I feel like I’m starting to catch my balance. The first month of distance ministry was an adrenaline rush to East- er. The second month was the dawning realization that we weren’t taking a break from a reality that we will return to find just as we had left it. The third month brings the knowledge that we are in the process of building our next normal, whatever normal means to any of us.
At the beginning I whooshed in with lots of energy to help us shift into new ways of connecting as a congregation. Over time I realized that the pace I set for myself was not sustainable. It’s hard work to live in a pandemic, to study the news all day and listen for the slightest shift in guidance.
Over the last two months, scientists and medical workers have learned a lot about the virus, so we have more thorough advice to base our planning on now. The national Unitarian Universalist Association advised that congregations plan for a year of online gathering, and our UUSA Board voted to keep worship online only through June 2021. Many of the things we love about in-person worship (singing, emphatic speech, physical closeness, holding hands, social hour conversations, and seeing each other’s unmasked faces) are not safe to do in person right now; at least online we can still sing, speak passionately, converse, and see each other’s faces, people of all ages and health conditions together. Following the guidance of scientists and our values, we can adjust as new developments emerge, but I am profoundly grateful for the foresight of our Board. Now that we’ve made that decision, we can create a plan with more intention. We can figure out what a sustainable UUSA looks like in our new reality. We can try new things and evaluate whether they do what we had hoped or not.
Changing circumstances (like no longer meeting in person, no longer casually bumping into each other in the meetinghouse) have shifted the ways we gather. Many committees have already reported changes in the way they do their work. I will be starting new programs in the fall. I have plans for a book discussion series: our first book will be An Indigenous People’s History of the United States by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, in either the origi- nal or young people’s editions.
I am also starting a Lay Worship Associates program. I have decided that what our worship needs more of is you! The staff and I put on a heck of a Sunday morning service, but the heart of our congregation is its people. All youth and adults are invited to apply. Don’t be daunted by the application – part of this process is getting to know you better! There are no wrong answers.
This is a time of possibility and creativity, but it also holds a lot of loss. We all had to let go of months’ worth of expectations, and for many of us uncertainty and sadness filled the space where they had been. Please take care of yourself and be gentle with yourself. Please reach out for help when you need it, whether that need is grocer- ies, bills, or a listening ear. You are so loved. I pray that you are all safe and well.