To say that 2020 has been a transformational year would be an understatement. Since the severity and magnitude of the coronavirus pandemic became apparent in early March, the UUFE Board of Trustees made its decisions to suspend in-person activities on its campus with the sole goal of keeping our community safe and healthy in mind.
Over the past two months, we have been guided by that overarching goal. Even so, the Unitarian Universalist Association’s recommendation on May 14, 2020, that congregations not gather in person and plan for virtual operations through May 2021 was profoundly moving for us.
The Rev. Susan Frederick-Gray, the UUA’s president, wrote, “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.”
With so much about the spread of the coronavirus unknown, the board in the last two months chose to move cautiously, suspending in-person activities on a month-to-month basis. But we have come to realize that approach has prevented UUFE from addressing this challenge in a more creative way.
And there is this to consider, also from Rev. Frederick-Gray: “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.”
With all this mind, the UUFE board voted Tuesday, May 26, to not have in-person, indoors worship services through May 31, 2021. We know this may come as a shock to many of you. It’s OK.
The response to the coronavirus has rightly fed many feelings of loss — loss of gathering together and enjoying Sunday services, fellowship, and healthy debate. But here is where we find hope:
UUFE collectively is extremely creative and resourceful. Knowing that we must plan for a year without in-person, indoors worship gatherings will unlock our creative energies to seek out new ways of being a faith community. What more can we accomplish, and how many more people could we reach, by building new forms of outreach?
Could smaller gatherings resume on UUFE’s campus? It’s definitely possible, but we will need everyone’s help to plan for and implement new policies and procedures — mask requirements, sanitation and cleaning processes, safety protocols — that will allow us to safely have activities in our building that are responsible from a public health perspective and spiritually meaningful.
The board will continue to monitor this situation on an ongoing basis and rely on the advice and guidance of public health experts and our UUA leadership.
We miss everyone. We wish everyone continued good health, and we are ever hopeful that together we will build a stronger UUFE community.
Terry Mark, president
Katrina Wilson, president-elect