From Rev. Michelle Ma:
I am writing this but a few days before I go on vacation, and by the time you read this I will have been on vacation for a week. I shall be thinking of you all—I am quite certain!—all the way in California, where I will be spending time with friends and relatives I haven’t seen in two years.
I am—as everyone is at this point, I imagine—trying to plan for the future while simultaneously aware that planning for the future remains impossible. I feel as if I live my life month to month, the pandemic a constantly shifting ground underneath me, like trying to walk across windy sand dunes in ill-fitting sandals. It’s not comfortable, and it’s often frustrating.
As we grow closer to building completion and the long-awaited reopening, I find myself wrestling with the many questions Melva details so excellently in her letter. I care, of course, about the physical health of the members and friends of this congregation; I also care about everyone’s spiritual health, and I know that people have felt lonely and isolated and inadequately fed during the pandemic. And yet, physical health and spiritual health seem like mutually exclusive zones, as we’re battling a contagion that thrives on hugs and shared air. Will we be having Coffee Hour? Will we be holding hands during the benediction? Will we sing? We want everyone to be happy, and yet we also know these may be questions of life or death or long-term disability.
But I take comfort in the fact that I am not struggling with these questions alone. I struggle with these questions in the company of my colleagues, who were doing this hard, complicated work in parishes while I was doing much more straightforward work (in some ways) in a hospital. I struggle with these questions alongside the leaders of this congregation, the Board of Trustees and the Leadership Council. I struggle with these questions together with UCF staff. I struggle with these questions in the presence of the holy.
Make no mistake: these are holy questions. What do I do? and How do I live? are the biggest questions that we human beings have asked for as long as we’ve existed; they are the questions that religion has always sought to answer. Unitarian Universalism has always made it clear that we come up with our own answers to these questions—and that those answers can always be found in community as well. We have the Principles to guide us, and we have the wisdom and solidarity to be found in community to guide us. None of us do the work of life alone.
Blessings, ~Rev. Michelle Ma
From Melva Kearney, Board President
Hello Friends! Happy February!
For a long time, I’ve been dreaming about the day our congregation first enters the new sanctuary building to attend services. This whole pandemic business is over and we’re able to meet together, our smiles no longer hidden by masks and hugs abounding. Singing fills the air and, at the end of the service, we all join hands, so grateful to be together in-person again. After that, we fill the Social Hall with laughter and conversation as we share that fabulous coffee. I imagine many of you have enjoyed the same dream, just before you started speculating about what it will really be like. The Board is currently focusing on a policy to make this transition to in-person services safely.
As I look around the county, there are no real norms for COVID safety. Other churches meet, with masks being optional. Even safety protocols for doctor’s offices have little consistency. Some don’t require masks and others require both masks and checking in from the car. Kids attending school aren’t required to wear masks. In fact, I went to a middle-school band concert, where the theater was standing room only and only half the audience wore masks. I can even feel the frustration from people who are pro-vaccination and pro-mask. My hairdresser lamented having to wear a mask, show her vaccination record, and have her son tested prior to attending a symphony. She seriously considered not attending, and enumerated the benefits of becoming a hermit until this was all over.
All this confusion, along with just plain pandemic fatigue, means that the Board’s safety decisions may be unpopular, or even worse, may not be enough. In the end, though, we know that making realistic policy to keep our congregation safe must be of primary importance. We do have basic guidelines for indoor gatherings from the UUA that help: good ventilation; well-fitted masks, social distancing, reduced occupancy; no singing; no food or drink; and outside meetings for children. After that, it’s up to us.
To begin, the Board will have to maneuver the ins and outs of reduced occupancy. A hybrid service will be engineered to offer the same content to those who can attend in-person and those who can’t. Next, based on reduced occupancy, we will have to figure out an equitable way to give anyone who wants to attend in-person a chance to do so, at least once in a while.
We don’t want anyone to be left out. Then there’s another issue to consider. Once we begin occupying the building, it’s likely that visitors may pop in to attend services. How will we make room for visitors and for regular congregants while still maintaining reduced capacity? We’ll have to figure it out.
Other Board decisions could be quite controversial. For example, mandatory masks. Board members wear masks in public, even though we’re all fully vaccinated and boosted. We think mask-wearing should be required during in-person services. This will not prevent people who want to skip the masks from attending Zoom services though. But will everyone agree?
Some UU fellowships require full vaccination records. At present, your Board wonders if doing the same would be a logistical nightmare. Some people are likely to be partially-vaccinated and some may lack boosters. What line would the Board have to draw? How could we turn a congregant or a visitor away who wasn’t fully vaccinated?
Your Board will make every effort to invite as many congregants as possible to attend in-person services, as we monitor the COVID threat levels in our county. We share your frustration in restrictions that must become part of the safety policy. Who ever said that being a Board member would be easy?
All the best! -Melva
From the Finance Committee
It is that time of year when all our Committees decide upon the funding they will need in the upcoming fiscal year. This helps us determine our budget, as does your annual pledge. Please consider what you can do to support us in paying all our bills and continuing all our ministries as we move into our new space. Watch your snail mail for your 2021 donation tax letter and pledge card from the Finance Committee this week. We hope to conclude our annual campaign as we are moving in! Thank you for your love and support. -The Finance Committee
From the Board of Trustees
A BIG THANK YOU to the NEW BUILDING TEAM! The ESTIMATED completion date for 2900 Bridges is mid-March! We are hopeful that there will be no further delays, but will keep everyone updated!
In keeping with the Safety Ministry’s vision to identify needs, to develop policies, and to communicate the policies to maintain the security of the congregation and staff, the Board is working on a COVID policy for in-person gatherings, including masking, social distancing, and even closing the building when the risk is severe.
The Board has completed a Severe Weather Policy and a Pandemic Policy.
The Board is assessing and prioritizing other safety policy needs for the building, personal safety, financial safety, safety of children and youth, and social media/communications. Please let any Board member know your priorities for this assessment.
The next Board of Trustees meeting is at 7 pm on Thursday, February 10, via Zoom. All are welcome to attend—contact Susan Fetzer at firstname.lastname@example.org for a link to the February meeting.