Thanks to a Utah company, religious congregations across the United States can learn how to best resume worship services during the coronavirus.
SixFifty, a Midvale-based technology subsidiary of the law firm Wilson Sonsini, created the Return-to-Worship Readiness Assessment, a questionnaire to help faith leaders prepare their congregations to attend in-person services safely during the pandemic.
The assessment asks users a variety of yes or no questions, such as if the religious organization examined federal and state guidelines related to COVID-19 or if someone has checked the worship space’s ventilation system. SixFifty then emails back their responses with feedback and links to resources.
According to SixFifty CEO Kimball Parker, the free product launched Wednesday and has since aided about 50 congregations across the country.
“Churches don’t pay for attorneys. Churches don’t pay Wilson Sonsini $1,000 per hour to tell them to do stuff. Churches don’t have the funds,” Parker said. “We thought this would be a great service. We can help all these congregations figure out what to do with the best expertise in the nation built-in.”
The product stemmed from SixFifty’s Return-to-Work questionnaire. Businesses pay between $5,000 and $15,000 to receive automated legal advice from Marina Tsatalis, whom Parker called one of the best employment lawyers in the nation. The product updates as the latest coronavirus guidelines change.
SixFifty employees saw the success of Return-to-Work and quickly realized that churches needed to receive similar advice.
“We looked at churches, and we were like, ‘Geez. They’re not even taking close to the amount of precautions that a business should take.’” Parker said. “It actually seems like that should be the other way around. It almost seems like churches should be more careful than businesses.”
The Return-to-Worship assessment is similar to the Return-to-Work evaluation. Both measure how to safely gather people in the same room and both update the assessments as guidelines shift.
Joel St. Clair, a pastor of the Mosaic Community Church in Silver Spring, Md., learned about the assessment through a contact who works at SixFifty. Through the product, St. Clair said he was able to see the blind spots in his congregation’s current plan to resume services and know how to adjust.
“There are lots of opinions out there on COVID-19 and how communities should respond,” he said. “This legal group [is] really trying to pass on the most trusted resources, [and] I found [it] really helpful. They’re trying to build upon their client base to do something that’s free and helpful to faith communities. I thought that was a fantastic gesture.”
Parker said he is pleased with the success of Return-to-Worship and two other free pandemic-related products called Hello Lender and Hello Landlord. Additionally, he’s happy he can help churches at no charge.
“We don’t know how to build ventilators, and we can’t sew masks,” he said. “But we kind of thought, ‘Hey. We can provide legal help to people who need it.’ That’s kind of our contribution to try to get society back to normal and to help. Anyway, it’s fun when you put a lot of effort into it, and it turns out to really help people.”