News About Re-Opening

As we prepare for our 10th online service, there’s a lot about our Sundays that has started to feel really good, and connective.  And yet…every week that goes by I wonder “how much longer before we can be together again?” I know I’m not alone.

It’s one big reason I’ve been watching the Larimer County and Colorado-wide numbers carefully, listening to the Governor’s counsel, reading articles from a variety of sources offering models, advice and projections.  And I’ve been in conversation with the Board, and with Rev. Sean and the whole staff team as we try to listen for how to move forward and how to think about “re-opening.”

Along the way we’ve been focused on a few key values:

  1. The centrality of science
  2. The safety of our whole community
  3. The full inclusion of everyone, including those most vulnerable
  4. Fulfilling our mission and vision in ways relevant to this changed and still-changing reality

Based on these values, we’ve been clear that we would not be likely to return to in-person services through the summer, and potentially longer.  A few of us acknowledged it was likely to be much longer, but it’s been truly hard to let in the reality of just how long.

Today, we received guidance from the UUA that made us face up to some of these realities. As in, they are advising congregations to plan to meet virtually through May 2021.  I KNOW.  I am feeling especially sad for our choir – I made a video message for choir members and sent it out a bit ago – if you didn’t get it, check it out here. Like I said, there are many things we can approximate using online services, but the experience of singing and connecting in a choir just isn’t one. It’s so sad!

Their reasoning includes the acknowledgment that this pandemic will have a long trajectory, dependent on a number of critical factors like testing and tracing, and effective treatments – that as of right now, are a long ways off. And, their recommendation is based in the fact that a large portion of our communities are considered “high risk,” and the fact that religious gatherings – especially those with singing and with multiple generations present – are considered highly contagious events.  Basically all the reasons we love our gatherings are the reasons why they are so risky. (You can read their whole guidance here.)

However you take this news, know you’re not alone.  Grief or relief or overwhelm or anger or shock…know that we are all trying to make sense and figure out what this all means, together.  From what we can see from here, the UUA guidelines make sense, even if we really, really, really wish they didn’t.

And, we (and the UUA) know that if things change, if the risk reduces and the science shows that we can safely gather with all of our people – we will adapt quickly in response. But in the meantime, making this sort of long term acknowledgment allows us to start to invest in this new reality in more creative and meaningful ways, including keeping an eye on when it will feel safe enough to gather in smaller groups.  Knowing that we’re going to be in this for a while gives us the encouragement to find those new ways to make these connections that are even more critical now than ever.

It’s one of the reasons that I am so grateful for the formation of our Circles – these neighborhood based connections that are at their beginning of taking shape.  Because even if we cannot gather as a whole community, there are so many good ways that we can be neighbors for and with each other over this coming year.

If you haven’t found at least one way to connect in your Circle yet, I encourage you to try to connect this week – express a need you’re having (i.e…someone who will share your grief about online church going on so long!) or join in the Chalice Hunt (described below).  I think we started off with a sense that the Circles were a great “rapid response” idea, but now that we know this is going to be going on for a while, they will be a critical way that we can maintain connections and strengthen community over the coming year.

The lessons of community and the encounter with another who changes us and moves us to care in new ways are the themes of this Sunday’s service, where we will offer the second in our new series, Roots of Resilience. This Sunday we’re delving into the stories and lessons of the HIV/AIDS crisis of the 1980s to listen for the stories and lessons of resilience from that time that we collectively can lean into for today.

Let’s join together in the ways we can – it’s so important.  9 or 11 am MT – invite your friends and family needing connection and community – from around the world.  See you there.

With so much love,
Rev. Gretchen