Additionally, religious gatherings are considered highly contagious events. The acts of singing, the familiarity of people across households, the multigenerational community of children, youth, adults, and seniors—the things that make our congregations so special—also create more risk for spreading the virus.
Given that so much uncertainty and risk remain, anticipating a year of virtual operations allows for more creative long-term planning, while still being flexible if conditions change significantly. We recognize that with time, and depending on the specific conditions and recommendations of local public health officials, small in-person groups of people and limited staff activities onsite may become possible while wearing masks, observing social distancing guidelines, and following diligent cleaning practices.
In making our recommendations, we are guided by science and our deepest held values. This pandemic teaches us that our actions directly impact the health and well-being of our neighbors and so it is imperative that we make choices that keep our congregations and larger community safer. As COVID-19 disproportionately impacts people with disabilities, Black people, Indigenous communities, Latinx people, the elderly, and essential workers, a majority of whom are women and women of color, religious communities have a moral responsibility to do all we can to reduce risks for those already at such high risk.
Public health officials are clear. There will need to be multiple weeks of reduction in infections, adequate testing, sufficient personal protective equipment available, contact tracing programs, and perhaps a vaccine before it will be safe for many of our congregations to fully gather in person again.
All this said, our ministries are essential services. I am moved by congregations who are increasing their services and generosity to the larger community during this pandemic. I am inspired by those who are keeping their “virtual” doors open. Many congregations have committed to keeping their services widely accessible and available to new people and visitors, while also creating more opportunities for virtual small groups to tend to the social, spiritual, emotional, and material needs of their members.
We hope that a vaccine or an effective treatment will be found soon to change this timeline. In the meantime, being able to plan the longer horizon of virtual services offers an opportunity to be creative in planning for life-giving, essential ministry across physical distance.
UUA Guidelines on Gathering In Person as COVID-19 Subsides
include specific questions for congregations to ask to determine risk assessment and readiness plans before beginning any moves to gather in person. We will continue to update them as more information becomes available. As always, we encourage you to reach out to
UUA regional staff
if you need support in your planning.
I continue to hold you, your community, and all of our people in my heart and in my prayers. I know adjusting to this new reality is heartbreaking. I also believe congregations who continue to lean into their mission and life-saving ministry will find ways to thrive in this time. Ministry is so deeply needed. As is moral leadership rooted in community care and in science. May we keep offering this to our communities.
Yours in love and gratitude,
Rev. Dr. Susan Frederick-Gray, UUA President