How single student wards will work Fall Semester

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Zach Tillmann and Kelsie Taylor walk to their on-campus student ward on Sept. 6. Wards on campus are now requiring masks and social distancing. (Preston Crawley)

Back-to-school at BYU also means back-to-church for local YSA wards. Bishops are looking forward to the return of in-person worship meetings after an unexpected farewell to their ward members in March.

Bishop Scott Hammond from the Provo YSA 26th Ward in the YSA 2nd Stake said the main difference this semester is that the ward will be divided in half every week. Hammond plans on randomizing how the ward is split each week so that people can still get to know each other.

Kevin Moffitt, bishop of the Provo YSA 3rd Ward in the YSA 1st Stake, said he will also be splitting the ward up into two groups every Sunday. Moffitt added they will seat roommates together but space different apartments away from each other.

Hammond said each ward in his stake will now have a sanitizing committee that will spend about 20 minutes wiping down every chair and table. He said the meetings will be 45 minutes long with 30 minutes in between so the sanitizing committee has time to wipe everything down before the other half of the ward comes.

In Moffitt’s ward there are also ushers to both guide people to their seats and let people out after the meeting to facilitate social distancing.

Hammond and Moffitt both said they don’t see church meetings going back to normal anytime this semester. “I don’t think they’ll have a vaccine and therefore there will always be a little bit of a risk,” Hammond said.

Both Hammond and Moffitt have no intention of canceling their ward meetings, even if there is an outbreak in the ward. Hammond said he will take each situation on a case-by-case basis and ask those in the ward who contract the virus to quarantine and stay away from others.

Hammond said students are no longer authorized to administer sacrament within their apartments because of the opportunity to take it at church.

Moffitt said his interpretation of the guidance given by the stake president and area president is that if someone is sick or high risk, church leaders will ask the individual to stay home and administer the sacrament to them. “If, however, someone just slept in or just didn’t want to go to church that was feeling well, I would be reluctant to give them the sacrament.”

He said if someone doesn’t feel comfortable coming to church, whether they are high risk or are scared of getting sick, they should feel OK about not attending. “I don’t want anybody sitting there having major anxiety because they think they’re going to get infected,” he said. “That wouldn’t be a very pleasant experience.”

BYU student Teresa Whitesell from the Provo YSA 20th Ward said she thinks with all the regulations it’s good for the YSA wards to be starting again.

“Our age group, as strong as they can be, are also easily distracted, so having church is incredibly helpful for me to focus,” she said. “Especially without having priesthood holders in my apartment, it’s really nice to get the sacrament and have that weekly spiritual refill.”

All of the changes for the Provo YSA 1st and 2nd Stakes were approved by the stake presidents and Elder Douglas L. Dance, an Area 70.

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