Dear Members and Friends of UUCF,
I’m writing to share with you a letter to all UU congregations from The Rev. Dr. Susan Frederick-Gray, president of the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA), followed by an update on UUCF.
A Message from the UUA President:
Updated Guidance for Gathering
As states around the country begin to loosen guidelines and take actions to reopen, even as COVID-19 cases and deaths continue to climb, we have received many questions from congregations about returning to in-person gatherings.
Over the past several weeks, the UUA has consulted with multiple public health officials in order to update the guidance we provided on March 12 recommending congregations stop gathering in person.
Based on advice from experts,
we continue to recommend that congregations not gather in person. We also recommend that congregations begin planning for virtual operations for the next year (through May 2021).
Take a moment to breathe. I know this is significant.
While there is much public conversation about “reopening,” the reality is public health officials consistently predict a long trajectory for this pandemic. A majority of our congregational members, leaders, and staff members are in high-risk categories. Our care for the well-being and safety of our members and staff must be a priority in this pandemic.
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.
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,
The Rev. Dr. Susan Frederick-Gray is the ninth president of the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA). She was elected in June 2017 to a six-year term.
A Message from Rev. Carl:
Update on UUCF
I am grateful to everyone who has helped with our online transition the past few weeks:
- Thank you to each one of you who has been willing to try Zoom for the first time! (An average of 223 devices have been logged in to our Sunday Services on Zoom, representing approximately 312 to 379 people since more than one person is watching on some devices.)
- Thank you to all our musicians who have been willing to experiment with recording music from home. (A special thank you as well to Deb & Nick Int Veldt for help coordinating music during this transition and to Bill Bromfield for his audio/video editing expertise that has made a huge difference each week!)
- Thank you to everyone who has joined in or helped teach or facilitate online--from committee meetings to spiritual practice classes, Religious Education opportunities, #UUtheVote planning, and more!
- Thank you to Rick Anderson, our Facilities Manager, who has been checking on and caring for our building & grounds almost daily to ensure that they are well cared for and ready for our return when that is possible. (More information forthcoming on ways that we can hopefully soon begin using the UUCF grounds as individuals or small groups while maintaining physical distancing.)
- Thank you to our Treasurers (Meg Menke & Janice Schlepp) and Bookkeeper (Wendy Smith) for quickly finding methods of keeping our financial house in order while working remotely!
This list is far from complete. I could go on with so many more examples from our congregation, board, and staff. The larger point is that it takes a village to accomplish what we do, and I am incredibly grateful for all the ways we have collectively risen to the occasion over the past two months.
Although I look forward to the day that we can all safely return to gathering together in our beautiful building, our experience over the past two months has also shown that during this time of social distancing, we know how to continue offering moving & meaningful Sunday Services, connecting & creative Religious Education experiences, and empowering & enlightening opportunities to act for peace and justice. Please do spread the word to anyone you know who may enjoy one or more of our online opportunities.
Looking ahead, if you are a UUCF Member, be sure to mark your calendars for
Sunday, June 14 at 11:45 a.m. for our Annual Congregational Meeting via Zoom.
(Details coming soon on modified procedures for accommodating online voting, etc.)
In the meantime, if you have feedback that you would like to share with me, the UUCF Board, or the UUCF Staff, you are welcome to reply to this email.
In this difficult time, I remain grateful to be on this journey with all of you!
Peace to you,
The Rev. Dr. Carl Gregg
For Further Study
If you are interested in diving more into the details, the following are a few among many important articles that your UUCF Board and Staff are taking into account in discerning a responsible and safe plan for reopening:
- Is it possible to navigate the building and participate in worship/events/meetings while practicing at least 6’ of social distancing? (Does this change if someone is navigating the building with a walker, a wheelchair, or a stroller?)
- How will we maintain appropriate distance during Religious Education programs?
- How often is the air exchanged in the ventilation system for each of the frequently-used spaces?
- What is our capacity for 20 seconds of handwashing and/or hand-sanitizing by every person in the building at least twice per visit to the building? Dividing our usual attendance by our number of sinks, then multiplying by 20 seconds, how long will this take?
- Who will enforce protocols around cleaning, face-masks, social distancing, food, and such? What kinds of consequences will there be for failure to engage in safe practices? How will this be different with children?
- If it turns out that known COVID-19 transmission occurs in our building, how will we respond to that? Will we be able to say that we did everything we could to prevent transmission and protect the most vulnerable?
“Particles from a
cough can travel as far as 16 feet
and those from a sneeze as far as 26 feet.”
“An infected person
talking for five minutes in a poorly ventilated space can produce as many viral droplets as one infectious cough.”