Coronavirus and UUCE
Update from UUA President, Rev. Susan Frederick-Gray:
Thursday May 14, 2020
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.
This pandemic teaches us that our actions directly impact the health and well-being of our neighbors.
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.
Our detailed UUA Guidelines on Gathering In Person as COVID-19 Subsidesinclude 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,
Update from Rev. Lo on Continuing Our Closure:
Thursday May 14, 2020
Though the current administration has focused on “opening America for business” without regard for the health and safety of our nation or the world, UUCE remains focused on the health and safety of its members and our global community. Consequently UUCE will remain closed through June 30 unless health officials indicate otherwise at which point, we will evaluate that decision.
As your minister, I would ask that you continue to use the safety precautions you have adopted: the wearing of masks in public, the wearing of gloves in public spaces, washing your hands a billion times a day, remaining at least 6 feet from any other person(s) other than your own social cohort, having a service shop for you and possibly deliver food to your home, and sanitize, sanitize, sanitize surfaces and areas that are common use areas.
In addition I would ask that you keep doing some of the things that you have been doing: shopping less, walking, talking to loved ones near and far, writing letters or cards, telecommuting whenever possible, spending quantity and quality time with your family, playing games, reading to one another, doing little acts of kindness such as leaving a loaf of freshly baked bread or cookies on a neighbor’s doorstep, and expanding your network of care by continuing to check in with neighbors. Keep those gardens growing. And whenever possible, resist the urge to race back into life lived as if you were in a blender, whirling round and round. Did any of you really miss the pace pre-Covid? Haven’t we rehumanized the way we live our lives? That is precious. Hold on to it.
Update from Rev. Lo:
Tuesday, March 24, 2020
In addition to the information below, here are some updates.
We have seen an increase in “phishing” recently. Scammers cruise our website for any emails listed and vary the address and then send out what looks like legitimate requests for help or money from one of your staff. In an effort to protect staff and the congregation, we are no longer listing any contact emails on our website or in publications that are available to the public. The only address that will be on our website is that of the office. We are using a program called “Contact Us” that will protect us from “bots” and scammers. Emails will be forwarded to the appropriation staff or church leader. This may be inconvenient but it is necessary in these extraordinary times.
ZOOM and Facebook and YouTube and Worship
Sarah was able to have the March 15 worship service be live on both ZOOM and Facebook live. She was not able to have the March 22 service stream live on Facebook due to the heavy demand on Facebook at that time because every other church in the country was trying to do the same thing. And because the only computer that allows us to post services to the UUCE YouTube channel is at the church, none of our recent services have been posted there. We are working on it. In the meantime, see below instructions on how to access ZOOM for our worship services. The page has been updated. We will continue to try to stream our worship live on Facebook Live.
Creativity and Innovation in Doing Church
This is a time that calls for both of these things. We are all making it up as we go along. We are adapting and shifting the way we do a lot of things in the work of being a church but we are working! For many of the staff, we are still “attending” all the meetings we always have and then some. We are shifting almost all “meeting” to the ZOOM format or the good old telephone.Many of you have sent the staff great suggestions for programming or ways to connect as a church. The request is that you partner with a staff member to make that idea a reality but know that staff is not able to take on much more at the moment.One example of this was the suggestion for a midweek vespers kind of service. When I replied that I thought staff was a bit overwhelmed, someone stepped up and said, I can help. And so that is a work in progress. Similarly, we are trying to create neighborhood and affinity group phone trees for emergencies. Again, one of our Lay Ministry Leads said, “I can do that.” Thank you!!!
Anxiety and Stress in These Times
As the days wear on and newer guidelines are released about how we may live our lives, the collective anxiety and stress is rising. Breathe. 3x. Often. During each day. Instead of running through the scenarios what if this or that happens in a panicked future that has not arrived yet, ask yourself, “What is the worst that can happen.” That allows us to shift the perspective and dial back the anxiety and stress. We are all having to live in a present that is 12 hours by 12 hours. I repeat: be patient with yourselves and others. And remember: your staff is here for you.
“You are in the middle… head turned toward the sky… There are clouds connected to the past, and you push them aside… There are clouds connected with the future and you push them aside…Rooted in the present, turned toward a pure, clear blue sky…
take no shape.”
Wednesday, March 18, 2020
Here is some general info about what we’ve been doing at UUCE this past week to move our programs into an online space.
We have suspended in-person worship at the physical church building, but we have moved to having online worship for at least the next two months!
You can join on Sunday mornings at 10am by clicking here.
The link will stay the same every week. If you have never used Zoom before, you will be asked to download the software. Please do – it’s quick and easy! After the download, you may have to click on the link to join worship again. At that point, you will be asked if you want to open Zoom. Again, please do so!
In case Zoom doesn’t work for you, we will also be livestreaming on our official church Facebook page, which you can find here.
The worship service will be automatically recorded on Facebook, and you can view it there later as well. Please note that when you are watching online worship, nobody else can see you, even if your computer has a camera.
People without a stable internet connection can also call in by telephone to listen to the service while it is happening by calling either +1 (669) 900-9128 or +1 (312) 626-6799.
For more information about online worship, please see the “Online Worship” page on our website, which is here.
During worship, we will have Virtual SpiritJam with Teacher Ezra and Teacher Izzy! Kids can sign in from their own device – either a phone, tablet, or laptop. Kids can begin watching the main service with their parents, then switch to Virtual SpiritJam when we sing them out.
The link will stay the same every week! If you lose it, you can find it again on our website.
