The “Way Forward” task force has been charged with making recommendations as we discern our path forward to a post-COVID world. We have met twice and have begun the task of familiarizing ourselves with State, local, denominational and other guidelines and resources on the coronavirus pandemic. We’ll be looking at possible guidelines for emerging from quarantine conditions for everything from making sure our meetinghouse is clean to infrastructure needs to physical distancing in social situations.
As we do this work, the Way Forward task force is being guided by several principles. We will be guided by humility, recognizing that we cannot know everything and that plans and situations can change quickly. We want to err on the side of caution and safety. We don’t want anyone in the congregation exposed to unreasonable risks, this includes both our congregants and our staff. We need to remember that the congregation is a workplace for our staff, and a person’s workplace needs to be safe. Making everyone safe is bound to be tricky because there is no such thing as the elimination of all risk or the establishment of total safety. Even before the pandemic, there were risks involved with gathering in crowds as well as when gathering in our sanctuary for meetings and worship and work.
We recognize that inclusion is a fundamental Unitarian Universalist value. So far, in our online operations, we seem to be doing a fairly good job with inclusion. Attendance at worship services has stayed steady or even increased when compared with our numbers before the pandemic. Some people have been attending from great distances — from Oregon to Germany — and others have been able to attend for whom getting to 624 Broadway is not possible. Going forward, we do not want to say to these of us that they are no longer welcome! We do not think it in line with our values to say that some are welcome but others are not. As a result, the thought of holding services with a limited capacity is troubling. Who would we be excluding? Would we be forcing some people to out themselves regarding health difficulties that they’d rather keep to themselves? That would not be in keeping with our values as a faith community.
Much as the pandemic has exposed and exacerbated inequities and systemic racism in our society, the pandemic also makes us more aware of the limitations of our current meetinghouse. With such a small space that has only one viable way in or out, being able to maintain six feet (or more) between us will be extremely difficult. And our lower level rooms for classes and meetings have a lower than standard ceiling. So we wonder if that means that we may need more than six feet between people.
The things we love to do as a community — the things that we do reflexively — like hugging one another, sharing food together, singing together — even if we gather in reduced numbers, it still means refraining from all of those things. While meeting and worshipping on Zoom isn’t like being in person, the conditions under which it may be safe to gather will not be the experience we are used to having.
Above all, we believe that the best way forward is to take things slowly. Rushing into things is likely to get us into trouble that we do not want to get into. We are each one of us beloved, and our well-being is dependent on each other. As the UU minister Theresa Soto says, “All of us need all of us to make it.” We will make it together!
Members of the Way Forward Task Force include:
- Rev. Joe Cleveland
- Dan Forbush
- Mike Goodwin
- Chris Kus
- Steve Whaley
- Janice Wold
- Roger Wyatt
Please be in touch with any of us with concerns, information, and your ideas!