I frequently check the NY State Regional Monitoring Dashboard that tracks the public health criteria areas need to reach to begin the four-step reopening plan. Westchester County has met five of the seven criteria, and expectations are that in a few more weeks, phase I of re-opening will begin. Religious institutions are in phase 4, at least a couple months away.
As we learn more and more about the coronavirus, the challenges to assembling safely in a confined space like ours have become more and more clear. It’s not just enough to stay 6 feet apart, wear fabric masks, sanitize surfaces, and stop serving snacks. Studies show the virus spreads among people breathing the same air in one space for a period of time. Singing, along with coughing, sneezing and loud talking, keeps that air circulating and spreads the virus. And, we do like singing and occasional loud talking!
My ministerial colleagues say that since many congregants and staff are at high risk of serious complications from COVID-19, it is not ethically sound to re-open for worship until widespread testing, contact tracing, an effective treatment and a vaccine are available. Just yesterday, the UUA issued its updated recommendation that “congregations not gather in person … and begin planning virtual operations through the next year (through May 2021).” Click here to read the entire notice.
OOF! Reaction to this news has been swift and varied. Many feel relief - Plan creatively for the worst and hope for the best! Many feel sadness – I won’t be able to gather with my beloveds in person for even longer. Discouragement, regrouping, entrepreneurial and imaginative thinking.
How will we respond collectively?
Rev. Frederick-Gray reminds us “our ministries are essential services.” Our challenge is to keep our “virtual” doors open, create worship at-a-distance together and sustain the other ministries and functions of the congregation. In ways that keep everybody safe. In ways we can sustain.
Join me this Sunday at 10:30 for our first Fourth UU online worship service. On Zoom.
Mind you -- it won’t be perfect. Expect glitches.
Bring humor, good cheer, your compassion and presence.
They’re essential to getting through this together.
Blessings for the journey,