Please note that participants will be able to see and hear each other! Unlike the regular worship service, this session will not be recorded or posted on the internet.
Each week we will be posting a number of activities and projects on our Virtual SpiritJam page, which can be found here.
Where to Find Information
During this intense time, when things seem to change every day, the best place to find up-to-date information about how UUCE is responding to the pandemic is by checking our website.
In addition, this newsletter is a reliable source of information. Make sure to open the entire thing, as the bottom half may get “clipped” in your email program.
Our official, public church Facebook page is here.
That is where the worship service will be livestreamed and recorded. This page is also a good source of official daily updates from church staff.
How to Connect With Your Church Friends
Our private discussion page for members on Facebook – which is not viewable by the public – can be found here.
It’s a great place for members and friends of the church to support one another and share resources!
A number of church members also use listservs to keep in touch and share encouragement and information with each other, and you can find information about joining those lists here.
Using Zoom for Church Meetings
We ask that all church groups discontinue meeting in person until further notice. We are working to create Zoom meetings for all of our church groups who want to meet virtually in the meantime! To request a Zoom meeting for your group, you can either email Izzy at email@example.com, or fill out a Room Request form on the website. We are adding Zoom meetings to the church calendar as if they were being held in a room at the church!
Staff Virtual Office Hours
Rev. Lo will be holding “office hours” at her home Monday through Wednesday from 9am to 3pm. During that time she is happy to meet with folks via Zoom, will answer and return phone calls, and respond to email and Facebook messages. Thursday is her sermon writing day. Friday and Saturday are her days off. She is available Sundays after worship for online meetings and one on one Zoom or phone calls. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Katy Siepert will be holding virtual office hours on Friday mornings between 9am and noon, and is available to meet by Zoom or phone during that time. Her email address is email@example.com.
Sarah Skochko will have virtual office hours Monday through Thursday from 4pm to 7pm, and is available to meet by Zoom or phone. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jody Monegan will be available until March 30 on Mondays from 10:00am to 11:30am, and Wednesdays from 10:00am to 3:00pm. Her email address is email@example.com.
Izzy Crecca will have office hours on Mondays from noon to 3pm, Tuesdays from 10am to 3pm (with a focus on rentals and scheduling), and Friday from 10am to 3pm. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mitch Davey will have virtual office hours on Tuesday and Thursday mornings from 9am to 11am. His email address is email@example.com.
Earlier updates can be found below.
Please be well and reach out to one another!
Update: Saturday, March 14, 2020
- In-person worship is still cancelled for the time being.
- We will be having online worship on Sunday mornings at 10am. You can find information about that here.
- Activities for children for this Sunday can be found on our Virtual SpiritJam page here!
- Church groups are asked not to meet in person, but to use Zoom to meet virtually instead.
- If you would like us to set up a Zoom meeting for your church group, please contact Sarah at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- 12-step meetings are still able to meet in our building, with some room changes.
- Big Little School is closed for the time being.
- Your pastors are here for you! If you would like to talk because you’re struggling, sick, worried, or even have a joy you would like to celebrate, please reach out and send one of us an email!
- Rev. Lo is working with local clergy on larger religious community efforts to respond to the disproportionate impact on the unhoused. This largely includes supporting existing organizations that have infrastructure in place, and not trying to reinvent the wheel. Rev. Lo has given permission for organizations to use our parking lot for distributing resources as the need arises.
- Thank you all for reaching out and caring for one another, even across physical distances! Our private Facebook group for members can be found here, and people are already sharing resources.
Take care, stay healthy, and I hope you tune in for worship tomorrow if you’re able!
Update: Thursday, March 12, 2020
In order to prevent the spread of the Coronavirus and to protect our most vulnerable members and friends, UUCE is cancelling in-person worship in our building for 30 days. Choir is also cancelled during this period. Small group ministry meetings are encouraged to either meet in one another’s home or online. Information on how to access and use the ZOOM video conferencing platform will be available on the website by Friday morning.
On Sunday mornings at 10am, you will be able to join our online worship service using this link: https://zoom.us/j/963297758
12 Step groups will still be able to hold their meetings at the church though where they hold their meetings maybe shifted to other rooms. Big Little School will continue to be in session.
Once again, this is a PREVENTATIVE measure. Katy, Sarah, and I are available by phone, text, and email. Please do not hesitate to contact us with any pastoral needs.
Keep calm and wash your hands.
Update: Wednesday, March 11, 2020
- Act as if the virus is here.
- If you are over 60, please do not risk exposure to the virus by attending church.
- Whether or not to close the church is an everyday, 6 hours at a time decision.
- Staff has been given the option to work from home.
- Jody, the Office Administrator, will be working from home until her maternity leave starts. She will be working the same office hours there as she did in the office.
- Please have patience with staff response to emails and phone calls. Izzy Crecca will be taking over Jody’s office position during Jody’s maternity leave.
- Your staff is working to ensure that worship will happen whether in the church or online. Once again, updates will be on the website.
- We are setting up neighborhood groups of 8-10 people based on zip code. The idea is simply to have a way to check in with one another or to respond to a need.
- We are working on a ways to ensure that in person gatherings be replaced with online gatherings. We have purchased the video conferencing program ZOOM for that very purpose. Again, information on how to use ZOOM will be on the website.
- We are still a church whether or not we gather in person in a physical space or online. We can still be a community of hope in this time of uncertainty.
- Remember: in addition to the virus, our biggest issue is fear. As the Rev. Sarah Schurr said in a disaster preparedness webinar, “Even if our churches close, we need not close our hearts. We can still care for one another.”