as soon as possible if anyone from your family who attended the service has tested positive so that contact tracing can begin. The names of those who have tested positive will be kept confidential unless the person asks that their status be shared. We will let our contact list know of the exposure. 

USNF MEETINGS: Are there guidelines for meetings that are held in locations in our building other than the Great Hall?

We know this is important! Here is the current draft of the USNF Pandemic Building Safety Protocols for All Groups.

CONTACT FOR QUESTIONS: Who should I contact if I have more questions?:

Questions can be directed to any member of the Transition Team: Janet Bush, Alan Dorman, Molly Hale, Jessica Harwood, Cathy Lilly,  Laurie Loisel, Corky Klimczak, Ed Olmstead, Emily Quintana.